NITTANY NOTES: Practice Review

Monday the Nittany Lions were back in practice action. Get the latest on the Penn State squad from our exclusive Nittany Notes.

Monday marked Penn State's fifth practice of the spring period after getting a four day stretch off for the holiday weekend. And with the Nittany Lions now a third of the way through spring drills the coaching staff is taking steps closer to setting the depth chart.

Here are some news and notes from the practice:

  • The linemen got in some 1v1 and 2v2 drill work. The defensive linemen are "really pushing the offensive guys" in drills.

  • The offensive linemen who were pointed out as being particularly impressive in drills were Johnnie Troutman, Stefen Wisniewski, Adam Gress and Mark Arcidiacono. "It's great to see some younger linemen starting to hold their own. Gress needs to keep his feet under him, but he's getting the leverage thing down." As another observer said, "Mark [Arcidiacono] has work to do with his hands and feet, but he's gets off the blocks smooth and was picking up the rush."

  • Eric Shrive can also "dominate, but he's got to just square up and trust his fundamentals consistently." The coaches are working to help him "avoid tossing his technique and trying to overpower the assignment -- that is not going to work on these [defensive ends]."

  • On the defensive size of the drills, end Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore are creating some buzz among observers. "I think they've both turned the corner -- things are second nature and they flat-out have dominated at times." Latimore in particular "is getting the wipe technique down and is getting better at shedding [blocks]."

  • End Sean Stanley has also been receiving strong reviews from the early practices. "He's a bull and always has his legs churning." Another young player who has also created some buzz is true freshman Evan Hailes, who enrolled in January. The defensive tackle "has tremendous power" and also "has a knack for reading line breaks." As one observer said, "He's definitely got a ways to go, -- he's got to get the endurance up -- but with his frame and power he could be a wrecking ball on the line."

  • The wideouts continue to see Derek Moye and Graham Zug leading the pack, but there are "a lot of situational guys who have some great skills." Curtis Drake "has such a great head for the game -- he is great in the open and really has a fire to make plays." The coaches have been working particularly hard to "have him learn how to take hits and avoid foolishly sacrifice himself." Brett Brackett is also taking reps with the wideouts, following off-season speculation that he could be moved to quarterback or tight end.

  • Observers also like wideout Christian Kuntz's size and route-running. "He's got to tuck the ball more, but has decent hands." The coaching staff would also like him to be more aggressive catching the ball (and hanging onto it) in traffic.
  • The young receiver who seems to get the most praise is Justin Brown. "There are big guys and fast guys who are in this unit. Justin has major elements of both, like Moye. He's gotten smarter with his routes and locks his eyes on the ball, which was what he grappled with last year."

  • The quarterbacks have spent extra time working timing and drop-backs. Rookie Paul Jones continues to show off his arm strength and is "setting his feet better," although "he'll force passes -- he just needs to relax." Kevin Newsome has "been smoothing out his motion, but still needs to set his feet" as he has a tendency to throw off balance or off his back foot. Matt McGloin has been "Mr. Consistent" according to one observer, "He's not dazzling to watch, but he makes his reads and hits his targets pretty well."

  • In terms of the tight ends, Andrew Szczerba is currently getting the bulk of first-team reps with Garry Gilliam running second team at this point. The third-team reps are getting split between Mark Wedderburn and Kevin Haplea. As an aside, although Brennan Coakley is still awaiting a response from the NCAA on his petitioned sixth year of eligibility, he is taking in some third-team tight end reps. Observers like Gilliam's size. "He's strong off the line and is tough to cover," while they are concerned with Wedderburn's size, with one observer saying, "He's going to really have to bulk up in order to realistically play the position." Also, comments on the early enrollee Haplea have been strong, with one observer saying, "He's tough and is showing promise with blocking. He can pull in balls, too. He seems to be in the lead with third team and could really make a run at the two deep."

  • Tuesday the team is expected to get back into the film room to break down Monday's session. "The staff's looking at a lot of film to help build out the two-deep."

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