NITTANY NOTES: Freshman Focus

Check out our exclusive Nittany Notes to get a look at how some of the newest Nittany Lions held up during their first semester on campus.

Welcome to the Jungle

In early July, Penn State's Class of 2010 members arrived on the University Park campus. After a short break in activity until they got their physicals and medical reviews the newcomers were finally introduced to running and lifting sessions.

"It's all about figuring out what [the program] has to work with [in terms of the new players]," one observer said. "J.T. (conditioning coach John Thomas) and Jeremy (Scott, speed coach) get a look and assess the guys to set up plans and get them to where they need to be to make an impact, hopefully sooner than later."

As another observer said, "Most of these young guys come in and think they are in prime shape. A few of them are, but most of them have never worked out close to what J.T. has them do."

Yet another observer said, "J.T. gets [the freshmen] right into the swing and goes all out on them. It's like a roundhouse kick to the head for a lot of guys, so the extra trashcans are pulled out."

As one observer explained previously, "The first week isn't usually a good gauge [of a player's abilities]. I mean Daryll Clark had a tough time when he first got here. If you could see him when he first got to PSU and now, it's a world of difference."

In terms of running the staff started the freshmen (excluding the early enrollees) on isolated runs an hour after the veterans would finish up. "They took it a little easier on them at first, because Holuba was an oven with that heat wave. So they didn't want to put anyone in danger with heat exhaustion." As an aside, given the shorter period to get them "ramped up" and the "lighter workouts" early on due to the heat, the staff did not feel that most of the freshmen were ready to take on the intensity of Lift For Life a few weeks ago.

"That's a huge shock to the system, but a lot of guys, like [Zach] Zwinak, [Mike] Hull and [DaQuan] Jones seemed bummed about it and were asking if they could get permission to compete," an observer said.

Initial Impressions

Here are news and notes from observers on freshmen that stood out in the summer. Keep in mind not every freshman is addressed here; only the ones who stood out to our observers. Also note that they are very early assessments.

"I think there are a few guys who really look the part and could turn into something down the road," an observer explained.

  • Zach Zwinak: Described as "hard-nosed," Zwinak has a "swagger and work ethic I like out the gate," one observer said. He's got good size and really hit the weights hard. "He handled the early runs pretty well too." He projects at fullback.

  • Mike Hull: "He's my favorite so far," one observer said. "I love his 'punch you in the mouth' approach. Don't get me wrong, super nice guy. But he seems like he would level you for smiling at him (laughing)." Hull is said to have a "fantastic physique" for a true freshman and has impressive power out of the gate. "J.T.'s going to likely get him on a similar plan to Gerald [Hodges], he's got the base — he seems to have a bit of [Mike] Mauti in him, we'll see." It is not clear if he'll see reps at LB or safety in the preseason, or perhaps both. Stay tuned.

  • Tom Ricketts: Observers like his attitude and "heads down" approach. "He's in decent shape, but they're going to build him up. He'll have to work on his legs." The offensive did "OK" on the early runs but seemingly has a "good frame and attitude to build from."

  • DaQuan Jones: "Great sense of humor with an attitude -- keeps telling guys to watch their backs cause he's coming for them." The defensive lineman is "physically intimidating," and has shown solid conditioning and agility early on.

  • Alex Kenney: "He's pretty swift on the runs," one observer said. "I mean he's a track guy, so you'd expect it, but he looks decent." Kenney is said to have a good physique and endurance. "We'll have to see how it transitions with pads on, but he's been showing some stuff early," an observer said. Observers feel Kenney could make an impact at defensive back or wide receiver in 2010, depending on where the staff needs him.

The PSU players are scheduled to report for preseason practice next Wednesday, August 4. Stay tuned to FOS for continuing coverage. is your exclusive source for the BEST content and community covering Penn State football.


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