Monthly Archives: August 2009

PSU Depth Chart

Penn State has released its depth chart for the season opener against Akron and the biggest questions have been answered for now.

Your starting offensive line is as follows:

LT Dennis Landolt

LG Matt Stankiewitch

C Stefen Wisniewski

RG Lou Eliades

RT DeOn’Tae Pannell

Derek Moye, Graham Zug and Brett Brackett are the listed as the starting receivers, there is not a mention of a freshman receiver on the depth chart right now.

Kevin Newsome is Daryll Clark’s backup, no shocker there.

Tight End is still an “Or” spot, with Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler.

Over on defense, Jerome Hayes and Jack Crawford get the nod at the end spots. They will go with Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman as the outside linebackers and Josh Hull in the middle, as expected with Mike Mauti’s injury.

The corners are Knowledge Timmons and D’Anton Lynn, with Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay as the safeties. Of note, A.J. Wallace is listed as Timmons’ backup, again there are no freshmen listed behind either cornerback. Freshman Gerald Hodges is the third team “Hero.”

Chaz Powell and Stephfon Green are the return men, again no freshmen are listed here either.

As expected Colin Wagner secured the starting kicking spot.

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Akron Primer

Saturday Penn State will begin it’s quest for a second straight Big Ten championship and third BCS bowl since the 2005 season.

First up is the Akron Zips, coming out of the MAC conference where it’s been a struggle for them the past few seasons.

Ironically J.D. Brookhart’s first game as Zips head coach came against Penn State way back when.

What I think you’re going to see this weekend is a mix of good and bad. And before you jump on me and say ‘hey captain obvious, nice call,’ what I mean is this.

You’re going to see a few big plays here and there, and I do think Penn State wins, but it’s not going to be easy at first. Akron should test Penn State’s secondary early, they should move the ball through the air, and don’t be shocked if Akron’s offensive line puts together a very respectful performance and gives the new defensive ends a problem or two.

I think the Nittany Lions secondary is good to give up at least one big play in Saturday’s opener.

And then of course Sunday will come the usual assortment of “we’re not that good,” quotes and “we’ve got a long way to go,” and face it Penn State is not going to be tested in its first three games, which will do little if anything to prepare the Nits for the conference opener against Iowa.

So just who are these Akron Zips?

For some insight, check out the Akron Beacon Journal’s coverage of the Zips.

You can also surf over to ZipsReport.com to gauge what some of the fans are saying and thinking as well as some other insight.

Some Akron numbers to crunch.

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Mr. Paterno goes to Washington

Talk about a cheap way to promote a football game and a conference.

This morning word comes out that Indiana is getting a $3 million payday to move its 2010 home game with Penn State to FedEx Field in Washington D.C.

If college football was never thought of as a business by some of you before, today it should be.

The move, honestly, stinks.

Why Washington D.C., you ask? Well it’s simple. Redskins owner Dan Snyder knows who the opponent is, he knows he can pack the place with Northern Virginia Penn State fans, and likely a handful from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland too.

In short, it’s not going to be an IU home game at all. It suddenly turns into a Penn State home game at a neutral field.

If I was any other school in the Big Ten, but Penn State, I’d be outraged and how this flips that good old competitive balance thing we often hear about.

What the move amounts to is a cheap way to promote a product. If the Big Ten is thinking about expanding and asking either a Big East or ACC team to swap conferences, maybe long term the move pays off, but that’s not the MO here.

Tim Cary over at First and Big Ten hits the nail squarely on the head with his blog this morning.

This is nothing more than IU needing money in a rough economic time. They will try to pass this game off as saying there are plenty of alumni from both schools that will attend the game. So when you watch this game either on the Big Ten Network or ESPN2, note exactly how many of those fans are wearing Blue and White or Crimson and White. Then get back to me.

