Nittany Notes: U-M Prep

As the Nittany Lions prepare for their first road test of the 2007 season, the players and coaches are squarely focused on the Wolverines, a team that has given them fits for the better part of a decade. See how PSU's preparations are progressing this week.

With Penn State set to depart for Ann Arbor Friday afternoon, the team has been focused on preparing mentally and physically for Big Ten play, starting with Michigan. As we reported last week, prior to the Buffalo clash, Joe Paterno was upset that the team was not focused on the Bulls. "The coaches were concerned about the Buffalo game during the preseason," one observer explained. "It is tough for [the players] to focus on a game between Notre Dame and Michigan. That was a major fear last week, but this week it's been an advantage [in practice]."

Practice Progress

"[The team] is practicing well. The coaches seemed pleased with the focus and effort of the squad," an observer shared. "There's no lack of motivation. They know what this game means." In the squad and unit meetings this week the coaching staff has been stressing that the players be prepared for a tough, physical game. "Michigan is out to prove something, too," the observer said.

"Every play you bring it. Coach [Ron] Vanderlinden and [Tom] Bradley always say any play can be the turning point of a game, so you have to go all out on every snap," another observer shared. "The offense has been hearing this a lot this week, too." In fact, linebacker Dan Connor has been particularly vocal in practice and not just with the defense. "Danny's talked to the offensive line and the backs. [Center] A.Q. Shipley has also been all over his guys in drills."

1v1 Sets

The team worked a lot of 1v1 sets earlier this week. "They have been focused on working the linemen (defensive and offensive) with their technique. The offensive guys have to pick up the rush and split the pocket to construct a running lane," one observer explained. "The defensive guys have been working their rip-swim technique with [Coach Larry Johnson]. He's been all over the (defensive) ends with shedding their blocks and breaking the corner." He's been particularly focused on "Mo (Maurice Evans), Aaron Maybin and Rome (Jerome Hayes)."

As for the offensive line, right guard John Shaw has not seen extensive work this week as some observers expected. Shaw is dealing with a knee problem. "Honestly, I figured they would have inserted him in, but he doesn't look 100 percent," one line observer said. Mike Lucian and Stefen Wisniewski have been seeing significant right guard reps in his place. As for backup left gyard Lou Eliades, "he's looks totally fine," and has seen second- and first-team reps this week. "[The staff] has been working more of a rotation. Nerraw McCormack and Joe Toriello have been backing up Gerald Cadogan and Dennis Landolt at left and right tackle, respectively. "I am not sure if they feel comfortable enough to rotate the wings of the line too much, but the [backup tackles] have to be ready."

The drills this week have also worked the secondary. "Michigan has some phenomenal receivers who are fast and smart," an observer told us. "They have been working the corners and safeties with route and pursuit drills." There has been a strong focus on getting Lydell Sargeant and Justin King extra work on their coverage technique and tackling.

Passing Lane

QB Anthony Morelli has "looked sharp" with his passes. Daryll Clark also "really stepped up" with his tosses this week. The offense has worked a variety of schemes, including "broken and straight I-formation, single and split back, four- and five-wide and bunch sets." They have also gotten in in some no-huddle work this week.

"They have been getting a lot of different guys receiving reps," including Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood, Derrick Williams, Terrell Golden, Chris Bell, Andrew Quarless, Mickey Shuler and Brett Brackett.

Ground Game

Austin Scott and Rodney Kinlaw have continued to split first-team reps at tailback. Scott has seen some extra strip drills to help him "secure the ball in traffic." Also, Morelli and Scott have worked on hand-offs and pitches.

"Rodney really protects the ball well," one observer said. "Austin has to tuck in the handle (the tip of the ball) so no one can grab it. He's strong enough — it's all technique.

Other Notes

  • Defensive tackle Abe Koroma is off crutches and walking around. He has yet to see practice reps, though, due to the broken foot he sustained in the preseason.

  • Stephfon Green continues to impress observers with his scout team runs. "He's unbelievably fast" and "at times makes the first-team defense look stupid." As for the issues he experienced in practice last week, "he's getting there." But the sentiment appears to remain that Green is on track to redshirt this season.

    Stay tuned to FOS for exclusive practice reports and one-of-a-kind game coverage.

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