Coming off back-to-back losses, the Penn State football team generally seemed to be in good spirits when it hit the practice field for an hour-long session Monday.
Penn State ran a "limited" practice on Monday, with the offense working on passing routes, 1-v-1 drills and blitz pickup sets. The defense worked on tip drills, rush fundamentals and pursuit-angle sets.
"I thought we looked good," an observer said. "The guys seem to be moving on [from losses to Michigan and Illinois]."
At his Tuesday afternoon press conference, PSU head coach Joe Paterno said he did not expect any significant changes on offense this week, even after the unit failed to score a touchdown at Michigan and then self-destructed in the red zone at Illinois.
According to our practice observers, the coach was being straight with the media. On Monday, quarterback Anthony Morelli, and running backs Austin Scott and Rodney Kinlaw all donned the powder blue jerseys worn by the offensive starters.
On Tuesday, Paterno confirmed Morelli is the man, even though many fans are calling for a change. "Morelli is our quarterback. I wish everyone would just calm down."
While there has been much discussion about Morelli's frame of mind following his three-interception, one-fumble showing at Illinois, an observer told us, "He seems to be handling things OK."
PASSING THE TEST
Another area where some fans are clamoring for change is in the receiving corps. But don't expect it. "The starters (Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Derrick Williams) played a near-perfect game at Illinois," an observer said. "The staff said they graded out extremely well." Indeed, the trio combined for 12 catches for 216 yards.
In the meantime, sophomore Chris Bell had one impressive grab for 37 yards. "Other than that, though, he really struggled with his routes," an observer explained. Observers feel that unless Bell shows marked improvement in practice this week, he could be looking at even less playing time against the Hawkeyes.
Other fans are wondering why Penn State has not used redshirt freshman wideout Brett Brackett more in red-zone situations. At 6-foot-6, the former quarterback is a formidable target.
Observers point out that Brackett is behind senior captain Terrell Golden now, "and Golden is doing everything the staff is asking of him." That includes not-so-obvious things like blocking and more noticeable things like making a clutch third-down catch in the fourth quarter of the Illinois game. "Brackett will be fine," an observer said. "He couldn't be learning from a better guy."