If this game was moved to Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, I’d have no

Indiana is getting $3 million to move its 2010 home game with Penn State to Fed-Ex Field, home of the NFL's Washington Redskins/Wire Images

Indiana is getting $3 million to move its 2010 home game with Penn State to Fed-Ex Field, home of the NFL's Washington Redskins/Wire Images

problem with it. I’d prefer they move a non-conference game, like Ohio State is doing with Toledo this season (to be played at Cleveland Browns Stadium), but IU doesn’t have the drawing power in football like it does basketball to do that. So instead they have to sell out to Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins.

Nice.

And before you write in and tell me that Notre Dame is doing this, yeah they are, and Notre Dame is an independent, with a national (if not world wide) following and a flagship radio station in New York City. They can do that because they have no one to look out for but Notre Dame and that is why they will likely never jump into a conference for football.

The bottom line here, as it always is with sports, money talks. IU is not going to pass up money for nothing, so to speak, and Penn State surely won’t pass up an opportunity to give fans in other strong alumni regions a chance to drive 30 minutes for a game.

It’s a win-win for Penn State, but a shady, cheap way for the Big Ten to push product. I can’t agree with it. Not when there’s a NFL field in a nice city about an hour from Bloomington, if they really wanted to move the game to some place bigger.

If the Big Ten wants to expose it’s football in a better light or bigger light, there are other ways of going about it. Such as scheduling some A-list quality non-conference opponents in some of those made-for-TV matchups, like Ohio State realizes is important and will be doing the rest of this decade and the next.

Guess that would make too much sense and we wouldn’t want the product to get exposed in that way, would we?

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Lions No. 9 in AP Poll, 24th on one ballot

The first AP poll of the season hit the wires this morning. With no surprise, Florida is your No. 1 team, Texas, Oklahoma, USC and Alabama round out the top five.

Ohio State, the preseason Big Ten favorite is No. 6, Penn State opens at No. 9. About right. Iowa is also ranked.

You can view the full poll here.

Every so often though, if you are like me and you scan Pollspeak to check out where everyone votes the teams where they do, you get a head scratching ballot like Eric Hansen’s of the South Bend Tribune.

Hansen, who is a good read and one of my bookmarks, put Penn State at No. 24 on his ballot, the lowest of any voter in the poll.

Look, I’m not lobbying for Penn State to be No. 1, they aren’t as good as the teams in the top five (maybe they could beat ‘Bama right now). But if most who vote base it on last year and what returns, how can this be taken seriously? I don’t even argue with ranking Ohio State ahead of PSU, since they are the pick to win the Big Ten by those who know it and cover it.

But TWENTY-FOURTH? I don’t even have a problem with him ranking Notre Dame 18th on his ballot

Hansen also put the likes of BYU, Boise State and TCU ahead of Penn State and has Georgia Tech ranked No. 6, the highest of any other voter in America.

I don’t disagree that Notre Dame is going to be damn good this year, probably win 9-10 games and make a BCS bowl run as well, but PSU 24th?

I’m on the Notre Dame bandwagon this season by the way. Big time ND bandwagon jumper in ’09.

But please.

I try to keep it between the lines (no pun) here and I view every thing objectionally and call it like I see it. I must call a spade a spade here.

How this ballot can be taken seriously from this point on I’ll never know. As someone who is to be taken as a credible writer, that’s embarrassing. Really it is.

As Jim Calhoun once said “get some facts, and come back and see me.”

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Big Ten Preview

I’ve been saying this since spring, I think Penn State will repeat as Big Ten champions this coming season for a couple of reasons.

First, their schedule is rather cozy, with the two big time games (Iowa and Ohio State) at home. Second, across the board, they have the best talent returning to a conference that is getting a mixed bag of reactions.

At the same time I am of the belief there could be a two-loss team winning the conference title this year. While I think Penn State is the favorite, the group of Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa and Illinois could all win this thing and head to the Rose Bowl or BCS bowl.

I will say this. I think the only Big Ten team that has a chance to compete for the national title spot is Penn State.

