Nittany Notes: Preseason Pressing Questions

Quetions abound as the Penn State football team plows through preseason practice. Get the answers on personnel issues, possible position changes and more in the latest installment of Nittany Notes.

If tight end Andrew Quarless is off the team for an extended period of time, what happens to his position? Will Brett Brackett shift from receiver to tight end to fill the void?

As FOS' Mark Brennan reported Saturday evening, Quarless and Willie Harriott had their lockers cleared out and were removed from the team due to off-field issues. While reports are swirling that these dismissals are permanent, our best intelligence suggests that both players will eventually be welcomed back into the fold.

But there is no telling exactly when it will happen and/or if they will face further punishment (such as game suspensions) when they return.

During Quarless' absence, backup tight end Mickey Shuler stepped in to take first-team reps over the weekend. "Mick is not as big or quick as Quarless, but he provides a target and can handle a block pretty consistently," one observer explained.

Brett Brackett is expected to remain at his slot receiver position. "Brett is still learning the slot position, so I am not sure they would throw the tight end at him on top of that this close to the season," another observer opined.

What is new with the cornerback battle between Lydell Sargeant and A.J. Wallace opposite Justin King?

Wallace continued to get the bulk of first-team reps through last week. While Sargeant shows consistent comfort at the position now that he has been there a while and has solid speed, Wallace's significant height advantage (about three inches) helps him to cover bigger receivers like Terrell Golden, Chris Bell, James McDonald and Graham Zug.

Where has Anthony Morelli shown the greatest improvements in his play this preseason?

"I'd say the comfort in his decision-making is much better," an observer told us. "He's better looking in on his routes. He used to only look for guys 25 or more yards out."

Along the same lines, Morelli continued to work his check-downs routes. "A lot of defenses will play deep on him and play the 10-yard route loose. He is taking advantage of those opportunities more," an observer explained. "Plus, he's getting better at moving with the pocket."

Where does Austin Scott look good and bad?

Scott has run hard through the first two weeks of practice and "has been tough to take down." He's run "low and square," which has made him a challenge to wrap up.

Currently he continues to work on his blocking skills. He's strong enough to hold a block well, but he needs to improve on the open-field engagements, "which is tough when a 'backer or end are coming full speed at you." He is working engagement drills to anticipate where a pursuer is headed.

How does Chris Bell look so far?

Chris Bell has "showed off his skills" in the scrimmages, catching several balls and proving he is a quick, big target. "He's very fluid and squares his shoulders back to the QB." However, he "broke early on some routes." Bell has to use his body better to "box out his coverage so they can't get in there." Yet he has "that big-play ability if he works on managing the coverage."

What's the story with Navorro Bowman?

Coming out of the spring Bowman's athleticism and speed created a buzz as he emerged as the player who stepped in to take the bulk of snaps at Dan Connor's vacated outside linebacker position (Connor moved to MLB).

Since then, Tyrell Sales has taken over the starting job and Bowman has shifted to the opposite side behind Sean Lee, the Fritz position. While Bowman has greater speed and athleticism than Sales, Sales has seen action in 25 games, which is not easily discounted.

"A big benefit of the shift is that Sean can work with Bowman and help to get him to where he needs to be," one observer said. The latest move will also allow Bowman to fill in at either OLB spot in the event of injury.

How is Matt Hahn doing at fullback?

Described as a "battering ram" on short-yardage situations, Hahn "is among the most hard-nosed guys on the team." His ability to either block or carry the ball has many observers continually praising his abilities.

Hahn is viewed as a major factor in the success of the offense. "He's vital to pick up the rush and give Anthony [Morelli] time, but he's also the guy you need to help clear out the lane for the backs," one observer shared.

How is the offensive guard situation playing out?

John Shaw is the primary first teamer at right guard and Rich Ohrnberger is the primary starter at left guard. The buzz around Lou Eliades continues and he has seen reps on both sides of the center. Currently, the staff is looking to get him comfortable at both positions in case of injury, but the coaches also want to see where he needs to improve at both spots, since they "tend to be significantly different at times."

How is freshman punter Ryan Breen progressing?

Breen is "settling down" and "showed off his leg." Although he is rushing his motion at times, and needs to work on his consistency, "he has a big leg and really has the ability to serve as a big factor in field position."

One observer compared Breen to recently departed punter Jeremy Kapinos, who started as a true freshman. "He is stronger than Jeremy was as a true freshman, but [Jeremy] was hard to rattle even as a freshman, so Ryan needs to get his comfort level there."

Here is a rundown of the reports we have run so far this preseason.

FOS TV: Brett Brackett
Tuesday Scrimmage Notes
In Focus: Brett Brackett
Nittany Notes: Lead Dogs
In Focus: A.Q. Shipley
FOS TV: Jared Odrick
Nittany Notes: Defense
Tackling Weighty Issues (Roster & Weights)
Inury Report: Hill, Phil and Still
FOS TV: JUCO Transfers
In Focus: JUCO Players
FOS TV: Jay Paterno
Nittany Notes: Rookie Report
Nittany Notes: Starting Lineups
FOS TV: Chris Bell
Nitany Notes: Scrimmage Report
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.


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