Practice notes: Defense shows up QBs

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Bill O'Brien wasn't overly pleased with his quarterbacks at the beginning of Wednesday's practice. The fiery coach yelled early on at the four signal-callers, "You do not want me to play quarterback, because I can't throw."

The media were allowed to attend about 30 minutes of Penn State's fifth spring practice, and the defense seemed to get the better of the offense during a brief battle. Juco quarterback Tyler Ferguson took snaps with the the first team during the offense-defense competition, while Steven Bench went with the second team. (They alternated first-team snaps during walk-throughs.)

The offense had four chances to reach a first down, and Ferguson opened up by connecting with Allen Robinson on a seven-yard pass. That was the offensive highlight of the two series, however, as linebacker Glenn Carson stopped Zach Zwinak at the line of scrimmage, then Ferguson was nearly "sacked" on a play-action pass.

Bench didn't fare any better and didn't complete a pass in four downs. In what might have been the best overall play, defensive end Brad Bars made nice penetration, then leaped in the air to deflect a screen pass. His teammates yelled, "Oooooh," because of the impressive vert, but Bench actually caught the rebound. Still, the play was whistled dead.

Bill Belton ran twice without much success, and Bench then held on to the ball for what seemed like an eternity. At least two linemen could've sacked him had he not been wearing a red shirt, and he ended up scrambling to the outside. That play also was blown dead.

The offense was forced to do five hit-its as a result of losing the competition. Obviously, eight snaps and a handful of passes don't genuinely reflect the quarterbacks' overall success, but it at least offered a glimpse.

Injury report: Tight end-turned-offensive tackle Garry Gilliam did not take part in practice because of an injury to his right calf. He's week-to-week. ... Stephen Obeng-Agyapong (shoulder) and Kyle Carter (wrist) wore red shirts but practiced. ... DT DaQuan Jones spent the first few minutes of practice with the first team during walk-throughs but was not wearing pads and did not participate in contact drills. The nature of his injury was not immediately clear, but a spokesman said it wasn't serious. ... Tight end Adam Breneman also wore a red shirt -- something he didn't do in the first practice -- and had his right arm taped up.

Visitors: Members of the Cornell coaching staff were on hand to watch practice, and two 2014 recruits also walked around the practice field to take in the sights.

ESPN Watch List QB Michael O'Connor (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy) and cornerback Marcus Whitfield talked to their respective position coaches and watched from the sideline.

Starting lineup: At wide receiver, Robinson and Brandon Moseby-Felder lined up as the starters, while both Austin Johnson and C.J. Olaniyan practiced with the first-team defense.

In a curious move, Donovan Smith was limited while Eric Shrive replaced him. Smith received some one-on-one instruction at times, and it wasn't clear if he was injured.

Regardless, it didn't seem serious. Smith is the clear starter, and reporters were told this was the first practice where Smith was treated like that.

Special teams' woes: The field-goal unit practiced what appeared to be extra points. (The yardage markers run parallel to the posts, so it's not clear.) On one snap, center Ty Howle tossed it back a little low and the holder wasn't able to get a handle it.

It rocketed behind the kicker when Ryan Keiser couldn't grab it in time. PSU was inconsistent on special teams last season, and mistakes like that are exactly what it can't afford in the regular season.