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The Penn State football team is going to have to get used to life without talented linebacker Sean Lee, at least on the field. Lee tore the ACL in his right knee at practice Friday and faces eight to nine months of rehabilitation before he'll be able to play again.
The Nittany Lions began to adjust to the setback Saturday, with their annual Coaches Clinic Scrimmage at Beaver Stadium. Played before a crowd of several hundred high school coaches -- as well as Lee on crutches on the sideline -- State ran 70-plus plays on the afternoon.
And the highlight may well have been a kick.
Frustrated by the poor play of his backup offensive guards, head coach Joe Paterno called them to the middle of the field and chewed them out. Then he booted the football that was in place for the next snap, sending it skittering across the turf.
Read on for more news and notes from the session:
Daryll Clark and Pat Devlin split first-team quarterback reps in the seven-on-seven portion of the scrimmage. But once the 11-on-11 action began, Clark was almost exclusively with the first team. Clark didn't look to scramble at all in the scrimmage, instead concentrating on his progressions. He did not connect on any long balls, but showed a strong arm and great accuracy on a 20-yard out to Deon Butler against the first-team defense. Overall, a good day for Clark.
Though the second-team offensive line struggled, Devlin was smooth when he was given time. He also did a nice job of rolling out on several plays to give himself more time. Devlin attempted a QB draw in the red-zone portion of the scrimmage, but coughed up the ball when he was hit. In this scrimmage, both quarterbacks spent a lot of time working the middle of the field.
In Penn State's previous open practice (March 29), Clark and Devlin split reps with the first-team offense.
Redshirt sophomore Evan Royster appears to be the clear-cut starter at tailback. He continued to show great vision and footwork, which are making up for a lack of breakaway speed. He was particularly patient on a 2-yard touchdown run in the red-zone drills.
Redshirt freshman tailback Stephfon Green, who wowed onlookers with a 45-yard burst in a previous open scrimmage, was bottled up in this one. He ran exclusively with the second team, which used very basic offensive sets.
Backup running back Brent Carter had a good day, grinding out several tough carries and scoring on a screen pass.
With veteran receivers Butler, Jordan Norwood and Derrick Williams not needing extensive work, youngsters Brett Brackett, Graham Zug and Derek Moye also saw plenty of time with the first-team offense. Brackett spent a lot of time as a third or fourth wideout in no-tight end sets. Moye appeared to be a favorite target of Clark and Devlin. And Zug made an impressive 20-yard TD catch late in the session, going up over a smaller defensive back for the grab.
Penn State returns its offensive line intact from 2007. Stefen Wisniewski has moved ahead of Mike Lucian at right guard, prompting the shift of Lucian to a backup center spot. The first-team offensive line played well Saturday. The second unit struggled, especially when facing the No. 1 defense.
Speaking of the No. 1 defense, redshirt sophomore Bani Gbadyu has taken over Lee's starting outside linebacker spot. He was solid if not spectacular in the scrimmage.
The stunner of the day was when true freshman linebacker Michael Mauti - who enrolled at Penn State in January - took the field at safety. Mauti is a 6-2, 220-pounder. He played well Saturday, but it was not as if the offenses tried to exploit him in any way. Sources say Mauti made the move Wednesday.
Defensive tackle Jared Odrick looks nearly fully recovered from a dislocated right ankle that cost him the second half of the 2007 season. Though he wore a cross jersey signifying an injured athlete Saturday, he ran with the second team and played well. Meanwhile redshirt freshman tackle Devon Still, who missed the entire 2007 season with a knee injury, participated in contact drills before the scrimmage but did not scrimmage.
Projected starting corner A.J. Wallace has been out of action since taking a hard hit to the jaw more than a week ago. Tony Davis - a starting safety in 2006 before moving to safety in 2007 - replaced Wallace at corner.
The Lions attempted only one kick (besides Paterno's) in the scrimmage. Kevin Kelly's 47-yarder into the wind bounced off the crossbar and was no good.
Andrew Pitz appears to have taken over as the starting snapper on placements. The Lions did not work on punts in the scrimmage. Mauti also worked on snapping before the scrimmage.
Speaking of snappers before the scrimmage, starting left guard Rich Ohrnberger actually spent some time working on shotgun snaps with Clark early in the day.
Speaking of left guards, former tackle Johnnie Troutman saw some second-team reps there Saturday. It didn't seem to help the second-team line much.
Spotted on the sideline were former PSU defensive backs Justin King and Yaacov Yisrael.
This was Penn State's 12th practice of the spring and second full scrimmage. The Lions are slated to have the NCAA maximum of 15 total sessions, ending with the Blue-White Game at Beaver Stadium next Saturday.