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Technology helping Nittany Lions stay focused

By Cory Giger

cgiger@altoonamirror.com

Penn State football coaches have had to learn how to become online professors during the coronavirus shutdown, trying to get their message across through video chats to players who are spread across the country.

Defensive coordinator Brent Pry described the coaching process during a video chat with reporters on Tuesday. It’s not all about just football, though, when the coaches meet with the players several times a week.

“These days are kind of like roller coasters,” Pry said. “One minute of descriptive documentation of what’s going on out there (in the country), it’s terrible in some places and heartbreaking.”

Because of that, the focus at the start of the daily football meetings is the personal stuff going on in everybody’s lives. Pry said just being able to see everyone’s face on video — from players to family members — is very important to the process of dealing with everything.

“Everybody’s got some anxiety going on, everybody’s lives have been disrupted,” Pry said. “I know it’s a lot better when I can group FaceTime with my brothers and their kids, with my parents, with my players, with our staff.”

When the players meet with the coaches via video, there’s a lot of … well … goofing off at the beginning.

“The meetings generally start with (everybody) cutting up on one another like normal,” Pry said with a laugh, “and then we get into some questions about what’s going on with everybody’s families and is this hitting home with anybody.

“At the same time, we dive into the football piece and workouts and just kind of gauge where these guys are.”

The video coaching process involves going over installation of schemes, just like what would be taking place in the Lasch Building if the players were on campus.

“The players and myself are getting more and more comfortable being able to do that and get the most out of those meetings,” Pry said. “We’re able to share screens and go through diagrams and watch video together.”

Team leadership is so important for a program that hopes to compete for a College Football Playoff berth this fall. It’s often rather easy for leaders to come to the forefront when players are all together working out and practicing on campus, but that can be a more difficult process when all the meetings are taking place by video.

Obviously, star linebacker Micah parsons will be counted on to be the face of the defense following a terrific, All-America 2019 season. Pry said the coaches have discussed how they can use Parsons more to take advantage of his tremendous talent.

“Rush ability is one of his best talents,” Pry said. “He’s very good at (getting to) the other side of the line of scrimmage, at coming off the edge or through those gaps, as we saw in the Cotton Bowl.

“He’s been very productive. But I think we can get a little more mileage out of (Parsons),” Pry added. “We’ve got to get him more involved.”

Some returning starters who were in leadership roles on last year’s team and who took charge during winter workouts also will be counted on as leaders. On defense, Pry singled out safety Lamont Wade and linemen Shaka Toney and Antonio Shelton.

Some other players who could step into more prominent roles this year, Pry added, are linebackers Jesse Luketa and Ellis Brooks, linemen PJ Mustipher and cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields.

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