Nittany Notes: Pressing questions

With the Nittany Lions preparing for a big-time clash with the Badgers, PSU fans are asking a variety of questions surrounding the offense, defense and personnel as the team practices and prepares for Wisconsin. Here are some answers.

What role will Justin King play against Wisconsin?

This is a question on the minds of a lot of Lion fans. Since Derrick Williams' injury, King has had six carries for 93 yards and no touchdowns. That's an average of 15.5 yards per carry. In terms of receiving over the same time period, King has pulled in just one pass for eight yards, that was against Illinois.

As one observer explained, "The coaches are practicing Justin in a variety of looks — they swing him out, they have put him in the slot at times, they place him in the backfield, they put him in motion. The intention is absolutely to get him the ball more. However, a lot of fans don't realize the huge impact he plays by drawing the defense to him. The guy's a magnet, which opens things up other players."

This week King continues to see first-team practice reps with the wideouts, however, he is also seeing significant work in the backfield, "similar to the back schemes D-Will ran."

Will Tony Hunt be a focal point this week?

Hunt has gone from an offensive afterthought to a player the Nittany Nation is talking about, in part thanks to his FOS Player of the Week honor. Last week hunt had 124 yards on 24 carries. This week the staff has "not changed the type or amount of running drills in practice that much."

One area where Hunt may have a bigger impact against Wisconsin is in with the passing game. Against Purdue he had four catches for 56 yards. "He has shown great consistentcy with his hands and most defenses now think of him as a receiving threat," another observer shared.

Practices this week have seen an "increased use of Tony as a target out of the backfield." However, given the pressure they expect Wisconsin to send with a variety of blitzes, observers feel that "Tony may have his hands full blocking early on."

Is Calvin Lowry still returning punts?

Despite some fair-catch issues inside the 10-yard line, the staff feels "Lowry is capable enough to do the job."

However, not all observers share that sentiment, with one saying, "Lowry has good speed, he just isn't a threat out there, which honestly is a detriment to special teams."

Barring any unforseen circumstances, Lowry is expected to continue to handle punt-return duties through the close of the season.

Has anything changed with the kick return game?

Not so far. The team is still running a two-returnman set with Rodney Kinlaw and King as the returnmen, and Austin Scott and Terrell Golden as the upbacks.

"These two are the best combo on returns we have. They are both fast and read coverages well."

What about red-zone scoring?

The staff realizes the Lions struggled at times trying to punch it into the end zone last week.

"The offense has focused on short-yardage scoring and goal-line situations [in practice]." Hunt and BranDon Snow have seen the majority of carries in these situations, with passing calls spreading the ball around to a wide variety of targets, including Ethan Kilmer, Isaac Smolko and King.

"Wisconsin has more to play for than Purdue did, so we have to capitalize on every opportunity to score," an observer shared.

Badger Nation Top Stories