There was a squad meeting Wednesday where head coach Joe Paterno revealed which players did and did not make the 105-man preseason roster. More on that later. As for Thursday...
The squad huddled around 2:30 p.m. to review the plan with the coaches and is scheduled to head into drills around 3:30 p.m.
The squad will be in jerseys, helmets and shorts with no pads to comply with the NCAA rule stating that the first five practices can have no pads and no contact. "It's always tough because [the players] are always anxious to get out on the practice field after a summer of no contact," an observer said. "They used to get into contact much more quickly, but now the first several days focus on basics."
Talking with a variety of practice observers, the top five areas they'll be focused on in early sessions will be:
- Quarterback: "Staff's going to give all four (Kevin Newsome, Matt McGloin, Paul Jones and Robert Bolden) a look, but I think anyone watching realizes this is Nu-Nu's to lose," as one observer said.
- Offensive Line: Another observer explained, "This is the biggest concern for me -- there are guys who can step in, but can they work together? They have to get out of the gate fast and the coaches are on them to give it all because they want the line assembled quickly."
- Punter: "Almost everyone took Jeremy Boone for granted, so filling those shoes is big. Anthony Fera is the leading candidate." As an aside, sophomore punter Russel Nye is not on the preseason 105-man roster, so that limits the options even more.
- Linebacker: According to one observer, "The concern isn't with the talent or abilities, it's with replacing three veterans at once. Mike [Mauti] has a lot of experience from his first year, but was out a year -- and can he stay healthy? Toss in a group of guys with limited experience and you have to see how they gel."
- Running back: As one observer said, "Royster has been all about consistency, but the coaches are on him hard for how he returned to campus (with the added weight). He's not far, but he needs to put the peddle down through the preseason. Typically, a senior of his caliber would get a lot of reps off, but I doubt he gets that luxury."