On Friday afternoon, and for the third time this spring, Bill O’Brien opened part of a Penn State football practice to the media and other guests, mostly high school coaches.
So I joined about 50 or so media members and a far larger number of coaches and others to watch the first 30 or 40 minutes of practice, which consisted mostly of stretching and position drills without pads.
They shooed the media away just as the team began to run some non-contact offensive plays against different defensive sets. I tried to kind of hide behind some of the coaches so I could see more of that, but I didn’t last very long.
Can anything be learned, then, from watching mostly drills for such a short period of time? The answer, of course, is not much, but I did see some things that might be worth mentioning, even though most of this has probably already been said.
First, the practice was very quick-paced and very organized. There was no wasted time or wasted effort. Everyone knew where to go and what to do. There were also four cameras–high up–filming everything.
The entire time that I was watching, there were groups of players practicing special teams. This day it was mostly punt teams and punt return teams, although there may have been other things mixed in that I did not see. I couldn’t see who the players were, but I will say that someone there has a very good leg.
I paid attention mostly to the offensive line, the tight ends, and the quarterbacks. With all of the groups I saw, the coaches did not accept mistakes. If something went wrong, it was do it again. And they did it until it was right. There were a lot of questions asked of the coaches, and many of the players seemed to be talking and helping each other.
There are a lot of offensive linemen. They lined up four-deep at center, left guard, and left tackle, and three-deep and right guard and right tackle. They seemed to have good size, but there were no really big, behemoth, players that stood out.
Their drills looked pretty standard, positioning, basic movements, etc, but there were many pass-blocking technique and positioning drills. There was also a lot of pulling, both left and right, and the coaches seemed to really be emphasizing quickness. I haven’t mentioned any names because I’m not confident with the numbers the players were wearing–I don’t want to misidentify anyone.
From what I saw, the tight ends worked only on short pass routes and catching the ball. That’s all they did, catch the ball. To me, this group looked very tall and athletic, and it was hard to miss Garry Gilliam because of his 6-6 size. And Jesse James is even bigger at 6-7.
The quarterbacks drew heavy interest, of course, but they pretty much did standard types of drills. One thing I found interesting was that they worked quite a bit on dropping back, faking left, rolling right, and then throwing back to the left. Or rolling all the way to the right and throwing to the flat. I doesn’t look like they are going to be standing around in the pocket, but that there will be a lot of moving around. They also did a lot of talking and helping each other out.
When everyone got together for the full-team session, it was time for the media to leave. I did try to stick around to see a few plays, though, and noticed that there was a lot of motion before the snap in the offense. Bill O’Brien also stopped two plays before they started because someone was out of position. All the plays I saw were running plays, and the quarterbacks were switching in and out. I am pretty sure McGloin took the first snap, but don’t hold me to that.
As I left, walking back to my car, I was reminded how beautiful Penn State is in the spring, with the trees budding and the flowers coming up. I had a strong urge to walk down and join the late Friday afternoon crowd at the Rathskeller, but somehow I resisted. There will be a lot more chances to do that in the fall.