Nittany Notes: Pressing Questions

What's shaking as No. 10 Penn State prepares for the showdown with unranked Michigan in Ann Arbor? Check out the latest edition of our exclusive Nittany Notes for details.

With 3-0 Penn State set to face 1-2 Michigan in Ann Arbor Saturday, PSU coaches and players jumped into film sessions early Sunday to dissect U-M's abilities on both sides of the ball. "A lot of the guys are anxious for this [game]," according to one observer. "They know it will be tough, but they are looking forward to it."

Here are answers to some pressing questions regarding the team.

With Mike Lucian and Stefen Wisniewski seeing time at right guard against Buffalo, what is the situation with the offensive line?

"John will be back [at right guard]," said one observer of John Shaw, who missed the Buffalo game with a knee injury. However, observers feel that the coaches may implement more off a rotation at the guard positions against Michigan.

"Q (A.Q. Shipley) has great endurance," one observer said of State's center. "But we may see guys like Mike [Lucian], Stefen [Wisniewski] and Lou [Eliades] help to keep things fresh."

Although PSU did not practice until later Monday, the starting lineup is expected to be (left to right): LT: Gerald Cadogan, LG: Rich Ohrnberger, C: A.Q. Shipley, RG: John Shaw, RT: Dennis Landolt. "It all depends how Shaw's return goes," another observer said. "He hasn't been 100 percent and he had some issues against Notre Dame."

What has the Michigan film shown Penn State?

"There has been so much talk about the Michigan offense, but not so much about the defense," one practice observer explained. "Michigan runs a '66' scheme which, in simplest terms, is four linemen, two 'backers and five defensive backs. This leaves a lot of open room in the intermediate flat."

As another observer explained, "They will play situations with two three-technique [tackles] and a nickleback instead of the third linebacker."

This has the potential to leave a lot of open space beyond the front four, which PSU could exploit with the use of its sizable targets and directional routes (such as slants, posts and such).

What is up with the play-calling so far? Will Penn State open things up?

Described as "simple," "plain," "vanilla" and "boring" by fans, State's offensive play-calling has definitely seemed to show a limited set of options. One observer responded to this, saying, "[Penn State] has won with relative ease in every game so far. Why would [the coaches] need to diversify the sets if they are winning by three or more scores?"

As another observer explained, "We should see more this week. Look at the [Buffalo] game. Quarless was brought in a quarter or so earlier than originally planned because PSU was locked up. And what did they do? Quarless deep in the middle — touchdown. Then they closed it right back up."

"It just does not make sense to reveal everything early when you can win on your talent edge," another observer explained. "They have also tossed some things into the mix though just to get it on film and keep [opponents] guessing."

What is the attitude of the team heading into this game?

The captains and coaches have been saying consistently of themselves that "this team has proven nothing yet." However, as we reported last week, what was viewed as a concern prior to Buffalo is now viewed as a positive — that the team was "uninspired about Buffalo and focused on Michigan."

"There's definitely some excitement around this one," another observer assessed.

Special teams have been a major plus so far this season. Any news with these units?

Kevin Kelly has received consistent praise among observers for his kickoffs. "His leg is stronger and he's getting pretty confident." Also, the transition of Jeremy Boone as Kelly's holder has been called an "upgrade." It appears that Pat Devlin may be handling backup holding duties.

Speaking of Boone, observers have been "pleasantly shocked" by his performance as punter. "Jeremy had pockets of inconsistency in the preseason, but he has really pulled it together so far," one observer said.

Another explained, "I am still concerned with the speed of his windup to get a punt off — aggressive teams will gun for that — but you can't argue with the results."

Return men A.J. Wallace and Derrick Williams are viewed as potential "game-breakers," and as such, "the team will work in some wedge adjustments to try to break some things open."

Stay tuned to FOS for more exclusive practice and team reports from Penn State.


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