Though Friday was also a full-pad session, the real action began Saturday. According to one practice observer, "[Saturday] was the day everyone has been talking about all week."
The day began with morning practice where the players took in teaching sessions and position contact drills to "get the rust off," and an afternoon session where the players did some scrimmage sets to "get some assignment work in."
The offense in particular had a solid day Saturday.
"They got a lot of variations in with the spread and it clearly challenged the defense," an observer explained. "Some of the formations really test the instincts of the front seven, especially the guys on the wings."
The morning session started at 9:30 a.m. The team ran in full pads and did 20 plays or so of 9-on-7 work, where some of the most serious hitting usually takes place. The second practice started at 3:30 p.m.
Here are some general observations from Saturday's work:
- The linebacking corps saw serious shifts from the lineup we first reported last week. Observers say Saturday's two deep was:
"They are working combinations right now, trying to get the best two-deep that communicates well and just works as a unit," an observer said. "They aren't necessarily looking for the three fastest guys or three strongest. They need units that can anticipate each other and supplement one another's play."
- According to observers, dog house resident Navorro Bowman, who has seen his reps with the third-team unit, primarily on the strong-side, is "likely to move up soon." "Everyone knows he can make plays; he's just too good to stick with the third guys." Observers feel if Bowman moves up that Gbadyu would likely shift back over to the weak-side, where he has seen the bulk of his reps this past week.
- Mauti looks "dramatically better from [spring] ball," according to one observer. "He's really put his nose in the playbook and is really getting the scheme down." Head coach Joe Paterno raved about Mauti during a Media Day press conference Friday.
- The offense got a variety of formation work in, including lots of split-back formations. "The staff is working out fundamentals with the various combinations," an observer said. "They were working with [QB Daryll] Clark selling a fake, [TB Stephfon] Green tucking his head on a play-action, [TB Evan] Royster working his hands, all sorts of basics. The key is for the players to get the variety down and play their roles well."
- Along those lines, the day saw a variety of backfield combinations, with players like Evan Royster, Stephfon Green, Derrick Williams, Brent Carter, Dan Lawlor and Michael Zordich mixing and matching. "We have a lot of play-makers," one observer said. "They key is using them the right way. I'm sure the staff will continue to experiment with different combos throughout the preseason."
- True freshman Brandon Beachum was also in the mix with the running game, but observers expect he will redshirt this season. "He's shown he's tough to bring down, though," according to one observer.
- Although he's new at the position, Zordich has shown some "impressive blocking technique" at fullback. "He really lowers his shoulder and lays into the defender." According to observers, he and Stupar had a "big collision," which had everyone surprised. Both players were said to be fine. Zordich has shown consistency with his receiving skills with the limited passes he has been tossed. In fact, one coach was overheard saying, "Damn, if he can do that all of the time we're going to have to switch up some plays to get him the ball more."
- One receiver who really stood out Saturday was redshirt freshman Derek Moye. "He has been great. He had a sick touchdown catch — [QB Pat] Devlin gunned it to the corner and he laid out, grabbed it and landed square on his feet. It was impressive."
- The team worked punt returns on Friday and kickoffs and kickoff returns Saturday morning. "The big focus has been on coverage and lane assignments."
- Paterno was "pretty annoyed" all day Saturday according to observers. "Not Mr. Nice Guy like he was in front of the media on Friday."
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