A group of players who were primarily "first- and second-teamers" have been relegated to scout team action this week. Multiple sources say this was done as preliminary punishment for players allegedly involved in a scuffle at the HUB early Sunday morning.
As one observer put it, "The coaches canceled practice on Monday to try to sort things out. They didn't know who was even involved. As the situation got somewhat clearer, some guys were demoted in Tuesday's practice."
Given the uncertainty about the situation and the fact that no one has been charged with a crime in connection with the scuffle, we are not releasing the names of the players who were demoted Tuesday.
But one observer allowed, "Some scout units have gotten a nice talent boost this week. It'll get some good work in for the secondary and offensive line, which can't hurt against a team like the Badgers."
In related news, a well-placed source tells us that at least one Penn State player is scheduled to be questioned by campus police about the incident at the HUB. The interview is slated to take place Wednesday evening, following practice.
Tailback Evan Royster saw a significant boost in first-team reps on Tuesday, splitting time with Rodney Kinlaw. "Those two have clicked. They seem to really be getting along well," according to one observer. "Rod's been working with Ev on the tendencies of the line, but he's had some good carries."
Royster had an "impressive" Tuesday session, that had him, according to another observer, "attacking holes and tearing through tackles." Royster got a "big confidence boost" from the Iowa game. On one run Tuesday, he "ran right through scout [team] middle linebacker Chris [Colasanti]. I haven't seen anyone else do that this season. He just lowered his shoulder, laid into Chris and stayed on his feet for another eight yards."
Kinlaw has also "shown more in practice this week." Coming off a 168-yard career day vs. Iowa, "Rod had a good session [on Tuesday]. He's been watching a lot more film lately and been putting in extra conditioning time now that he's the lead horse."
Without a natural vocal captain on the squad the coaches have recently talked with juniors Sean Lee and A.Q. Shipley about stepping into that role and to "realize they can lead without the title." Derrick Williams and Aaron Maybin have also been approached to contribute in filling the team's void here. "Q and Sean are two guys who will get up in your facemask and … inspire you to play up. They'll knock your head off, but they are mindful of the role the captains play. They need to realize that stepping on some toes here and there is not a bad thing if it helps the team," one observer said.
"Danny [Connor], [Anthony] Morelli and Terrell [Golden] aren't the motivational, get-up-on-the-soap-box speech types who will lead a charge and fire the guys up," one observer said. "Everyone sees the need for that and I think that you have some guys who can emerge into that role and make a case for the captain roles next season."
With several off-field issues looming, the team has "had a tough time focusing on the [big picture] this week," according to an observer. Although the win over the Hawkeyes was "much needed," tensions are still high. According to one observer, "There are guys who feel that they keep getting sold out by some selfish teammates. It's hard to blame them, but the coaches are one everyone to keep their blinders on and focus on the next game."
In terms of possible suspensions, the jury is still out. "Who knows? It could happen as more info comes out, but I think you'll see a contained response to this," one observer shared. "[Joe] Paterno was [upset] on Monday in the team meeting and said he wasn't sure who deserved to practice with this team. He's clearly [disappointed] and is trying to get a handle on the situation."
• Tuesday's session was another short one. All told, the team spent less than two hours on the field and about an hour on actual preparation for Wisconsin.
• Observers said a few heads were turned at practice Tuesday when starting quarterback Anthony Morelli threw an interception and quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno criticized the scout team defensive back who made the pick, saying he used a coverage technique Wisconsin won't show. "It was unreal," an observer said.