With that, I present to you the 2009 Big Ten preview, equipped with my picks, the top conference games, the top five players on offense and defense, and some other thoughts.

HOW IT SHAKES OUT

1. Penn State Nittany Lions (Last year: 11-2 overall, 7-1 conference, Big Ten co-champs, lost Rose Bowl to USC 38-24)

Why they will win it: It’s simple. Penn State returns the conferences top quarterback,  Daryll Clark, who will ease transition for new wide receivers, Penn Statethey return the top running back in the conference in Evan Royster, the front seven, even without linebacker Mike Mauti is loaded, the schedule is right for them to rip through it.

Why they won’t win it: Clark gets hurt, the offensive line doesn’t pan out, more injuries on defense, the secondary is exploited early leaving it struggling all year, there is some sort of off-field distraction, yet again.

Opener: Sept 5, vs. Akron.

Toughest Game: At Illinois, which might have one of the most explosive offenses in the entire country.

Projected Bowl: Rose Bowl

2. Ohio State Buckeyes (Last year: 10-3 overall, 7-1 conference, Big Ten co-champs, lost Fiesta Bowl to Texas, 24-21)

Why they can win it: Ohio State is the best in the conference, if not one of the best in the country at replacing departed talent. Terrelle Pryor should

Ohio State is in good hands with Terrelle Pryor/Wire photo

Ohio State is in good hands with Terrelle Pryor/Wire photo

explode on the scene as a full-fledged star this season. There are plenty of weapons on offense, especially in the backfield.

Why they won’t win it: You have to believe, on some level, that the losses the Buckeyes suffered on defense to the draft will rear their ugly heads at some point. It might not be early, but at some point, right?

Opener: Sept. 5 vs. Navy

Toughest Game: Vs. USC, Sept. 12, at the Horseshoe. USC will compete for the BCS title again, in fact they are one of my picks to make it to the title game. This should be a lot closer than last year’s landslide in L.A.

Projected Bowl: The Fiesta loves it some Ohio State for sure, but I say they land in the Sugar Bowl as an at-large.

3. Michigan State Spartans (Last year: 9-4 overall, 6-2 conference, lost Capital One Bowl to Georgia 24-12)

Why they can win it: Spartans have the best rising coach in the conference in Mark Dantonio, they have great wide receivers that will challenge any

Michigan State is on the rise under Mark Dantonio, who is rapidly approaching top coach status in the Big Ten

Michigan State is on the rise under Mark Dantonio, who is rapidly approaching top coach status in the Big Ten

secondary they face, a tough defense led by Big Ten Preseason Defensive POY Greg Jones and the schedule does not include Ohio State.

Why they won’t: Likely will start a true freshman at running back, either new QB Cousins or Nichol won’t pan out, they get no production from either defensive end in Trevor Anderson or Colin Neely.

Opener: Sept. 5 vs. Montana State

Toughest Game: Notre Dame will be improved and very tricky for MSU, but the game to circle is the Oct. 10 game at Illinois. A win there, they may just rise all the way to the top of the conference.

Projected Bowl: Under my projections Ohio State and PSU both head back to the BCS, therefore Michigan State heads back to the Capital One. Let the SEC-Big Ten argument ensue…yet again.

3. Illinois Fighting Illini (Last Year: 5-7 overall, 3-5 conference, no bowl)

Why they could win it: The offense, led by Juice Williams, could be as lethal as any in the entire country. The wide receiver corps was already solid with Regis Benn and Jeff Cumberland, but it’s boosted by the addition of

Can Juice Williams will lead the potentially explosive Illinois offense back to the top of the Big Ten?

Can Juice Williams will lead the potentially explosive Illinois offense back to the top of the Big Ten?

Jared Fayson. Scary that Daniel Dufrense the second leading rusher on the team last year may not even be the starter.

