NITTANY NOTES: Solid & Sloppy

News and notes from Penn State's midweek scrimmage at Beaver Stadium. See what went down as the Lions continue to prepare for the opener with Akron.

Wednesday had Penn State working to put the finishing touches on it preparations for Akron Sept. 5. The Nittany Lions scrimmaged in Beaver Stadium in a session that had its ups and downs. As one practice observer said, "It was a mixed performance — some aspects were solid and some were sloppy."

Solid Side

Here is a review of the positives from the scrimmage:

  • The linebackers as a whole have been strong in their ability to contain the offense from "getting to the second level." Even with Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman out (see note below), the younger players have been a "strong group."

  • Bani Gbadyu continues to see work at middle linebacker and brings "a spark" to the position with his speed. He is still nailing down the role but has been impressive with his "willingness to step into a lane."

  • There was limited passing, but young receivers Christian Kuntz and A.J. Price have also had strong showings this week. "Price has got to bulk up somehow. If he can get some weight on he could be a big weapon [in the passing game]."

  • The first-team offensive line is also "gelling," as one observer put it. The unit focused on run blocking Wednesday. "I know Joe [Paterno] is hemming a lot about them, but they have been pretty consistent. I think he knows it can be a great group, so he doesn't want them to get complacent, but they're getting it together."

  • The quarterbacks also made progress during the session. Passing was limited but Daryll Clark was sharp on his delivery and, aside from a "couple balls getting away from him, he had a good one." He's said be very comfortable commanding the offense and managing the huddle.

  • The starting defensive line interior of Ollie Ogbu and Jared Odrick have been "outstanding at times." Together they have "been a handful" and create a lot of pressure," according to two observers in drills.

  • The young backup QBs, Matt McGloin and Kevin Newsome, are also "making strides." Newsome has improved on understanding the scheme, but still needs to follow through on his progressions. "He's missed some wide open guys." McGloin has had some "pretty balls," but needs to show more patience to let plays develop. Both are working on moving with the pocket, reading breakdowns, stepping up and "keeping an eye on their check-downs."

Sloppy Side

  • The coaches are still watching the secondary closely. "[The defensive backs] seem to take a step forward one day and a step back the next," one observer said. Consistency on reads and reactions has been the biggest point of concern for the unit. "I think they know their starters and they all have potential, but it's consistency that's a concern."

  • The defensive end rotations have had some issues, particularly on pressuring the pocket. "[Coach Larry Johnson] is working them on hitting the corners to penetrate and disrupt." Jack Crawford, Kevion Latham, Jerome Hayes and Eric Latimore are all expected to make up the rotation, but all "have work to do to hit the corner and shed blocks."

  • Some praise was extended to some individual wide receivers, as observers like the size and looks that Graham Zug and Derek Moye have been giving the QBs. On the whole though, the backup wideouts "were off a bit." Observers feel they were inconsistent with their routes and "were flat on some plays." As one observer explained, "They just weren't sharp and seemed winded."

Other Notes

  • As of Wednesday the team has yet to insert the nickel package consistently. "I am still surprised. They have been putting additional speed in some situations with the middle [linebacker] spot, but Akron throws a lot. It's a Walt Harris pass attack so I am surprised we haven't worked it more. I'll be shocked if it doesn't get significant time soon."

  • Freshman OT Eric Shrive sustained a "minor" MCL sprain which had him limited in drills earlier this week. However, he is said to be better now and was back seeing reps on Wednesday.

  • As we reported earlier this week, Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman have been kept out of action with minor injuries. Observers continue to stress there is little concern and that it's an opportunity to get younger players like Nate Stupar and Mike Yancich "valuable rep work."

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