Nittany Notes: Prepping for No. 1

With three wins in a row, Penn State turns its focus to a prime-time game with top-ranked Ohio State in Beaver Stadium Saturday. What are the Lions focusing on? How is the health and attitude of the team? Find out right here.

Approach & Attitude

"Emotions are mixed right now," one practice observer shared, "Obviously the squad is happy to come away with a win, but [the Indiana game] was not a pretty performance and they know that."

Our observers say the Lion are feeling are good, yet fortunate, that they pulled out a victory against the Hoosiers. "The entire team — coaches included — realize that they have some gaps to fill with their game," an observer explained. "The big question is with the [offensive] scheme. The Buckeyes are not going to give up opportunities like Indiana did, and when they do you have to strike and take your end zone shots. Field goals ain't going to cut it in this one."

A defensive observer noted, "The [defensive] players are primed for this game. They have some injuries to deal with, but the way Sean Lee, Maurice Evans and Dan Connor are playing have the guys pumped."

Several observers indicate that they feel the outcome of the Indiana game was, in essence, "ideal" for the team. As one observer said, "It was a win, which is huge, but I think the way they won this game keeps them squarely focused. Ego's a big aspect of the game. You want confidence but not overconfidence."

Monday's Session

Monday's practice was a light 40-minute session with some basic drills and fundamental work. The unit saw some 1v1 and 2v2 sessions and the passing game worked some routes, while the running backs saw some ball strip drills and agility sets.

"The [coaches] will work the guys up throughout the week. They'll start [the players] off easy and get them into contact the rest of the week."

Banged and Bruised

With Jared Odrick out with a broken ankle sustained early in the Indiana game, the defensive line took yet another hit to its depth this past Saturday. "Chris Baker and Ollie Ogbu are penciled in as the starters," one obsever told us. "With Abe Koroma, Phillip Taylor and Tom McEowen in the rotation, all of whom have seen action in the last few games. That is a pretty solid rotation for [position coach Larry Johnson] to work with."

On the offensive line, Mike Lucian was held out of Saturday's game against Indiana as a precautionary measure due to a concussion he sustained against Wisconsin the previous week. As one observer said, "Mike should be OK to go. They'll work him some and make sure he feels OK. The medical staff is keeping a close eye on him. But he seems fine."

With Matt Hahn sidelined with an ACL injury, Dan Lawlor has stepped into the fullback role. "You just can't replace Matt's fire. He's intense, but more importantly he is a fighter and just plays all out," one observer said. "Dan got a few carries in the Wisconsin game and saw some reps blocking [against Indiana]. He doesn't have the hands Matt has, but he can throw a block. Honestly, though, Matt will be missed for a variety of reasons — he's played a big role for this team and that can't be discounted."

In the meantime, even observers are wondering if there is a physical issue with cornerback Justin King. "Clearly something was wrong [against Indiana]," an observer opined. "He looked flat. He looked tentative. He played like I've never seen him play before. I know his shoulder has been nagging him, but this seemed to go beyond that. He was just hesitant to wrap up. Both the coaching and medical staff talked with him, so we'll have to see how the week goes in practice."

Performing for Prospects

With this being anticipated as a major recruiting weekend for PSU, the team has its sights set elsewhere currently. "This week is about one thing," according to an observer. "This is about playing the best [the team] can and giving everyone in attendance, no matter who they are, something to see."

Said another observer, "It does us no good if [the recruits] come and we don't play well."

The list of visitors is not expected to be completed until later this week. Stay tuned to FightOnState.com and we will pass along info as we get it.

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