NITTANY NOTES: Practice Progress

Before breaking for finals this week, the Penn State football team got in a handful of practices. See what the squad did to prepare for Cap One foe LSU.

Once again, Penn State is adopting the approach it has taken the past few years for bowls. After taking a week off for Thanksgiving break, the players got back into some practices.

The past two weekends the Nittany Lions got in a series of drills to prepare for the Captial One Bowl on Jan. 1 against LSU. With finals starting on Monday, Dec. 14, the team is now done with practices until the players arrive in Daytona Beach, Fla., Dec. 20. The players are responsible for making their own travel arrangements to and from the bowl using a set stipend from the athletic department.

The team will stay in Daytona Beach until Dec. 24, at which time it will migrate to Orlando until the bowl game.

As one observer said, "[The players] were a bit upset about missing the BCS, but they are so excited to play a team like LSU. They are pumped for this game."

Easing In

The coaches are adopting their "trademark" crescendo approach to bowl practices where they start out with light work and "take it up a step every practice." The goal of this approach is to get the guys back into game form from the long layoff between the Nov. 21 regular season finale against Michigan State and the Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl.

Observers point to the long period of time before the bowls as something that the coaches have to manage. As one observer explained previously of the approach, "The coaches work hard to manage the excitement and energy to channel it and get it to peak at the right time. It can be a challenge, but they do a pretty consistent job with bowl preparations."

The Basics:

Penn State ran a variety of basic fundamental drills over the early bowl practices working tackling, agility, speed, ball protection, directional shifts, snap counts and ball reads, among others. "The coaches generally like to get the guys into extra fundamental sets to work on the basics and get them back into the swing of things since it's been a few weeks since they have seen action," one observer explained.

The team has also run:

Unit Drills: There was a lot of fundamental work with read-reacts, footwork, agility and speed drills as a unit, focusing players on the basics of their play. "The coaches have been working on the fundamental details; tackling technique, receiving skills, ball protection and snap cpunts."

Drill 6: The passing game got in some work as well in the early sessions, running a variety of schemes. Daryll Clark obviously had the bulk of first-team reps, but Kevin Newsome got some valuable first-team work in as well. The wideouts, particularly Graham Zug and Derek Moye, looked sharp. Chaz Powell is also back from his shoulder separation seeing work and said to be "100 percent," although he's "shaking off the cobwebs."

Indies: The team also got in a good amount of individual drills with the linemen (1v1 and 2v2) which tested their basics like footwork, hands and general technique.

Turn It Up:

This past weekend, Penn State did dial up the intensity of drills after the first few days of light practices, an approach they have taken with the Alamo Bowl and Rose Bowl over the previous two years. After the early fundamental sessions, the coaches "unleashed some hell" on the players.

"It was a full pad practice and [the coaches] threw a ton of drills at them with very little rest between."

The Lions have focused n a few aspects of their game that are of particular need, including:

Kick Coverage: The team has taken a focus on kick return coverage. The unit got in extra pursuit drills and block shedding work. The unit is also reviewing film to understand coverage breakdowns. "The younger guys tend to get locked up and taken out of their lanes at times. It's about discipline and better angles and the ability to keep free on your runs."

Blitzing: The defense got some practice in on their blitz packages, particularly on disguises and set-ups. "They (the Tigers) have a younger QB and have given up a lot of sacks, but we'll see how they actually use the packages."

9-on-7: The running game got some 9-on-7 work in as well. This tests the offensive line and running backs against nine defensive players. "It really works the run game." This is used to get the run game prepared for the pressure LSU tends to throw out with its defensive front. "The line did pretty well, but Evan Royster really helps to make them look good sometimes with their reads. It can be a brutal drill though."

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