SHORT REPORT: Finishing Touches

Get a report on Penn State's Thursday practice as the Nittany Lions finished their on-field prep for the season-opener with Akron.

For Penn State, Thursday essentially marked the "final prep drills" before the start of the 2009 season against Akron Saturday at noon.

"I think [the team] pretty much closed things on a strong note," one observer said. "There's always more work to do. You always want to have [the players] work one more situations or get one more rep in, but [the players] need to be fresh, too."

The Thursday session focused on situational work on both sides of the ball, like third downs, goal line, red zone and two-minute drills.

"There's been a ton of stress put on closing out drives and ending up in the end zone. This team is too talented top to bottom not to close out with touchdowns. It's the least the offense can do when the defense plays stiff and gives them opportunities," another observer explained.

There are still issues the coaches were focused on improving during the practice. They included:

  • Getting the young receivers to "hit the yardage." As one observer said, "Don't break 10-yards out when its a 12-yard pattern."

  • Getting consistent "breaks on the ball" with the defensive backs. "They have to trust their instincts."

  • Getting the defensive ends to "trust their technique" to make corners and apply pressure on the passer.

There were also some strong points from the session though according to observers we spoke to:

  • The defensive is "primed and played very aggressive. [The coaches] had to tell them to ease back at times and save it for the game."

  • The offensive line "is looking more relaxed" and "communicating better on line shifts." As one observer explained, "The defensive front seven have been throwing a lot of motion at them and Stefen Wisniewski has been coming up to speed on making his adjustments. It's a lot, but he's doing well."

  • The running game has been "sharp" and "has such a stable of guys that give a diverse set of looks. There are a ton of options, particularly if [the coaches] look to eventually throw in some split-back looks."

So, is the squad ready?

"Ready as practice can get them," an observer said. "They are starving for a game and that is where the adrenaline and atmosphere — and particularly the fans — will get them so amped. That alone can improve their game."

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