Nittany Notes: Lions Shifting Gears

Penn State's defense is a bit banged up heading into this week's monster game with No. 1 Ohio State. See what adjustments the coaches are making to address those issues, especially along the defensive line.

Penn State's defensive coaches are focusing on solidifying the rotations they expect to run against Ohio State. Using plenty of personnel has been a key to success for the defense, especially up front.

Here are the most recent developments out of practice this week:

Defensive Line

With the loss of Jared Odrick due to a fractured ankle sustained in the Indiana game, the coaches made a few moves in Monday's practice, which was relatively short (only about 40 minutes). Currently the starting tackles are Chris Baker and Phillip Taylor. "Ollie [Ogbu] has looked good, but Phil really had an impressive showing last week," one observer said. "He's getting his gap reads down and really getting that endurance up, which is essential. Plus, his sheer size pulls in guys, freeing up the other [players on the line]."

At his Tuesday press conference, Lion coach Joe Paterno lauded Taylor for getting down to a manageable playing weight.

Behind Baker and Taylor are Ollie Ogbu, Abe Koroma and Tom McEowen. "Abe's back into the swing of things [after recovering from a broken foot sustained in the preseason]. He looks healthy and the [coaches] have really had him seeing more action." The consensus among observers is that the interior of the defensive line will have a solid rotation despite the loss of Odrick.

At the end positions, Josh Gaines and Maurice Evans will remain as the starters. "Mo [Evans] is just a machine — he's all-out on every snap, but he is so smart. He really studies his assignment and gets their tendencies down. He watches a lot of film to learn what his side of the line does — when the guard helps the tackle, when the running back stays to max protect, when the line pulls," one observer shared.

The second-team backup reps have been split among Aaron Maybin and Chris Rogers, but a new addition to the rotation has emerged this week. Freshman Eric Latimore has seen some second-team reps. "Eric's been on track to redshirt, but he's really put on a show at times. He's a very physical player and [the coaches] want to see if he can contribute and add to the rotation." Whethher Latimore will play in the OSU game has not been determined yet, but observers feel he has shown the ability to make an impact, if needed.

Linebackers

Clearly, Sean Lee and Dan Connor are the anchors for the linebacker unit, with Tyrell Sales and Navorro Bowman splitting first-team reps at the third spot. "Ro (Bowman) got back into action last week [vs. Indiana]. He says he is feeling good, so it'll be interesting to see what he can do."

One interesting development this week with the 'backers is that freshman Chris Colasanti, who saw action against Wisconsin and Indiana on special teams, has taken some of Connor's first-team reps at middle linebacker. No one expects the rookie to actually content for the top job vs. the All-American. But it gives Connor a break in drills, and gives the staff a chance to see Colasanti working with the rest of the first team.

"He's done a good job breaking up the wedge on [kickoff] coverage and the staff likes what he's showing them. He's assertive, smart and physical," one observer said of Colasanti.

Aside from seeing some middle 'backer work, Colasanti has also seen some pass rush work. "He's in the linebacker position, but they will bring him up to attack the pocket. He's so physical and strong they are trying to get him comfortable busting a seam in the line." In the situations where Colasanti comes up, a defensive end will typically drop back to take the middle zone.

How much action will Colasanti see against the Buckeyes? "[The coaches] are working a variety of things and will pull whatever they feel works the best and use it to mix things up," an observer said. "Chris has played well so far, so if he can show a prowess for what they are asking him to do, they'll likely use it."

Secondary

On Tuesday, corner Justin King acknowledged that his shoulder is bothering him, but he also indicated that it has not been a factor in his coverage. King remains first team at cornerback this week and indicated that his perceived issues during the Indiana game were more due to the zone gaps in the scheme than his own play.

"Justin will be OK. [Indiana's James] Hardy is a great wideout, but he also has what, seven inches on him. That is a big disadvantage to overcome," one observer explained. "It's not an excuse, just someting to consider. I wouldn't count him out in this one."

-30-


Fight On State Top Stories