NITTANY NOTES: Freshman Focus 1

Get more exclusive summer progress reports from observers on several Nittany Lion rookies.

Earlier this month our Nittany Notes series provided an exclusive look at the Penn State true freshmen who initially stood out in early conditioning drills. In this edition we follow up with our observers for more comments on the rookies.

This list does not include every true freshman, rather the ones that have stood out in some regard. We will have subsequent freshman progress reports.

Keep in mind these observations do not coem from watching the players in pads, full practice drills or contact, so they are limited primarily to lifting and running sessions and any limited independent unit drills they have participate in.

  • Curtis Dukes: The running back is said to be "really put together," Dukes' power and overall strength have "been a sight." As one observer explained, "I think he tore through Lift For Life. That's not to say he didn't struggle at times, but he really attacked most of the stations. He's got some heads turning. I am anxious to see him in contact [this preseason]."

    Strengths: Overall power, upper-body strength and determination.

    Improvements: Lower-body strength, endurance.

  • Adam Gress: "I love what he's shown so far," one observer said of the offensive lineman. "He's been all business and has shown a nasty streak in lifts." Observers are impressed with his 6-foot-7, 295-pound frame. "They are going to tighten him up [with his lifting], but he's got a nice foundation to build from. The staff is focused on getting him more agile with his feet, you know — get rid of the flat feet and get up on those toes."

    Strengths: Solid frame, power and intensity.

    Improvements: Agility, footwork and build.

  • Anthony Fera: The new kicker has shown "some awesome power" with his kicks and "when he follows through can really drive the ball." Since his arrival on campus he has worked on getting down the timing of the live snaps. "It's just repetition, but he's getting comfortable with that snap-hold-kick progression."

    Strengths: Leg power and technique.

    Improvements: Timing, consistency and overall control.

  • John Urschel: Observers like his build and ability to "put up the plates," and some really like the maturity he has shown early on. "He seems down to Earth and is one of those coachable guys who asks how to improve, whether it's lifting or running technique," an observer explained. Although he's initially penciled in with the offensive line it sounds like "there could be a fight over where he ends up."

    Strengths: Overall strength, attitude and maturity.

    Improvements: Agility, footwork and speed.

  • Devon Smith: Described as a "speed demon," observers have been very impressed with his acceleration and "top end speed on sprints." Smith is focusing on his endurance on runs, though. "He taps out on the longer runs. No one seems to be too concerned, but this isn't one sprint; he needs to be able to fly snap after snap."

    Strengths: Speed and form.

    Improvements: Endurance and conditioning.

    Stay tuned to for continuing reports on the Penn State freshmen and the entire Nittany Lion squad as the prepare for the coming 2009 season.


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