Penn State coaches clinic: Saturday scrimmage

Tag: Penn State coaches clinic

8Apr 2009
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Penn State coaches clinic: Saturday scrimmage

On Saturday afternoon, Penn State held practice from 1:30 until 2:30 and then held an offense-defense scrimmage until 3:30. I started to pull out my camera to take pictures until I was reminded that we weren’t allowed to take pictures of practice, only drills. Oops.

A few notes:

From the way it looked to me, Kevin Newsome is behind redshirt freshman walk-on Matt McGloin on the depth chart. McGloin isn’t anything special, but he looks more comfortable in the pocket and he’s more accurate than Newsome. We knew this already, but if Daryll Clark gets hurt, the Nittany Lions are screwed.

Kevin Newsome is not ready to be a college QB. He was highly ranked early in the 2009 recruiting cycle until he started showing up to camps resembling a drunken discus thrower; that thing will fly a long way, but it might kill a bystander in the process. Newsome patted the ball, even in one-on-ones. He gave all kinds of unintentional pump fakes because he didn’t know when to throw the ball. As I mentioned in a previous post, in the time I was watching him during one-on-one drills (WR vs. DB) on Friday afternoon, he completed 3/15 passes. His throwing motion is inconsistent, but usually it comes from a sidearm delivery. If his passes miss their target (which they often do, obviously), they usually sail high. He has happy feet and because of that, he doesn’t step into his throws properly; when he finally throws the ball, it looks rushed and he fails to throw downhill, which also contributes to his passes sailing high.

Newsome does have a very strong arm. Seemingly without much effort, he was throwing the ball 60 or 65 yards. He hit a deep ball in one-on-ones that got safety Nick Sukay chewed out by Joe Paterno. I was unable to stay for the last fifteen minutes of the scrimmage, but Newsome completed 1/1 pass (a short crossing pattern) that gained about 11 yards and then scrambled for about 12 yards on a separate play. I was somewhat surprised that they didn’t have him throw the ball more, but I guess he had better get used to the running game, since that’s all he should be doing if Clark gets injured. I’m glad we got Tate Forcier instead of Newsome. Newsome has the size, speed, and arm to be a very good quarterback, but there’s a lot of work to be done between now and then.

Michigan fans are up in arms about running a three-man front. Penn State runs a three-man front, which a lot of people don’t realize. They have a strongside rush linebacker. He does drills mostly with the linebackers. When the defensive line does drills, Larry Johnson runs them with three guys down. Yet most people would say that PSU runs a 4-3, so this 3-4 that Michigan might run really doesn’t have to be a big deal.

I was looking forward to seeing Stephfon Green run the football, but he has some kind of injury and was sitting out. Evan Royster was still fun to watch, though; he had about a 40-yard TD run, but that might be partly because PSU’s secondary has been decimated by senior departures.

Linebacker Chris Colasanti, from Lakeville, MI, was playing inside linebacker with the second team. He didn’t look spectacular, but I have no doubts that Ron Vanderlinden will coach him up. He did have a play during seven-on-sevens in which he deflected the ball to himself and then made the diving INT.

I am not particularly afraid of PSU for 2009. I expect that the offensive backfield will be excellent with Clark, Royster, and Green, and the front seven will be decent despite the departures of Maurice Evans and Aaron Maybin. But the receivers and offensive line aren’t impressive, and the defensive backfield is severely lacking talent and depth.
8Apr 2009
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Penn State coaches clinic: Saturday morning

Saturday morning began with some special teams drills run by Larry Johnson and Bill Kenney. The other coaches and I were too busy scarfing down bacon – crispy, the way fatty pig parts should be – at the hotel to get there in time for the special teams sessions.

For the rest of the morning, each coach on the staff brought his position group out for twenty minutes of explanation and demonstrations. I thought it was interesting that each coach has some sort of mirroring drill they use regularly, in which the offensive player has to mimic the defensive player’s movements or vice versa. All the coaches were very particular about footwork.

