Nittany Notes: Kickin' It

As preseason practice continues, we shift our focus to special teams and the Nittany Lions' kicking game — namely placement kickers and punters. Get practice assessments on both groups, including how freshman punter Ryan Breen is handling his collegiate transition.

SOME PRACTICE NOTES: Penn State is about to kick it up a notch in practice Friday and Saturday. Friday the pads go on for the first time this preseason as the Nittany Lions get set to engage in contact drills.

A lot of guys are "chomping at the bit to make some hits" and get into contact drills, since they haven't run any since the close of spring practice back in April.

Saturday is slated to be a very busy day for the team with two-a-days kicking off. The squad is expected to begin the day with an early morning practice session (7:30 a.m.) that will run for about two hours.

Then, Media Day starts at 10:30 a.m. (it has been moved to Holuba Hall) and runs for the next few hours, capped by Joe Paterno's press conference in the Beaver Stadium Media Room.

Then there will be early afternoon meetings. And finally, the team will then have its first preseason scrimmage at about 4 p.m., in Holuba if it is raining or at the nearby outdoor practice field if the weather is nice.

THE SCENE: If there is one unit that sees peaks and valleys of activity during the preseason, it's the specialists. During the early goings of preseason these kickers and punters usually work on their technique off to the side of everyone else. This includes lineups and kicking motion for the kickers, and ball reception and kicking motion for the punters.

However, things are about to shift to the other side of the intensity spectrum this weekend. Both sets of kickers are expected to see some rushes tomorrow in order to "gauge how they handle a bit of pressure."

The punters, Jeremy Boone and Ryan Breen, will be "put into the end zone with a coverage rush to see how they handle it," one observer explained. "There's not too many situations that are tougher than that [for a punter]," another observer added.

The kickers, Kevin Kelly and Collin Wagner, will also see rushing situations where they move them back "for 40- to 50-yard kicks and see how they handle the pressure."

In terms of the punter's progress so far, Breen "has got a huge leg," as one observer assessed. "He's been a little nervous out there. He's just getting the hang of things, but when he gets ahold of one it's definitely high and far."

Breen has also been in on kickoffs, along with Kelly. "[Breen] has bombed some kickoffs, too." He doesn't have the control or consistency yet that Kelly has, but he "has the power, which you can't coach."

In terms of his progress, one observer said, "He'll settle down in the next couple of days. I want to see how he does in the scrimmage situations."

Punting with Breen is redshirt sophomore Jeremy Boone. "J. doesn't seem to have the power that Breen does. Breen's leg is big, but [Boone] has an edge with control and placement. But I'd bet Breen's consistency with control comes with a bit of experience."

With the kickers, Kelly is the clear favorite, which is probably not too surprising. He is fully recovered from the pelvic fracture he coped with in 2006 and it seems to show with his kicks. "His extension is way up and he gets through the ball more," one observer shared.

Backing up Kelly is Wagner, who doesn't "quite have the leg" Kelly does, but is consistent on his intermediate range kicks.

The preseason practice content is flying around here at FOS. To help you keep track of it all here is a running list of the practice reports we have around the site:

In Focus: Dan Connor
In Focus: Austin Scott
Nittany Notes: Drill 6 WR Report
In Focus: Derrick Williams
Nittany Notes: Power Line (OL)
Follow Up OL Player Notes
Nittany Notes: Position Battles
Nittany Notes: Opening Day Notes
Preseason Kickoff (Schedule, Plan)

Stay tuned to FOS for continuing exclusive reports on PSU's preseason practices.

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