Following a recent trend this season, Monday's practice was "light" with some fundamental work and a focus on defensive pass rush drills and kick coverage.
"The coaches expect a physical game [against MSU]," one observer told us. "They are trying to get the guys enough work and rest this week, which is a bit of a balancing act."
One observer noted that "Michigan State's line has allowed a lot of sacks [this season], which could be a real advantage [for PSU]. But the [defensive] line really needs to work on its consistency in pressuring the pocket. They can't get hung up on the fact they got pressure on Temple. If you look at the losses this year, non of those games saw significant pocket pressure from the defense."
PSU averaged one sack per game in its three losses (Michigan, Illinois and Ohio State). In the games the Lions have won this season, they have averaged just over five sacks.
Penn State is ranked No. 117 (out of 119 teams) in kickoff coverage. Improving that area was a focal point Monday. "There's a lot of miscommunication and a tendency for … I am not sure if it's a lack of understanding or discipline," an observer shared. "Opposing teams are getting nearly 30 yards per return, or about a third of the field."
Michigan State's kickoff return game is ranked No. 8 nationally, averaging 25 yards per return. "It's one of big advantages they have. It gives them a short field to work with," another observer said.
Evan Royster was sidelined with an ankle injury during the early goings of Saturday's Temple game. Although Joe Paterno noted the possibility that they injury could be serious, the early indications in practice this week seem to counter that notion.
Royster saw practice reps on Monday with the first- and second-team units. Donning the green cross jersey, he was limited to "light contact" in drills. As one observer told us, "He did not look too hindered by [the injury]. The medical and coaching staff will keep a close eye on him to see whether he can go [against Michigan State on Saturday]."
Despite getting limited, late reps against Temple, backup quarterback Daryll Clark has seen added first-team reps early this week in practice. "He got a bit more work on Monday. They were running some interesting things with him," one observer explained.
Even so, observers are skeptical that he will see any significant additional playing time against Michigan State this week.