Why they won’t: Juice could revert to the inconsistent Juice that everyone has known the previous three seasons, and Ron Zook has made some questionable choices in-game at times. The defense may not stop anyone and Illinois could lose a lot of 38-37 style games.

Opener: Sept. 5 against Missouri in St. Louis

Toughest Game: The make or break game is easily the Sept. 26 date at Ohio State, where Illinois won two years ago.

Projected Bowl: I have a feeling I am going to be wrong about this one, but I see Illinois getting to the Outback Bowl. They very easily could end up back in the BCS.

3. Iowa Hawkeyes (Last year: 9-4 overall, 5-3 conference, won Outback Bowl 31-10 over South Carolina)

Why they could win it: Solid offensive line headed up by Bryan Bulaga, gritty but not great quarterback in Ricky Stanzi who has his top two receivers back, a very veteran linebacking corps and experience in the secondary make them solid all around. Plus Kirk Ferentz has a lot of teams’ numbers.

Why they won’t: They take one on the chin early at Penn State and downward spiral from there, too many tough road games (at Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State).

Opener: Sept. 5 vs. Northern Iowa

Toughest Game: At Penn State to open the Big Ten schedule, it’s at night, and despite the fact that Ferentz is 6-2 lifetime against PSU, this one is going to be very tough to win.

Projected Bowl: Another one I bet I am wrong on, but because I see a lot of potential in the teams above Iowa, I’m putting them in the Alamo Bowl, which they will win.

6. Minnesota Golden Gophers (Last year: 7-6 overall, 3-5 conference, lost to Kansas 42-21 in the Insight Bowl)

Why they could win it: Yes, they can, by the way. Minnesota has awesome offensive talent in Adam Weber and Eric Decker. Plus they return their top four rushers from a season ago. The defense brings back eight

If healthy, Minnesota could surprise some this season

If healthy, Minnesota could surprise some this season

starters.

Why they won’t: Injuries derailed them a season ago, and that defense that returns eight starters also gave up 29, 35, 55 and 42 points in the last four games (including the Bowl).

Opener: Sept. 5 at Syracuse

Toughest Game: Minnesota has a brutal stretch of its schedule that includes four straight games at Penn State, at Ohio State, Michigan State and Illinois. It starts with PSU. If they are healthy and for real, they have to win that game.

Projected Bowl: Minnesota will stay healthy enough to make it to the Champs Sports Bowl….however they are my surprise team. See below.

7. Michigan Wolverines (Last year: 3-9 overall, 2-6 conference, no bowl)

Why they could win it: They can’t. Michigan has too many teams to leapfrog to get to the top and they are not quite where they need to be to make that move right now. Sorry UM fans. Just too many things need to align for this to happen in 2009.

Why they won’t win it: See above

Opener: Sept. 5 vs. Western Michigan

Toughest Game: If Michgian does make a move, they need to beat Notre Dame in week two. I have a feeling Notre Dame is a 9-10 win team and has BCS written all over it. No joke. This is Michigan’s benchmark. If they win that, then they have to win at East Lansing.

Projected Bowl: While I don’t think they are a viable conference title contender, I do believe Michigan and Rich Rodriguez will begin to write the ship and make it to a bowl game, albeit the Insight Bowl. But it’s a bowl and that is better than 3-9.

8. Wisconsin Badgers (Last year: 7-6 overall, 3-5 conference, lost to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl, 42-13)

Why they could win it: Like Michigan, I just can’t see it right now. Badgers must find a quarterback, running back, get some proven receivers, but if there is a bright spot on this team, it’s the offensive line, which will be together this year and next. Defensively, Wisconsin is OK, and they could move up the ladder if winning games 16-13 works.

Why they won’t win it: Too many question marks, Brett Beielema is on the hot seat and that might linger over this team all season if they struggle.

