NITTANY NOTES: Spring Concerns

The spring period is a time to answer questions and address various concerns in terms of personnel, scheme and depth. FOS went to a variety of practice observers to learn what aspects of the team are of most concern at this stage.

With six practices in the books we went to a variety of program observers to get their assessment of what aspects of the squad are of the greatest concern at this point.

We asked these observers to list their top three concerns and give details as to what was driving those concerns. The number below reflect the percentage of observers who named the area among their top three.

Here are the leading concerns at this stage:

Offensive Line: 100% Every observer named some aspect of the offensive line among their greatest concerns. Many said they felt comfortable with an interior of Lou Eliades and Johnnie Troutman at the guard positions, and Stefen Wisniewski at center. As one observer said, "Wiz is working well with Lou and Troutman, the question is who will emerge on the edges?" There has been discussion of how a move of Wisniewski to guard would impact the line. Although he's seen the bulk of his reps at center, he has shifted to guard this week for some reps, but observers doubt it's permanent. "I don't think we'll see it stick; he's awesome at guard, but I think the staff is looking for some stability for the young quarterback who will be taking snaps."

Although there are concerns with the tackle positions, particularly with the departure of Dennis Landolt, there are some promising players fighting for jobs. Among those who observers feel could contribute are redshirt freshmen Adam Gress and Eric Shrive. However, another tackle who is impressing is Quinn Barham. "Quinn has been playing the best of the tackles," one observer explained.

The major concern is the lack of overall experience many of the candidates have. Barham was actually played in games, but at guard. Gress and Shrive have yet to see the field after redshirting last season.

Quarterback: 90% Obviously this is an area of major concern given the overall lack of experience Kevin Newsome, Matt McGloin and Paul Jones have. "It's tough to gauge how their play now (in drills) will translate into game situations." Newsome is still seeing the bulk of first-team reps with some going to McGloin. "The biggest thing that concerns me is consistency; they can all deliver the ball in practice, but it's not second nature. They won't follow through on every pass or they'll throw it off their back foot or they won't square up or look to a check-down."

Some observers see promise. "Kevin has really made improvements and Matt delivers the ball pretty well. They make mistakes, but so did Daryll [Clark], [Anthony] Morelli and Mike [Robinson] at this stage." Another observer said of Jones, "He's still getting the playbook and blocking down. They'll run a draw or rollout and he'll just break at the point and not have a block there because he should have made the move three steps sooner or two steps later. He'll get it. He's definitely getting more confident, though."

Punting: 50% With Jeremy Boone gone to graduation and Ryan Breen having left the program, Penn State has some major shoes to fill with the punting situation. Although Anthony Fera has been penciled in as the likely replacement, an alcohol citation, the news of which FOS broke this past week, has some observers concerned. "He's no doubt in the doghouse for the mental lapse, but no one seems to think it'll be serious since it was his first issue. He's flown pretty straight since he arrived (on campus) last year."

To illustrate how thin things are Graham Zug has even been involved in some punting drills. You can see him in action in this FOS practice footage. "Fera's got a leg and could be legit on punts, but he's gotta keep his nose clean from here on out."

Secondary: 40% With Drew Astorino out and recovering from shoulder surgery and the loss of A.J. Wallace and Knowledge Timmons to graduation, the secondary is a unit that is also of concern among observers due to the lack of experience, but not the lack of talent. "There are definitely guys who are fast and aggressive," one observer explained.

Several observers point to Astorino, Nick Sukay, Stephon Morris, D'Anton Lynn as providing a "solid base of experience" to the unit and observers are also impressed with Derrick Thomas and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong's play this spring. The concern lies around how the unit will come together. "Chaz Powell is getting back into the mix, but he's been out of the [corner] role for over a year." As another observer said, "I expect they will come together -- Astorino and Lynn are solid, Sukay is coming along and I think Morris is lights out. The talent is there they just need to pull it all together. They question is how long it takes."

Kick Coverage: 20% This concern has carried over from the past season, which saw PSU struggling throughout the year on special-teams coverage. "We have some blazing fast guys who can lay a hit out, so those young guys should help."

Among the players who observers are looking at to possibly bolster the coverage unit are Khairi Fortt, Glenn Carson, Dakota Royer and Hykeem Brodie, among others. "It's tough to tell how it will shake out this early, we generally have a much better idea during preseason [practice] because a lot of the contributors are younger guys and they are still getting used to things now (in spring drills)."

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