I expected the offensive linemen and defensive linemen to be huge. What I didn’t expect was that Andrew Quarless, the starting TE, would be the size of a Volkswagen. A Volkswagen Beetle, but a Volkswagen nonetheless. I’m a pretty big guy, and he dwarfed me.

The highlights of the morning were when Larry Johnson had his defensive linemen do their drills. He does a lot of work with things that look like inflatable exercise balls, but they’re solid and cost $150 apiece. To emphasize staying low and punching with the hands, managers roll these balls toward the players and they have to reach out with both hands and reverse the ball’s direction before continuing on with the rest of the agility drill. Please excuse my crappy photography, but a picture of this drill is above.

The other highlight was Bill Kenney. He coaches the tackles and tight ends, and he’s hilarious. While the rest of the coaches shied away from any foul language, he said “goddammit” and “shit.” An excerpt came when his players were working on a combo block and one of his tight ends forgot to block a stunting linebacker in the drill. Kenney said, “That’s what we call an ‘Oh Shit Block.’ As in ‘Oh . . . shit, I’m supposed to block him.'”

Overall, I didn’t learn too much from Kenney that I didn’t already know. He did talk about ball security amongst his tight ends, though. He said he wants them to keep four points of contact with the ball when carrying it – hand, forearm, biceps, ribcage – but that he never wants them running with two hands on the ball. He said if they get into traffic, they’re supposed to roll the ball onto their breastplate and maintain four points of contact, with the chest replacing the ribcage; he wants the off arm free for stiff-arms. This seems like a recipe for fumbles, but who are us Michigan fans to talk? We averaged about the same number of turnovers last year as Michigan State’s basketball team had last night.

6Apr 2009
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Penn State coaches clinic: Friday afternoon

Friday afternoon began with a presentation by Jeremy Scott, PSU’s speed coach. Several outgoing Penn State players, who were training for the NFL draft, went through a workout: center A.Q. Shipley, cornerback Lydell Sargent, safety Mark Rubin, and offensive tackle Gerald Cadogan. They did various agility and speed drills for approximately an hour.

An interesting connection was made at the next session. Strength coach John Thomas brought a graduate assistant and some weight equipment into Holuba Hall. They did a session of manual resistance training, in which the GA did various exercises while Thomas used his strength and body weight to work him to failure. For example, the GA did pushups while Thomas pushed down on his back; the kid looked like he hated him for it.

The funny thing was that Thomas mentioned four or five times that he had learned some of these techniques “from a guy who’s probably going to hate me saying his name, and that’s Mike Gittleson.” He looked over toward the opposite corner from me, as if Gittleson were over there somewhere. Of course, most of the coaches at the clinic were from Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, and New Jersey, so I don’t know if anyone else recognized the name. But I immediately started looking for someone who might be Gittleson. I couldn’t find him initially, but I eventually saw him. I spoke to him for a minute about resistance training, but I didn’t mention anything about Michigan, since I thought that might bring up bad memories. Interestingly enough, when I got home and Googled John Duncan, one of the first hits I came across was this article in which ex-PSU players suggested that players were actually getting fatter and weaker under Duncan; those are the exact same criticisms that Gittleson suffered from fans, although I’m sure many S&C coaches face the same questions.

After Duncan’s presentation, the team came out for spring practice. I immediately scoped out some players of interest for Michigan fans, players like Kevin Newsome, Devon Still, Chris Colasanti, etc. I was concentrating on defensive line and linebacker drills, since those are the positions I coach, but I also spent some time watching Newsome throw. I’ll have a more in-depth analysis later, but Newsome completed 3 out of 15 passes in one-on-ones that I saw.

5Apr 2009
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Penn State coaches clinic: Friday morning

I got home yesterday from the Penn State coaches clinic. The clinic was held on Friday and Saturday and culminated with an intrasquad scrimmage. A lot happened and it was very interesting, so I’ll report it in segments.

