A nice write-up in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review on Penn State's special teams, and what is being done to make them a little more (or less, if you're kind of mean) "special":
[Kevin] Kelly's field-goal conversion percentage of .769 (20 of 26) was sixth in the conference. But he often struggles with kicking from a long distance. He made just 2-of-7 attempts from 40 yards or longer last season. In his career, the senior is only 9 of 24 from 40 yards or longer.
"I've talked to many people," Kelly said. "They've pointed out the same exact thing on my long field goals, that I was kind of rounding my approach, which is why I tend to pull the ball on the longer field goals. I've really worked on that and just trying to go smooth and slow and straight through the ball."
"I know I have the leg, and I know the hold and snap are going to be there. It's just a matter of me doing the same thing every time."
I think that's actually a commonly held misconception about Kelly -- it's not like he's leaving these 40+ yard field goals short. He made a 53-yarder against Iowa right before halftime last season. You would think that he has to be doing something fundamentally different when he walks onto the field for a long attempt, almost like he's stepping up to the tee on a short par-5 and thinking, "totally getting an eagle on this one." Hopefully, that's being remedied. Good news, I say.
Of equal importance is the need to solidify Penn State's kickoff coverage, which was at the bottom of the barrel last season (though, in the top 25 in 2006). The kickoff return stats are partially meaningless -- Minnesota was #22 last season and finished 1-11, for example. Lot of good it did them, although when a team only kicks off fifteen or sixteen times over the course of a season, it's hard to get a good statistical sample.
The key is not giving up the huge return in crucial situations, and the old man is aware:
"That's a legitimate criticism," he said. "Obviously, the Illinois game (in 2007), we go down the field offensively and have a great drive and look like we're going to take control of the game at their place. (We) kick off, and that kid runs the ball right down our throat for a touchdown."
That kid was Arrelious Benn, whose 90-yard kickoff return erased Penn State's 3-0 lead and helped the Illini to an eventual 27-20 win. It was the first kick return touchdown allowed by Penn State since 1994.
Paterno thinks Penn State has made the mistake in recent seasons of not having enough front-line personnel on its coverage teams.
Also, some unsavory injury news at the end of the column. A.J. Wallace has been sitting out of practice with a hamstring issue, and Nick Sukay continues to be bitten by the injury bug -- which is starting to look less like a mosquito and more like a goliath beetle:
In Scores Of Other Games: Josh Marks is officially headed to Pitt. Phil Taylor will be reunited with former PSU secondary coach Brian Norwood at Baylor. Tony Davis is more than happy to be back at cornerback. Shotgunning Natural Light at sunrise in the parking lot or hearing stories about playing the cello in Peru? Now you have a choice.