NITTANY NOTES: Cali Collisions

Get the latest on Penn State's Rose Bowl preparations now that the players are in California and back in action.

After a week off for finals last week, Penn State is back in action on the West Coast as it prepares to face USC in the Rose Bowl Jan. 1.

Prep Prep

Prior to departing campus, each individual player was given a "breakdown" DVD of USC film from this season, which they were expected to review prior to their arrival out west for the team's film and practice sessions. The players arrived in Los Angeles Saturday and Sunday.

"The coaches expect [the players] to be debriefed and ready so when they're discussing a player or unit from USC in practice or film session, [the Lions] have already seen them in action," an observer said.

Touchdown

The Nittany Lion coaches touched down in Los Angeles on Saturday via charter. The flight left from Harrisburg due to bad weather in Happy Valley and was forced to stop in Kansas City to refuel due to heavy head winds.

As was noted, the players arrived between Saturday and Sunday, making their own travel plans from their break locations. Most players headed home after finals while some from further distances opted to stay with teammates.

Currently the team is staying at Lowes Santa Monica Beach Hotel and practicing at the Home Depot Center, where the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team plays.

In terms of the weather, it has been in the high 50s to low 60s with some rain on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. One observer called it "miserable" for Los Angeles.

Practice Notes

Sunday the team saw a light practice to "get the rust off," which had the players stretch, run and do some basic unit drills. As one observer said, "Everyone seemed to look good in the runs, but it's only been a week — it's not like guys have that much time to loaf around and get out of shape. But [Joe] Paterno was on them before finals, saying he'd better not see anyone show up sloppy."

The quarterbacks and receivers got in some passing drills and the linemen got in some snap drills and 1v1 sets.

On Monday and Tuesday, Penn State got into some "brutal" full-contact practices. As one observer explained previously, "This is the exact approach they took in Miami [for the 2006 Orange Bowl]. It'll be intense."

It was. The players were very anxious to get back in practice. "They were really hungry to get into contact. But they are already itching to get to the game. The key is pacing them, but it's going to be a challenge with this group — A.Q. [Shipley], Aaron [Maybin] and Derrick [Williams] have the guys all primed up."

The original plan was to conduct double sessions starting Monday, however, given that the Home Depot Center is a 45 minute drive with a police escort from the Lowes, "it's too far to go there and back twice a day, so they're having pretty long practice sessions."

Things are expected be tough in practice until six days out from game day, when Penn State will shift over its typical game-week routine.

Pressing Questions

Are the coaches changing up QB Daryll Clark's game any?

The concern about Clark's situation among fans is the lack of an experienced backup quarterback for PSU. So have the coaches changed anything since backup Pat Devlin left the program?

"Not really," one observer said. "They may have pulled back on some designed runs, but they have [Clark] working run and pass sets with backfield variations."

What is the offense focusing on for USC?

"Balance," an observer said. "The coaches are really stressing the need to keep USC guessing [on defense]. I think the coaches feel like they have a good understanding of [USC's] defensive tendencies, but this really comes down to speed and accuracy. Quick, accurate decisions that keeps them on their toes."

The coaches are preparing the wideouts to be ready for some shifts. As one observer explained, "USC wants to contain the passing game, so depending on what they toss out, every guy has to be ready to step up. If they key on Williams, [then] Butler, Norwood, Zug and Brackett have to be ready. If their focus is Butler, then Williams needs to be ready. The good thing is the number of weapons [PSU has]."

In terms of the running game, the offensive line is focusing on a "physical battle inside." There has been a lot of talk at "running at the Trojans." As another observer said, "You can't just outrun these guys. They are as fast and physical as anyone. You have to play to this team's strengths and try to open some things up off the line and through the air."

How is Joe Paterno looking?

The consensus among practice observers is that he looks good. "He's been more mobile and active. They are trying to have him take it easy, but he's trying to take that new hip for a spin out there [on the practice field]," as one observer put it.

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