NITTANY NOTES: Opening Drills

Thursday marked Penn State's start to preseason work with an afternoon team meeting and opening drills. Get an exclusive review of the session here.

While general vibe was positive for Penn State's first preseason practice, described as a "good start" for the Nittany Lions, the value of the NCAA's mandated "no-pad" early sessions is mixed.

"I think it's too long of a period without getting into any contact," one observer explained. As another said, "I think it's actually good because it forces the team to focus on the fundamentals after the summer and allows for a lot of teaching and repetition to help things become second nature."

The NCAA mandates that the first five preseason practices are conducted with no pads or contact. The Nittany Lions are scheduled to have 29 practices prior to the season opener on Sept. 4.

The players first huddled up at 2:30 p.m. meetings, where the coaches reviewed the critical nature of preseason to the team's success. "They want everyone heads down for every rep," according to one observer. "There are holes to fill, but that means there's opportunity for a lot of guys, but there's no time to waste screwing around." PSU opened with Youngstown State at home Sept. 4 but then travels to defending national champ and preseason No. 1 Alabama in the second week of the season.

The squad kicked off drills at 3:30 p.m. in shorts, helmets and jerseys, opening with some runs and getting in a series of unit fundamental drills, including linemen 1v1s, snap drills, read-react drills and some agility work.

A few notes from the session:

  • Defensive tackle Brandon Ware participated in the opening practice. "I think he looks good physically," one observer said. "He's buckled down, he just needs to keep it up." Ware is not on the roster in the 2010 PSU media guide and has no bio in the book, either.

  • Although the passing drills were "light" and "focused on basic delivery and timing," the wideouts who stood out on opening day were Graham Zug, Derek Moye and Justin Brown. "There's a great core group there which should help the QBs." Brown really got praised for his athleticism, "I think he looks stronger and quicker."

  • The QBs worked passing drills but they did not run first- and second-team drills. "All the [QBs] got equal reps today just to get them warmed up and back into the swing." Paterno has indicated that he'd like to give all of the scholarship quarterbacks a fair shake early in the preseason.

  • Observers are excited about the linebackers, particularly Khairi Fortt, "who really looks the part," Michael Mauti, Nate Stupar and Gerald Hodges. As another observer explained, "I don't want to get ahead of myself, but this could really be a solid group."

  • Another younger player who got some mentions was defensive back Stephon Morris who was described as "looking bigger," "smooth on routes" and "determined."

  • In terms of defensive backs, cornerback D'Anton Lynn is said to appear more confident and vocal. "Maybe the vote the coaches gave him to go to Chicago (to Big Ten Media Days) gave him the boost he needed.

  • In a bit of a twist, Mike Hull, and All-American linebacker in high school, is starting his Penn State career at safety. He is one of eight safeties on the preseason 105.

  • The squad's chant to break the opening huddle is "National Champs." According to one observer, "Sure, there are always doubters. Are there ever not? But they can't doubt themselves, and that's the goal."

As an aside, earlier in the week the staff reviewed the 105-man preseason roster, which does not include players like punter Russell Nye, defensive back Tyler Ahrenhold and snapper Jon Rohrbaugh. As one observer explained, that doesn't mean they're totally out (of the program), it just means they won't participate in preseason drills." They can be added to the roster if anyone is dropped for academic issues, something head coach Joe Paterno said is a possibility because a couple of players were borderline academically heading into summer finals.

Anyone not on the 105 will be eligible to begin practice when classes resume Aug. 23. is your source for the BEST content and community covering Penn State football.


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