NITTANY NOTES: Doubling Down

Penn State turned up the dial Saturday with its first double-session of the preseason. Get an overview of what went down in our exclusive Nittany Notes right here.

Before we jump into Saturday's double session, here is a quick review on Friday's practice:

Friday Practice Notes

Friday's session had a 7 p.m. start and allowed the players to get in some work under the lights. The night session took place outdoors in full pads on the practice fields outside of Lasch Building.

"It was solid session, but some of the younger guys are feeling it," an observer said. "The coaches were on them. We see it every year though; they come in feeling they are all set and midway through are saying they had no idea."

The players focused on individual unit drills, agility work, 1v1s and 2v2s.

Saturday Practice Notes

Saturday marked the sixth day of preseason drills for Penn State's players and was the first double session of the preseason as well. It was also the second consecutive day Penn State practiced under the lights after a similar session on Friday.

"It was a rough day — full pads in the heat with an early 1:45 (p.m.) session and a late practice that was at 7 (p.m.)," one observer shared.

Here are some notes from Saturday's double session:

  • Overall there were no reported major shifts in the depth chart through the Friday and Saturday practices.

  • Also indications are that the linebackers lineup may be getting solidified. One observer said position coach Vanderlinden said he expects everyone to stay at their current spots. At the Saturday session he told his players "be sure to learn your position" stressing that they needed to know the role inside and out. For folks not following our previous Nittany Notes, the starting 'backers were Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee outside, and Josh Hull inside.

  • The offense got some "red zone work" in with the quarterbacks and receivers. Daryll [Clark] was "sharp as usually, but forced a few balls" early, which he "made up for with some nice deliveries."

  • Backup QB [Kevin] Newsome "was using his feet too much," as one observer put it. "He looks to run first — but Michael Robinson used to do that too."

  • Third-team QB Matt [McGloin] also had some nice passes, but also "needs to run through his progression. It's tight down inside the 10 [-yard line], so you have to open your eyes and look for windows."

  • Among the veteran receivers who stood out were Graham Zug, who "made a few nice grabs," and Brett Brackett, who "set himself well." The coaches are rotating in a lot of wideouts to get them "comfortable with Clark's passes."

  • Curtis Drake is a young wideout who has turned some heads. "He's young, and has to work on the little things to create separation, but he's got some nice hands. He's built well and is aggressive." Justin Brown's physique has also drawn some praise, however, "right now Drake has shown better hands." Shawney Kersey has also received positive comments about his all-around athleticism.

  • The squad also worked on punt returns for the first extended period this preseason. Players had fielded punts in the sessions leading up to Saturday, but there were no full return-game unit drills.

  • There were a wide variety of players working the return game, including safety Andrew Dailey, linebacker Nate Stupar, running back Brandon Beachum, Zug, running back Evan Royster and true freshman receiver Devon Smith, referred to by one observer as "The Flash." As usual, the coaches are using the preseason to determine who the best punt-return candidates are.

  • We are not certain if Stupar and Dailey are viable candidates for the return job or if they were simply dropping back into that role as place-holders during the unit work. But if we had to guess, we'd say the latter.

  • Safety Drew Astorino was back handling the bulk of the punt safe returns. PSU often uses that formation when the opponent is in a fourth-and-short situation.

  • The team did not focus on kickoff returns during either of the Saturday sessions.

  • Defensive end Jerome Hayes saw limited reps as a precaution. He is returning from an ACL injury sustained last season. "They are just easing him back in," one observer said. "Probably overly cautious — he's almost begging for them to let loose."

  • Kevion Latham saw some first-team reps at defensive end. He was in when Hayes was being held out.

  • According to observers, the team has gotten through the first week seemingly without any major injuries. "Say a prayer or knock on some wood once you write that," one observer requested.

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