Opener: Sept. 5 vs. Northern Illinois

Projected Bowl: None

8. Northwestern Wildcats (Last year: 9-4 overall, 5-3 conference, lost to Missouri in the Alamo Bowl 30-23)

Why they could win it: Everything aligns, Mike Kafka returns to the form he showed two seasons ago, the running game shapes up behind Stephen Simmons and others ahead of Northwestern tumble. The schedule is so bad they could be bowl eligible by Oct. 17, lose the rest of the games and still go bowling.

Why they won’t win it: There is too much balance at the top of the conference, and the offense has to break in five new starters against some pretty good defenses on the schedule.

Opener: Sept. 5 Towson

Toughest Game: They coast until they get to Minnesota on Sept. 26, which is shaping up to be a helluva day in the Big Ten.

Bowl Projection: They have to get to a Bowl, no? Motor City? Where do they fit in?

10. Purdue Boilermakers (Last year 4-8 overall, 2-6 conference, no bowl)

Why they could win it: They can’t. Enough said.

Why they won’t win it: Purdue is going to, at best, plateau this season. They may not be worse, but they aren’t going to be better.

Opener: Sept. 5 vs. Toledo

Bowl Projection: uh, none.

11. Indiana Hoosiers (Last year: 3-9 overall, 1-7 conference, no bowl)

Why they could find lightning in a bottle: Ben Chappell uses last year’s experience behind Kellen Lewis and becomes a bonafide college football quarterback and lights up everyone else, and Matt Mayberry and Jamie Kirlew go insane on defense.

Why they won’t win it: Really, outside of reasons I have to list why they could win it, can you tell me a reason why they will win? Indiana is the Big Ten doormat for 2009. Facts are facts.

Opener: Sept. 3 vs. Eastern Kentucky

Toughest Game: Sept. 26, at Michigan, a win there, things could turn around.

Bowl Projection: none

TOP FIVE CONFERENCE GAMES

1. Nov. 7, Ohio State at Penn State: This is the de facto conference title game, on paper right now. Ohio State looks to avenge its 13-9 loss to the Nittany Lions last season in Columbus, and Penn State looks to win two in a row over the Buckeyes, at home, midafternoon, and it should be cold.

2. Oct. 10 Michigan State at Illinois: If either one of these are to be taken serious as title contenders in the conference, they must eliminate one another here, in this game of rising Big Ten teams. Money, right now, is on Dantonio and the Spartans.

3. Nov. 21 Penn State at Michigan State: If all other hurdles are cleared, this is the Big Ten title game, possibly out right in 2009. It’s possible a tie still stands up because Michigan State does not play Ohio State.

4. Sept. 26 Illinois at Ohio State: Illini won at the ‘Shoe two years ago, and if they are going to get back on top of the Big Ten they need to make a statement here.

5. Nov. 21 Ohio State at Michigan: Just because.

BUY, SELL, HOLD

BUY: Minnesota, because if they stay healthy they can score and compete with the best. Adam Weber-to-Eric Decker might be the best combo in the conference. Again, they have to stay healthy.

SELL: Northwestern, because despite a cake opening month, per say, they should be bowl eligible by October, problem is they may not win a game the rest of the way.

HOLD: Illinois, because you never know with this team. They could explode for 45 points a game, and need every one of those points because the defense is the big question mark. Hang on to these guys now because they very well could be the conference champs.

5 TO WATCH ON OFFENSE

1. Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois: The most explosive individual talent in the Big Ten. Can change a game on a dime.

2. Daryll Clark, QB, Penn State: The best QB in the conference, will make his WRs better just by being on the field with them and has the experience of a Big Ten title run under his belt already.

3. Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State: Is ready to explode, the job is all his and he has been given the keys. Watch him take off.

4. Evan Royster, RB, Penn State: His on-field vision is ridiculous, he is a very underrated dual threat and he has underrated break away ability. Should continue assault on PSU rushing record books in ’09.

