NITTANY NOTES: Pressing Questions

As Penn State prepares for its Big Ten road opener at Purdue, get answers to several key questions around program. Who is seeing action? Who is not? How is the team preparing?

After a big win over Illinois, Penn State now turns it's focus to Purdue for the second road game of the 2008 season. Here are some updates on several key questions around practice as the Lions prep for the Boilers.

How is the injury situation with the squad?

The PSU staff is dealing with some bumps and bruises from the week leading up to the Illinois game. "[The coaches] are taking it easy on a few of the key guys who are instrumental to the team's success as they approach the coming gauntlet of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa," an observer explained.

Among the players the coaches are giving some extra rest are Jordan Norwood, Evan Royster and Navorro Bowman.

Jordan Norwood missed the Illinois game with a nagging hamstring injury. This week, through Tuesday, the team's leading receiver has not seen practice drills and has been limited to some light stretching and runs.

Royster, State's leading rushing, missed Monday's practice but was back participating in drills on Tuesday. As one observer said, "Yeah, they gave him Monday off to let him rest, but he was into things [Tuesday]. He looked fine."

As we reported previously, Bowman missed Monday's session, too. During Tuesday's practice the Lions' top tackler saw limited reps. "I think they just want to make sure he's 100 percent. He's a little banged up, but it does not seem too serious. They seem to be taking their time to get him rested and recovered. I mean [the coaches] really worked him a lot during the last game," an observer said.

Others fans have asked about are Anthony Scirrotto, Ollie Ogbu and Daryll Clark. All three are said to be fine. Scirrotto merely had some cramping in his leg against the Illini, Ogbu "was a little banged up from Illinois" and Clark "took a hit to the knee, but is fine."

How is the defensive line approaching this week?

Through Tuesday's session the defensive line continued to get work on its pass-rush basics. "[Coach Larry Johnson] has the line working on getting off the blocks and keeping down to come up and create openings," an observer said. "He also has the ends working on their rip and "swim" technique to break away and make the corner."

As another observer said, "The coaches are telling the ends they can dial up the aggression a bit [against Purdue]. The concern with [Juice] Williams was his ability to hit the lower lane when the end breaks around high. [Curtis] Painter can do this to a degree, but is not as quick or mobile as Williams."

What is the focus of the offensive game plan this week?

"The offense is looking for balance," an observer told us. "But given the issues the Boilers have shown stopping the run, they are telling the guys to get ready for some possible added reps if things open up."

This was the main reason for resting Royster on Monday. Royster is expected to once again be the lead horse in the ground game. And what of Stephfon Green? "Stephfon has got to just get a handle on the ball. They will still get him in there, but they are working on getting him to lock down the ball through the whistle," another observer said.

Is the offense changing up its scheme any this week?

"They have basically run the same sets we saw last weekend. They always have different options they practice. Like that wheel route you guys featured [on FOS], there are five or so variations of that. And that's just one play. I doubt you see too many of those this weekend, though," according to one observer.

As another observer said, "The coaches said they expect Purdue to lock on Derrick [Williams] given how he shredded Illinois, so someone else will have to step up. This is nothing new for these guys - Deon [Butler] has a big game, they go to Jordan. Derrick has a big game, they go to Deon. They lock on Jordan they toss in [Brett] Brackett, Chaz [Powell] or [Graham] Zug. That's the beauty of all these weapons in this scheme."

How is the attitude of the team after Illinois?

"The guys got a lot of confidence from the win and Joe [Paterno] and the coaches and captains are trying to use that energy and confidence, but keep the guys grounded," one observer said.

Is it working? "I think so. You never really know until the season is over," another observer explained. "[The players] are just focused on Purdue and saying things like 'nothing yet' [as in 'we've proven nothing yet'], 'Boilers baby' and 'next step.' But those are just words proof is what we see in West Lafayette."

How is Joe Paterno holding up physically?

The coach still has a sore right knee, and skipped his weekly appearance at the Quarterback Club luncheon Wednesday. Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley made an appearance instead. But Paterno is expected to travel with the team to Purdue. is THE source for exclusive inside coverage of Penn State football.


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