Nittany Notes: Preparing For The Irish

With Game One under their belts, the Nittany Lions now focus their attention squarely on Notre Dame and the Saturday evening clash in Beaver Stadium. Get news and notes regarding Penn State's practice and prep for the Irish in this exclusive Nittany Notes™ report.

Practice Makes Perfect

Monday opened with a team breakfast and lunch with film review of Notre Dame's clash against Georgia Tech. The afternoon practice, described as "nuts" by observers, was a rough session. As one observer explained, "[The coaches] really beat the guys down," running an intense series of drills with limited breaks between.

In fact, the practice closed with the players running three sets of "gassers," which is "almost unheard of during the season." Observers were not clear on why the practice was so tough. "I think they just want [the players] to remain focused," one observer told us. "They have been stressing to not get overtaken by the score [59-0 against FIU] and that [the team] hasn't proven anything yet. I take it as a wake-up call."

Irish Expectations

Penn State's coaches expect some significant adjustments to be made to Notre Dame's offensive scheme given the struggles the Irish had moving the ball against Georgia Tech's defense. "I just can't believe that [Notre Dame] will run the same game plan," one observer said.

After Notre Dame essentially ran a spread set against Tech, PSU is expecting a larger focus on the running game and greater incorporation of the tight end over the middle. "[The linebackers] have been working on mismatch technique if they get assigned to their 6-foot-6 tight end (John Carlson)," and observer said.

Focal Points

On the defensive side of the ball, Penn State's coaches have been working on "speed packages" to pressure the pocket and "put the QB on edge — force the pass." As one observer said, "They have been working on shifts with Aaron [Maybin] and Jerome [Hayes] from the stand-up [end] position. I'd be surprised if you see them both in at the same time, unless its a third and long. Honestly, either Aaron or Jerome in with Mo (Maurice Evans) gives a fast package to handle."

The coaches are concerned with the corner spot opposite Justing King. Lydell Sargeant "was out of position at times," in the opener and A.J. Wallace "still needs work."

According to one practice observer, "Lydell got pulled off his route and had his back to the assignment at times. Any competent receiver is going to take big time advantage of that." As such, Sargeant has seen a lot of coverage/route work in practice early this week.

"It's not easy for A.J., since he played on both sides last year. He didn't get as much work as he could have [at cornerback] early on, so he didn't absorb everything about the position," one observer told us. "He is so quick, but tightening up his coverage is key. He can't get juked off the road."

On the offensive side of things, the coaches have concerns about the play of the offensive tackles. "[Gerald] Cadogan and [Dennis] Landolt have work to do," one observer said. "This isn't a shock, but they are going to work them on picking up the corner rush."

One interesting note out of practice is the impression of freshman Stefen Wisniewski. Observers feel "Wiz is good enough to play now," saying he is very impressive with his technique and physical approach to the game. "He is likely going to redshirt, but he could play center or guard at this point."

Although not specific, observers indicate that the staff has found some weak points in ND's special teams' play from the film session reviews, which they are working to exploit in practice.

Stay tuned to FOS for complete coverage of Penn State football — before, during and after the game.

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