5. Eric Decker, WR, Minnesota: If it wasn’t for Benn, he’d be the best

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Joe Paterno transcript

From media day, here is Joe Paterno’s media transcript. More thoughts from media day are coming.

Joe Paterno

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Paterno.

Q. What are your biggest concerns going into pre-season?
COACH PATERNO: Well, you know, I’m concerned with everything. If you said the biggest ones, obviously I think the offensive line. We’ve got to find a couple kids that can play. And the wide-out situation I think is better as you project it than maybe the offensive line would be at this time. I think we have some people who have played that we can play with. I think we need another defensive back, maybe two.
But, you know, there’s a lot of things that are going to come up that we’ve been fortunate, we’re going into this pre-season without a lot of injuries. The Massaro kid is probably the only kid that really can’t go the whole pre-season, although we have one or two kids that may not get any work until the middle of September.

Q. You mentioned the wide receiver situation. You lost the big three. Brackett and Graham Zug have some experience. How much are you going to count on Chaz Powell to fill that Williams kind of role?
COACH PATERNO: Yeah, I think you got Zug and Brackett and Chaz Powell. We got a kid by the name of Moye who played some last year. We have some kids that played. So I don’t feel maybe as urgent as I do to find a couple offensive linemen. Really, we don’t have anybody outside of the three kids coming back that played much on it.
So, you know, I don’t know how we’re going to be with the wideouts. You never know till those kids have to go in there carry the load, make the catch, make the play. Some of them, obviously with only one experienced quarterback, they got to get used to each other in a hurry. They got to stay healthy. If they can’t practice, they can’t get any better.

Q. Earlier this summer you had said that A.J. Wallace might be in a little trouble because of classes. Have you decided what you’re going to do with him? Will he miss any games?
COACH PATERNO: Yeah, I told A.J. I might not play him in a game or two because he cut classes. If he cuts any more classes, he won’t play. I think you got to send a message. No sense sending a message if somebody is not a player. He’s obviously one of our better players. I think he’ll be all right.
Now, you know, when I’ll play him will depend on what I hear back from our academic advisors, and find out whether he’s going to class, he’s doing what he’s supposed to do academically. If he does, then we’ll think about when we want to play him.

Q. Say something about having Sean Lee back on the field with this team. Not just his leadership, but how he is in the huddle, how it affects the team overall.
COACH PATERNO: There again, we haven’t done anything. Yesterday was the first day we put shoulder pads on. The first two days you’re only allowed to go with helmets. We use shoulder pads the third and fourth day. So there’s been no hitting. They’re no real, you know, kind of football that I think Sean has to get into. Again, he hasn’t done anything in a long time. So I think he’s going to probably feel his way a little bit.
But I think once he gets comfortable and once he’s sure he’s okay, I think he obviously will be a big, big factor in helping us to be good because he knows how to play and he’s got real strong leadership qualities. So he’s obviously somebody we’re hoping will be a hundred percent back to where he was before he got hurt.

Q. You have a high number of big-time players returning on this team. Do you remember another season where you’ve had that type of talent return, yet have so many holes to fill at key positions?
COACH PATERNO: Well, I don’t know. I’m not sure I know where you’re coming from with what did you call them? Big play what?

Q. High-caliber.
COACH PATERNO: High caliber? We got to play with 22. No, I don’t think we got more. Geez, you lose guys like Butler, Derrick Williams, guys like that… I think we have some young players who have a chance to be the quality that I think you’re suggesting, but I don’t know yet.
I mean, we got a bunch of kids out there just learning right now. And, as I said, it’s hard to evaluate some of those kids because the quarterbacking, outside of Daryll, but he can’t take every shot, we got to get the other kids ready.
So there’s a little bit of incohesiveness in what we’re doing right now, which you would expect, a bunch of kids coming in there with three days of practice. Hopefully we’ll be better today. It’s going to be a day-by-day progress. I don’t think we have quite the kind of personnel you’re suggesting.

