Nittany Notes: Opening Day

Well, it's finally here — preseason practice. And that means the 2007 campaign is nearly upon us, too. With the departures of players like Spencer Ridenhour and Antonio Logan-El and the arrival of others like Stefen Wisniewski, Devon Still and Chimaeze Okoli, the PSU staff is using these early practice sessions to form their assessments of the talent available for this coming season.

Monday's opening Penn State football practice was a "light" drill session. The team opened with some warmup sets (like runs and glides) and stretching, and then got into position drills to work the fundamentals (such as footwork, body control, hands and vision). The session was conducted in shorts and T-shirts and helmets with no pads. This "light" approach is typically the case as preseason practice begins, with the intensity of the drills increasing as the season approaches.

What's the reasoning for such a light approach out of the gate?

One observer explained, "The staff looks to ease [the players] back into things, but they also use the early sessions to find out where each player is coming out of off-season conditioning."

The Penn State football coaching staff also uses the early practices to review the finer points of each player's game in terms of their fundamentals and to determine a general comparison between the various players' fundamentals at each position.

This assessment allows the staff to see what they have to work with in terms on the depth chart heading into the home stretch of the off-season. This is a time when players can begin to make serious moves up or down the depth chart.

To conduct these assessments, coaches run a variety of fundamental drills to give themselves a good general idea of the speed, strength and general technique each player has coming out of the off-season conditioning period. Aside from running, which the players do a lot of in the summer, the athletes participate in a series of agility drills which have them focus on their footwork, coordination, speed and endurance. These initial assessments are then used to make any preliminary adjustments to the depth chart, which was last assembled at the close of spring practice in April.

This initial depth chart is the foundation the staff uses to identify major depth issues at any position and serves as the catalyst for any discussions around potential position shifts to aid the depth at those identified gaps. Part of this assessment includes any loss of depth due to injury or transfer, like the departures of Spencer Ridenhour and Antonio Logan-El. It also begins to take into account those players who have arrived on campus since the end of spring practice, like freshmen Stefen Wisniewski, Derek Moye, Chris Colasanti and Devon Still, among others.

The staff uses these initial drills to get a current assessment of these freshmen to help determine where they may fall on the depth chart and the likely chances they have, based on their abilities and the position's needs, to make an early impact.

As the week progresses so too will the intensity and complexity of the drills with a greater focus on unit sessions, working up to the "Drill 6" (7-on-7) workouts, which tests timing and routes, among other aspects of the passing game and defense.

The first two days will feature these fundamental sets in shorts and T-shirts. Then the players are expected to don their shells for the remainder of the week, with full pad practices coming this weekend. The first two-a-days are slated for Saturday and we're told the staff still intends to practice twice then even thought Media Day will also be held late that morning.

Among some other observations about practice on Monday:

  • A few guys stood out in the linemen drills — on the offensive side Lou Eliades "came out swinging — he was very focused." A.Q. Shipley was in a few guys' ears, like Gerald Cadogan and Dennis Landolt — "A.Q. is working to ignite these guys." On the defensive side Abe Koroma "had a solid day," and Phillip Taylor "has improved agility." Also, Maurice Evans stood out at defensive end and received some praise from a few observers — "he constantly pushes."

  • Terrell Golden was vocal with the wideout unit today — talking up the players and saying things like "Let's prove it." Derrick Williams ran well, as one observer put it, "his summer work looks like it's paid off — he looks great physically."

  • Out of the gate, Austin Scott is "all business. He not taking the laid back approach to these drills like previous years." One observer shared. "It's definitely early, but he was all-out today. [If] he keeps that up, who knows what could happen?"

    Stay tuned to for more exclusvie news and notes from practice as we head into the 2007 season.


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