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Lines of communication improving

When people talk about an offensive line "jelling," they're talking about consistency, about knowing what the guy next to you is going to do before he does it.

Right guard John Urschel said mental focus has been a key for Penn State's offensive line.

"It just entails making sure the entire offensive line is on the same page," Penn State right guard John Urschel said Tuesday. "The worst thing you can have is two guys looking at the defense and thinking one thing and two or three guys thinking another."

After five games, it seems the Nittany Lions' offensive line is beginning to "jell." Which is impressive when you think about just how many players who have had to be on that same page.

Penn State rotated nine offensive linemen with the starters during Saturday's 35-7 win at Illinois, continuing what is now nearly a season-long trend.

There were some missed assignments and some blocking breakdowns earlier in the year, but the line has tightened things up thanks in part, Urschel said, to better communication among the players.

"I think it's definitely improved," Urschel said. "We did a very good job of communicating this past weekend."

Offensive line coach Mac McWhorter is "a big believer of the mental aspect of football," said Urschel, and emphasizes mental focus and energy at each practice.

"He points out the good and the bad," Urschel said. "When we make mistakes, when we don't do well, he shows us. He tells us how to improve it. I'd say he's more of an encourager than anything. He's done a great job of motivating us. He really focuses on doing it every single practice and every single game."

With tackles Donovan Smith, Mike Farrell and Adam Gress, guards Urschel, Miles Dieffenbach, Eric Shrive and Angelo Mangiro and centers Matt Stankiewitch and Ty Howle (who has also played guard this season) working in and out of the lineup, Penn State put up a season high in points and wore down Illinois' vaunted defensive line late in the game.

The linemen already have the next opponent in mind.

"It certainly gives us confidence, but at the same time, we've forgotten about that already," Urschel said. "We start fresh and try to have good practice days going into Northwestern."

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