Q. How do things look at the left tackle spot? Landolt or Pannell?
COACH PATERNO: We moved Landolt to the left side. With a right-handed quarterback, probably a little tougher than the right tackle. And he and Wisniewski both have played some football. Pannell has played some football. We’ve moved Pannell to the right tackle. But other than that it’s up for grabs.

Q. You talked about Chaz Powell a little bit earlier. Could you compare and contrast him and Derrick Williams? How is he similar to Derrick Williams and how is he different?
COACH PATERNO: Chaz hasn’t had the kind of success Derrick had. Chaz has great potential, but he’s too inconsistent right now for us to be getting on a bandwagon with him. He has to start paying attention to detail, little things. He’s careless with some things. He doesn’t concentrate sometimes going after the football. So I wouldn’t put that thing on his head saying Derrick Williams.
Derrick Williams came in here as a very, very confident, very poised kid who could have played quarterback, could have played runningback, could have played wideout. Chaz is in the right spot. I think eventually, if he makes up his mind, he’s going to go at it, pay attention, as I said earlier, to the little things, learn to get better every day, he could end up being pretty darn good.

Q. Do you have a presence of where Sean Lee will line up in the regular season, in the middle or on the outside?
COACH PATERNO: You know, to be frank with you, I’ve looked at some Akron pictures. I don’t know what the devil to expect from Syracuse, because of a new coach, the whole bit. And I think it depends on what we got at defense, where we’re playing.
Sean could play inside or outside. Bowman can play inside or outside. Hull would probably be better inside. Maybe not quite as good in space as Bowman or Lee would be. So we’ve got some flexibility there.
We’re kind of really just waiting to see how some of the younger kids, Stupar, Gbadyu, those kids, how some of them come along, where we plug those guys in at backups before we really make a decision on the top three.

Q. Defensive end, Jack Crawford, could you talk about his play and his potential? Have you ever coached a kid from London before?
COACH PATERNO: You know, I’m sure I coached somebody from London. Off the top of my head, I can’t tell you.
Well, I think what you’re suggesting is he’s an unusual kid, and he is. He never played football till he came over here. He was a basketball player. Came over here. Some people brought him over. With a very, very lovely family from the Philadelphia area. He’s got a tremendous intensity. He’s got really good natural ability. Particularly, he’ll play defensive end. A big, long-arm kid. He can run. I think once he gets a little better feel for the game, he’ll be pretty darn good, even if he is from London (smiling).

Q. Who are a few of the guys you’re going to try out at returning punts and kickoff to replace Derrick?
COACH PATERNO: We’ll probably take a look at Royster. We’ll take a look at one or two of the younger kids. Zug. We have Zug back there catching punts. And, there again, we have eight or nine guys catching punts every day, trying to figure out which guy is going to be the most consistent. And we’re especially taking a look at some of the younger kids that are coming in who are true freshmen. A couple of those kids can run.
We’re not sure whether they can catch the ball in the clutch. But we know Royster can do it, Zug could do it. I’m missing somebody I’m sure that can do it. The defensive secondary, Wallace could probably do it when he gets around to playing.

Q. Any thoughts on being ranked No. 8 in the coaches poll?
COACH PATERNO: Is that where we’re ranked?

Q. Yes.
COACH PATERNO: What’s it mean (laughter)? Does it guarantee us anything?
Oh, I don’t pay any attention to that stuff. You know, it’s good for the fans. Obviously hopefully maybe it will sell some tickets. I don’t know. But I don’t really pay any attention to it.

