Penn State Nittany Lions: Kevin DiSanto

Meet the run-ons: K Chris Gulla 

February, 19, 2013
2/19/13
9:00
AM ET
Every weekday, as part of an ongoing series, NittanyNation will take a closer look at a Penn State walk-on.

Vitals: Kicker Chris Gulla, Toms River (N.J.) North, 6-foot-2, 195 pounds.

Practice notebook: Belton still missing

September, 19, 2012
9/19/12
7:20
PM ET
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Another open practice, another question at tailback.

Bill Belton missed the beginning of Wednesday's open practice, but Derek Day stretched and practiced with the running backs. Day is recovering from a separated shoulder, and he's still questionable for Saturday.

Day's recovery is ahead of Belton's, according to Bill O'Brien, but the coach still couldn't guarantee either would play Saturday. If neither tailback can go, Penn State will likely go with what worked last week: Michael Zordich and Curtis Dukes.

Zordich got the nod Wednesday with the first-team offense near the goal-line, while Dukes watched from the sideline.

"These guys get beat up during the season. They're running backs," O'Brien said Tuesday. "That's the nature of the position, so the next guy has got to be ready to go."

Zordich and Dukes took turns catching short passes from the quarterbacks and practiced a few drills with assistant coach Charles London. Zordich showed good hands and balance, but Dukes and Zach Zwinak struggled staying in-bounds on throws near the sideline.

On one play, Zwinak caught the ball on the run and slipped while he cut -- leaving about a foot-long divot near the sideline.

Open tryouts: While practice was under way, about 70 students gathered inside neighboring Holuba Hall in hopes to make the football team -- likely as part of the scout team.

O'Brien said he hoped to find a few defensive backs or linemen, but it's clear he wouldn't turn down a kicker. With Matt Marcincin's departure last week -- and Sam Ficken's struggles -- Penn State could certainly use another place-kicker.

Strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald timed some players, while another man told the potential walk-ons the theme of the day was "follow directions."

Injuries: Left tackle Donovan Smith also did not appear during the 30-minute open window of Wednesday practice.

O'Brien said if Smith couldn't practice Tuesday, he likely wouldn't play Saturday. Mike Farrell and Adam Gress took over at the tackle spots in his absence.

True freshman linebacker Nyeem Wartman was not dressed and limped with a large ice pack on his knee. Even O'Brien didn't try to hide the severity of his injury Tuesday.

"I wouldn't expect him back for a while," he said.

Kickin' Ficken: Ficken made his first field goal attempt in practice from about 37 yards but missed his second a hair right. He nailed his third.

"I have belief in Sam," O'Brien said Tuesday.

Kevin DiSanto converted his pair of attempts, although they were about 10 yards shorter than Ficken's tries.

Splitting up: Tight ends Kyle Carter and Paul Jones play at a lot of spots as f-tight ends, but it was interesting to see them both split wide -- together -- on Wednesday.

Jones caught a few good passes Wednesday, although the offense kept it simple while the media was watching. McGloin and Steven Bench didn't attempt a pass over 10 yards, but Jones did manage to haul in an over-the-middle pass that was thrown slightly below his waist.

Kicker Sam Ficken's woes continue

September, 15, 2012
9/15/12
8:38
PM ET
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- A week after a 1-for-5 kicking performance, Sam Ficken struggled again Saturday.

He pushed an extra point wide right, and Bill O'Brien didn't seem to put a lot of trust into the sophomore kicker. The coach opted to throw in the end zone on a fourth-and-goal play -- instead of kick -- from the 8-yard line. The pass fell incomplete.

"I just felt good about the play call," O'Brien insisted. "It had nothing to do with Ficken."

Fans continued to show support for the scholarship kicker. Two signs near the end zone were dedicated to him. One read, "Stickin' with Ficken" and was positioned behind the south field goal posts.

And, on his first two extra points, the crowd roared when the the refs raised their arms to signal they were good.

Still, Penn State is starting to feel the sting from Anthony Fera's transfer to Texas. Ficken is making just 20 percent of his field goals, and he's nailed just 77 percent of his extra points this season.

Ficken was not made available to the media for the second consecutive week. He finished 4-of-5 on extra points Saturday and did not attempt a field goal. With walk-on Matt Marcincin's surprise departure this week, Kevin DiSanto is Penn State's only other option at placekicker.

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