The Penn State coaching staff likes to prepare it kickers for the pressure of game situations by subjecting them to as much pressure as possible in practice. So how do Joe Paterno and his staff go about doing that?
First, unless a kicker has proven himself in the clutch in game situations, he is always fighting for his job. And such was the case earlier this week, when, following an inconsistent spell, the staff decided to put the heat on returning starter Kevin Kelly.
But that is where the second part came in, and things got really interesting.
Practice observers report that on Wednesday, drills were stopped for a while and the entire team watched backup kicker Collin Wagner attempt a series of field goals under pressure. The observers assumed that if Wagner had performed well, he could well have taken the starting job away from Kelly.
Alas, Wagner struggled.
"He may not have performed as well as Joe would have liked when challenged in front of the whole team," an observer shared.
As of this writing, Kelly is expected to start in Penn State's season opener against Florida International Saturday.
LEGGING IT OUT
Speaking of special teams, expect redshirt sophomore Jeremy Boone to get the nod at punter this week, as is reflected on Penn State's official depth chart.
Observers say true freshman Ryan Breen "has a very strong leg" and will have Boone "looking over his shoulder," but that he has to improve his mechanics -- particularly his drop -- to be more consistent.
RUNNING WITH THE LIONS?
When Paterno sustained serious leg injuries in a sideline collision at Wisconsin last November, some fans wondered if he'd ever coach again, let alone run out on the field with his team. The broken bones and torn ligaments required surgery to fix.
Then 79, Paterno amazed everyone by recovering in time to coach from the press box two weeks later.
When spring ball rolled around, he was back on his feet at practice. But now, considering his age and the lingering effects of the injury (he has a bothersome hip), the question remains of whether he will make his trademark jog onto the field with the team before the FIU game this week.
When asked that question at his press conference Tuesday, Paterno brushed it aside and joked, "I'm going to drop from a parachute."
But if you think the symbolism of the coach leading his team into battle is lost on Paterno, think again. Later Tuesday, at practice, Paterno spent time on his own working on jogging on the field, according to several observers.