As you probably know, the vast majority of Penn State football practices are closed. So we depend on a team of knowledgeable, reliable and well-placed "observers" within the program to relay information to us. We withhold their names so they can speak their mind without fear of retribution.
We trust what these "observers" say to be accurate or we would not pass on that information to you. Having said that, though, please keep in mind that we do use a variety of sources and that they are not always in complete agreement with one another.
THE SCENE: The Penn State players had a jam-packed day on Saturday with their first two-a-day session of preseason practice, their first scrimmage and Media Day in the middle of both practices. With summer classes wrapping up the players will have Wednesday and Thursday of this week off from their normal preseason practice routine in order to study for their exams.
THE FRESHMEN: The early consensus on the Class of 2007 freshmen is that they are an outstanding group of players all around. "These guys are even better than we expected," one practice observer shared. "We knew the class had a good amount of talent, but they are really making a strong impression on the whole."
One major disappointment is the injury to defensive end Devon Still in Friday's practice. As FOS reported previously, Still tore his left ACL and is expected to miss the 2007 season.
"That [really] sucks," one observer said. "There is a ton of depth on this team, so there are not a lot of [freshman] players who were going to make an immediate impact, but Devon was among the few on the short list."
Still's size, endurance and attitude had the defensive coaches impressed. As another observer explained, "We might have seen him break into the rotation this year."
THE TOPIC: Scrimmage.
There was "a lot of anticipation heading out to the scrimmage. Some guys were talking up a storm." The scrimmage saw some 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work. Here are our notes from the session.
Currently, Phillip Taylor is sidelined with a "minor" knee injury. This injury is not thought to be serious. However, with Taylor out the tackle positions have seen a mix of Abe Koroma, Chris Baker and Jared Odrick getting first-team reps. Koroma in particular had a solid day, pulling in a few "sacks" (there was no contact for the QBs).
"When he keeps his center down and continually motions his feet, Abe is a handful. He required some double teams, although there are a few veterans like Q (A.Q. Shipley) and Rich Ohrnberger who held their own." Koroma's improving how he engages with his arms to set his assignment off balance. As one observer said, "Both he and Phil can demand double teams — Phil because of his sheer size and Abe because of his motor — if that happens consistently, the ends could have a field day."
The coaches had to "settle down" Odrick at times. "He's so anxious to make an impression — he needs to think less about getting to the QB and more about how he's going to do it."
Tom McEowen is "getting there" from the ACL injury he sustained back in January, but the staff still has him taking it easy so they can continue to assess his progress. "He looks ready, but they tend to be very cautious."
Among the defensive ends, Maurice Evans "sheds a block with the best of them. If anyone is going to help [left offensive tackle Gerald] Cadogan get where he needs to be it is Mo." Evans disrupted a variety of plays during the session. "He just tears in and he drops his shoulder so low sometimes the tackle can't even engage him. They have to cheat with their stance angle."
The staff is having tailback Austin Scott focus on his blocking. "He had some good runs — I think he ripped off two or three 25-yard [runs]. He did well off-tackle, and they are working him inside with traffic," according to one observer. Scott got some blocking work with Evans, as well. "Maurice ran by him a few times. They have him working on engaging in the open. They tossed some linebacker and safety blitzes in to keep him guessing." Scott has the ability to pick up the speed rusher, but the staff is working with him to handle "power pursuers" like a linebacker. "He has the size and strength to slow down a guy like Sean Lee, but it comes down to technique."
Defensive end Josh Gaines had "ups and downs." According to one observer, "J's consistent. He's not the flat-out rusher Evans is, but he doesn't quit. The thing he provides is power; he's going to handle his guy well enough to create balance issues with a double-team inside."
Fellow end Aaron Maybin's added size is getting him more work as a down lineman. "He's getting to the point where his size is adding another dimension to his game. He's not just the passing-situation end now. He's the fastest end in the group. Mo's technique with his speed make him the most dangerous, but with Maybin making strides they'll be a dangerous duo for Coach [Larry] Johnson."
The offensive line saw its primary lineup as LT: Gerald Cadogan, LG: Rich Ohrnberger, C: A.Q. Shipley, RG: John Shaw, RT: Dennis Landolt. Lou Elaides also saw some guard reps, but the assessment on Shaw was positive. "He handles that big-time rush well. He's so strong that he can pick up the surge and does a pretty good job directing it."
Landolt is working on "getting off the blocks." He has good size and strength, but "needs to get a jump on the snap."
BIG PLAY REPORT:
AND ANOTHER THING: Redshirt freshman safety Travis McBride is not on Penn State's 105-man preseason roster due to academic struggles, according to our observers. They doubt he will rejoin the team in the future.
FOS is the only source that takes you inside preseason practice with exclusive practice reports and features. Here's a rundown of our reports so far:
FOS TV: War of the Words
FOS TV: Scirrotto One-on-One
Photo Gallery: Team Group Shots
First Look: Meet the Rookies
FOS Audio: Paterno's Media Day PC
Nittany Notes: Kickin' It
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.