The clinic was held at Holuba Hall, PSU’s indoor practice facility. The building is nothing spectacular, but it has two fields adjacent to each other, each one about 70 yards long. There were chairs and makeshift video screens in two corners of the facility. The offensive coaches (WR coach Mike McQueary, QB coach Jay Paterno, offensive coordinator/RB coach Galen Hall, and OL coach Dick Anderson) were going to talk in one corner, and the defensive coaches (LB coach Ron Vanderlinden, defensive coordinator/CB coach Tom Bradley, DL coach Larry Johnson, S coach Kermit Buggs) in the other. I stuck mainly with the defense.

Ron Vanderlinden – linebackers
I was interested in hearing Vanderlinden speak, not only because PSU always produces good linebackers, but because there were rumors that he might become Michigan’s defensive coordinator before Greg Robinson arrived. He clearly knows what he’s talking about, but he’s not a very dynamic speaker. Luckily, he demonstrated some of the drills he does with his linebackers and had highlights of his former star linebackers, such as Paul Posluszny and Dan Connor. He really emphasized the linebacker stance and remaining in that position – knees over toes, almost in a squat position – throughout a running play. He also talked extensively about teaching his linebackers to shuffle while remaining square to the line, saying he doesn’t use carioca drills (where players cross their feet) because the legs cross over naturally, but the shuffle is an unnatural movement. He doesn’t believe in doing a lot of different drills, just doing the same drills over and over.

Tom Bradley – defensive coordinator/cornerbacks
Bradley reminded me somewhat of Tobin Bell (Jigsaw from the Saw movies), slightly because of his looks and slightly because of his voice. He went through his defensive philosophy and stressed tackling; he said that for every 10 yards gained, there’s at least one missed tackle. To add on to that, he talked about “explosion plays” which are plays that gain 25+ yards. Teams that have zero explosion plays average 6.8 points per game. Two explosion plays give you 14.8 points per game. But if you give up three explosion plays, opposing teams will score 28.7 points per game.

Larry Johnson – defensive line
Larry Johnson is the father of the former 2,000 yard rusher and current Kansas City Chief running back of the same name. Johnson sounds like a preacher. If I were a recruit, this guy could make me want to run through a brick wall. A brick wall covered in bee stingers. He talked about being a good person and a good coach, and he wants to start a “new generation of coaching” in which coaches don’t swear at their players. He said that’s not how you teach young men. And it’s hard to argue with his coaching methods, considering the success he’s had at producing first round talent on the defensive line. He had some very interesting things to say about defensive line play, especially the first step. He also had video of some superb defensive line drills that I’ll talk about in more detail when I get to the recap of Saturday morning’s session. He was the best presenter I saw.

Dick Anderson – offensive line
After sitting through three consecutive defensive presentations, I thought I’d go over to the offensive corner. Jay Paterno was scheduled to speak at the last session, and even though I coach OL, DL, and LBs, it’s hard to understand the game if you don’t understand quarterback play. Unfortunately, the schedule had been rejiggered and instead of seeing JayPa, I observed the monotonous skeleton named Dick Anderson. Anderson is approximately 700 years old and was the head coach at Rutgers from 1984 until 1990. A fellow coach on my high school’s staff began counting the number of times he said “all right?” He repeated that phrase 95 times in 25 minutes. But it was more like, “Okay, on the snap of the ball, awwright, our playside guard, awwright, takes a reach step and reads the strongside linebacker, awwright . . . .” From what I’ve seen of PSU’s offensive line, I’ve never been impressed. His linemen don’t finish their blocks and don’t exactly blow people off the ball, so I spent more time thinking about what we were going to have for lunch than listening to Anderson.

In case you were wondering, they served us cold cut sandwiches, bags of chips, macaroni salad, and Pepsi products.

31Mar 2009
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I’ll be disappearing soon

This Friday and Saturday I’ll be attending the Penn State coaches clinic. The trip will be highlighted by an address from Joe Paterno on Friday evening and then a chance to watch Penn State’s intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday afternoon.

If I get close enough to Coach Paterno to shake his hand, I won’t. It would end up like one of those Halloween jokes where his hand comes off and I stand there petrified. And he’d be like, “Oh, I hate it when that happens,” but he wouldn’t be kidding. And then he’d beat me senseless.
I’m afraid of 82-year-old men. Don’t judge me.