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Campfire Stories - Hold onto the Ball

I spent last night watching the dog at my parent's house -- they're on a weekend excursion in Chicago.  With nothing to do, and none of my choice DVR programming on call, I cracked open a Samuel Smith's and wondered over to the Big Ten Network.

Five hours later, I reluctantly cut myself off, with seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Ohio State at Penn State 2001.  Before that, I caught Penn State's win over Georgia in the 1983 Sugar Bowl for the school's first national championship, last year's Ohio State/Penn State game trench warfare at the Shoe, and Penn State's segment of the Big Ten Football Tour 2009.

It was a great night.

Anyway, watching clips from the Nittany Lion's first three practices left a few impressions.  First, the good.  Linebacker play looks outstanding, with the unit a virtual regiment of wide-shouldered soldiers.  Sean Lee, Navorro Bowman, and Michael Mauti looked fast, fit, and solid in isolation.  I don't have any concerns here, and neither should you.  Up front, Defensive End Jack Crawford hopes to pick up where Aaron Maybin left off.  The defensive line ran a ton of turn and burn drills, and player after player showed solid arm control and explosiveness.

Now, the bad.  Penn State's secondary continues to struggle.  One of the few things Joe Paterno was willing to admit about his team is that "We're still looking for a couple of defensive backs."  Although a leaky secondary is less of a sin in this league than in others, the Nittany Lions are at risk of paying homage to a unit that gave up 413 yards in the air in last year's Rose Bowl Game.

Then there's the receivers.  I don't think I saw a single person pull down a single pass in drills.  Derek MoyeChaz Powell, and Graham Zug rotated through a carnival-like show of slaps, gropes, and fumbles.  Sure, it's small data pool, but still -- not a single catch?  In drills?

The broadcast can't be encouraging for the Lion faithful, who hope to see Daryll Clark back in his 2008 form.  Speaking of Clark, the guy really needs to stay healthy -- his backup Kevin Newsome is a true freshman. 

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