NITTANY NOTES: Pressing Questions

Saturday's Syracuse victory seemed to produce more questions than answers for the Penn State football program. We tackle the issues ranging from the goal-line offense to the kicking game right here.

For Penn State, Monday was a "solid" practice session where the team worked on areas of need like short-yardage situations, kick coverage and pursuit drills. The Lions had a reason to step things up with a variety of NFL scouts on hand, many of whom were also in attendance for the Syracuse win.

As we reported on Friday, representatives from the Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams made the trip to Happy Valley to see veterans like Sean Lee, Daryll Clark and Jared Odrick, as well as some younger guys like Evan Royster, Jack Crawford and Derek Moye.

Penn State fans have been asking a series of questions on a wide array of topics after the Syracuse win. Here is a rundown of the major questions and some answers from practice observers.

What is wrong with Penn State's run blocking?

"There are a few things at play," one observer said. "First, both opponents (Akron and Syracuse) stuffed the box to make Clark throw. Akron challenged him heavily and he did pretty well. Syracuse dropped the safeties down a lot, which clogged up the lanes. Second, it's a group of [offensive line] guys who are all learning new positions, but more importantly need time to work together. A lot of people do not understand how vital communication is for the line to work as one -- that takes time to develop."

As another observer explained, "The big issue is the interior. Stefen Wisniewski is picking up one of the most challenging positions on the field (center). The guards (Matt Stankiewitch and Lou Eliades) are having a tough time picking up their roles consistently." Observers indicate that first-team practice reps are now split between Stankiewitch, Eliades, Quinn Barham and Johnnie Troutman. "[The coaches] are trying to find the right combination heading into Big Ten play. But teams are going to have to cover the pass if they want to compete with this team, which will open things up,' an observer said.

Why use Stephfon Green in short-yardage situations?

"All week the coaches were talking about toughening up Steph by getting him more work between the tackles," according to an observer. "I think they were hoping for more from him, but not every guy is built to pound it in like that. The experiment worked as they had hoped, but they want him to get more comfortable going inside -- he can't run wide on every play -- it's just too predictable."

What's wrong with the kick coverage?

Observers feel that Syracuse had strong kick return skills. "We saw on film Mike Jones is a solid return man. He brought one back 79 yards against Minnesota. So this unit has to get better, but you have to give the other team some credit here," an observer said.

"Hang time has been an issue," another observer opined. "There just has not been time for guys to get down and make plays, and too much time for the returner to get the ball and get upfield with light pressure."

The staff is said to be debating using true freshman Anthony Fera on kickoffs. Fera has shown some strong hang times on kicks in practice that (approaching 4.0 seconds). But The staff is still hopeful that Collin Wagner can pull things together and allow Fera to redshirt.

How is the mood of the team heading into Temple?

"Most guys are dissatisfied. They are happy with the wins, but feel that they are capable of playing a lot better," one observer explained.

"A lot of guys are on the details," another said.

Observers like the focus and direction of the squad and feel that they are anxious to improve and "elevate their play." is the exclusive home of the BEST content and community covering Penn State football.


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