NITTANY NOTES: Pressing Questions

Get an inside look at the latest on several questions surrounding Penn State as it prepares to face Michigan at Beaver Stadium.

Penn State is back home for an evening clash with Michigan Saturday, but how is the team approaching this game? What are the players focused on? Get the latest answers here.

How is the team approaching this Michigan game?

"It's a big week for [the players]," an observer said. "Joe [Paterno] and the coaches were preaching to [the team] about the Syracuse rivalry, and that is a team we hadn't played in like 18 years. So this week has seen a lot of talk about Michigan. But it hasn't taken the tone I think a lot of fans would have expected. It hasn't been about revenge or retribution for the losing streak. There's an element of that, but it's been more directed toward what this team can accomplish. [The players] know they have the ability to 'put this season on the sky-boxes [in Beaver Stadium],' as on guy said, so this game goes beyond just petty revenge."

"It think they have struck a good balance," another observer said. "I mean, you have the BCS talk here and there and the "National Champs" huddle chant. But the team really seems to be living up to the cliche of 'one game at a time.' "

What is the defense focused on this week?

The front four is focused on pressure packages and pocket collapses. As one observers put it, "They have been putting together a similar plan that was seen against Purdue.

Observers expect to see a "heavy dose" of Aaron Maybin and Maurice Evans this week. "Assuming [Steven] Threet plays, he can move out of the pocket. He's not Juice [Williams], but he can move the sticks with his legs if a lane opens up. [Curtis] Painter was able to do the same, so the defense, particularly the linebackers, are focused on watching the under lanes open up if the ends are pushed out high on a pursuit."

How is the injury situation with the squad?

Brent Carter has an ACL tear and is out for the year and will require surgery. As Joe Paterno discussed in Tuesday's press conference. Brett Brackett was sidelined on Monday and is expected to not expected to see action this week due to the concussion sustained against Wisconsin.

"Luckily, the depth is there at the wideout position. Brett adds another dimension, but the veterans will just have to pick up the slack [laughing]," an observer said.

In an interesting twist, one observer noted that when Brackett was injured in the Wisconsin game, running back Joe Suhey replaced him in certain formations in which Brackett would have been lining up in the slot.

How is Daryll Clark's elbow?

"He was fine after the game," an observer explained. "The trainers typically have guys ice down a bruise. He took a helmet or shoulder-pad in the arm. It's expected. I mean, it's football. He's a physical player who likes contact. The coaches are trying to pull him back on that, but he's going to get nicked up. He just needs to consistently protect himself."

As another observer said, "He got licked pretty good on that option touchdown to Ev[an Royster]. The funny thing is he went back to the sideline laughing and saying, 'Wooooo, did you see that one?' He doesn't shy away from hits, but he needs to be careful. I know the coaches are on him about that."

And what about the offense's preparations?

"They are not changing much up in practice this week," one observer told us. "The scheme has so much versatility and Clark does a good job of running it and making shifts when necessary. He'll audible a protection shift, but he doesn't need to audible the call since there are usually three our four options he can go to.

"If he's in the shotgun and has Royster and Williams, he can hand off to either, hit either out of the backfield, hit the tight end on a release — oh there's Norwood open, wait Butler just broke free. There are [a lot] of weapons to cover and go to."

Another observer said, "It's so over-used, but they take what the defense gives them. They need to get out of the gate faster. This has not been a first-quarter team, so good thing they have been a second-, third- and fourth-quarter team. But a fast start could really help them out in the next few games."

What about Joe Paterno?

"Joe's in a good amount of pain," an observer said. "He's still in the cart around practice and has the cane to get around. I think most here are expecting him to stay in the press box. He also seems to have a better feel for the game up there." is THE source for exclusive, inside coverage of Penn State football.


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