Position Battles Intensify

With the quarterback battle now narrowed to two combatants, today's practice served as both a chance to examine other heated position battles and prepare for tomorrow's third and final scrimmage. The hottest battle comes at the WLB position where junior Antonio Lowery and sophomore Manny Abreu are slugging things out with neither outshining the other through over two weeks of camp.

"I think it may go longer than [the end of training camp]," said head coach Greg Schiano. "I think those two guys both deserve to play and they're both making plays. … I don't like to rotate linebackers. I think they need to see it, but these two guys have both played in games. Manny's played a lot in games. So it's not like he's never done it, we'll see."

Lowery excelled on special teams last season and made 16 tackles last season.

Abreu, a co-starter with Damaso Munoz last season, made 33 tackles, but struggled with inconsistency as a starter. The latest injury word from Schiano is that defensive end George Johnson may not be good to go by the season opener.

"I think George is going to be OK," Schiano said. "I don't know when [he'll be back], but I was afraid we lost him for the year. So I'm really excited. I don't know if he'll be able to go in the opener or not, we'll see."

Jonathan Freeny, however, rejoined practice today and is getting better, improving the depth at DE.

"Jonathan [Freeny] is back, which is big," Schiano said. "That helps a lot. I think we have enough people there that have played in games that I think we'll be ok. Certainly George is our best or he wouldn't be our starter. My gut is George will find a way to get out there. That's just my gut. I don't want to put that in front of him yet."

Defensive tackle Blair Bines (ankle) could rejoin practices as soon as Thursday, Schiano said.

"I don't think he'll go tomorrow," Schiano said. "I don't think it's fair to make his first live action be back in a scrimmage. Hopefully we'll get him Thursday. Now, he may surprise us tomorrow, be good and get a few reps." When asked what he wanted in the team's third and final scrimmage, Schiano said "execution" is the primary goal.

"Our coaches will work on in-game adjustments and that sort of stuff," Schiano said. "We may go for a little while but it won't be nearly as many plays as it's been. We've scrimmaged probably, including two-minute, close to 250 plays in the two scrimmages. This one won't be anything like that." Sophomore Stephante Kent, a transfer linebacker from LaSalle, had to be carted off the field and taken in an ambulance to a local hospital after a blow to the head during a punting drill.

"He's moving everything so hopefully he's going to be OK," Schiano said. "They're running more tests on him right now." Redshirt freshman D.C. Jefferson continued to work at tight end today and his hard work, plus a lack of depth at the position, may earn him some playing time there this season.

"He's working his tail off," Schiano said. "Between the quarterbacks, and Stephante going down, I have to watch it on tape, but he's working awfully hard. He's got a great attitude, and he's a great athlete so I'm sure it will work out fine." Redshirt freshman linebacker Marcus Witherspoon pulled a muscle in his leg earlier in the week.

"He started to do something and then he pulled a muscle in his leg," Schiano said. "Poor guy has just been snake-bit. Hopefully he's getting them all out of the way and then have a nice, clean run for the next four or five years."

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