Q. You talked about the inexperience at quarterback behind Daryll. How much does that affect how careful you are with Daryll this off-season? How much might that affect what you do on offense this fall?
COACH PATERNO: Well, you know, you guys ask me specific questions about specific positions. But, you know, everything relates to each other. That’s the hardest job of coaching, is to put them all together.
I’ve said this many times to different groups. I don’t know whether I said it to this group. There was a great book out a couple years ago about leadership and what have you. In the book, one of the chapters was, What’s the difference between chess and checkers? Well, in checkers, everybody does the same thing. In chess, different people can make different moves, have different impact on the game.
That’s what coaching is all about. You have to get the combination. We can’t say we’re only going to do this with Clark if we don’t have certain people that can do what we think they should do with him to protect him. We’re out to win games. We’re out to have the best team we can have. That means if we have to use Clark to run the football, we’re going to use Clark to run the football. If we really good wideouts on the offensive line that can do a good job in pass protection, I’d prefer not to run him a lot until the other kids come along.
We’re not going to go out there and fall behind against Akron and say we don’t want to get Clark hurt. I can’t isolate it for you that way. I don’t know exactly what we’re going to do until I find out what kind of team I got. And I won’t know that till, you know, two weeks from now.

Q. What do you expect from Jerome Hayes and are you taking any precautions with him during practice?
COACH PATERNO: Well, yeah, I’d say we’re taking not a lot of protection. What we’ve done is kind of let him pace himself a little bit. He’s done some things really well. Then you notice in some other drills where he’s got to put a lot of pressure on that leg, he’s a little bit hesitant. But that will get better and better as it goes along. He’s a very fine competitor. He’s got a lot of pride. I think eventually he’s going to be a really good football player.
Right now he’s just picking his way. When we get into two-a-days, we’ll be careful that we don’t get him tired, where he’s more susceptible to getting hurt.

Q. Nick Sukay has been healthy for the first time in his Penn State career. How has he positioned himself going into pre-season practice?
COACH PATERNO: He had a good spring and he’s had a good pre-season. There’s three or four of those guys inside there that I think are going to be fighting for position. But he’s right in the mix. He’s right in the mix.

Q. How has Navorro Bowman responded to what happened in the spring? Are you pleased with the things he’s done since then?
COACH PATERNO: Yeah, I think he and I had a little session. I think he got to understand where I was coming from, the whole bit. I think that he realized that he’s wasting a great opportunity in his life. In all fairness to the kid, he had a lot of bad things happen to him. Lose your father, lose your high school coach all pretty close to each other. I think that had a little bit of an impact on him. When you’re that age, maybe you start feeling a little bit sorry for yourself. You compound the problem because you start cheating yourself out of some opportunities you might have.
I think he’s been all business. He had a good semester academically. He had a good summer school session. I think he’s worked hard. He’s tried to be a leader. I think he has been. I don’t think we have any problems with him.

Q. Will the experience you have in the front seven help acclimate rebuilding the secondary?
COACH PATERNO: Well, yeah, I think the front people are going to have to do some things. Most of guys, linebackers, we have Odrick, an outstanding football player. I think Crawford is going to be a really good football player. We have some depth behind them. So I think, yeah, the more pressure we can put on those people up front, they can do some things, we can do some things with the linebackers, we can be a little bit more sophisticated in some coverages using the linebackers in there to cover up for the secondary. There’s things we can do.
But obviously you hate — maybe gimmick isn’t the word I want, but you hate to be kind of too cute. You like to be solid at every position. We’ll be close. We’ll be close in the secondary. We’re not that far off.

Q. What is the biggest thing that Kevin Newsome needs to work on as he kind of develops in his first year here?
COACH PATERNO: Kevin Newsome is a kid that when he’s in high school, he just ran away from everybody. But he’s got a strong arm. Doesn’t have a great touch yet. What’s happened to Kevin is, you know, we’re trying to get him to recognize coverages and things like that so he can find the open guy. And with the defense, we allow the defense, because we don’t want to hold them back, so when the offense goes against our defense, the defense can do some things that are going to really make it — hopefully going to make it a little tougher for the quarterback just to go back there and pick out the guy he’s going to throw to. So when Kevin does locate the open guy, feels pretty good about it, but then he forgets about being accurate. He just lets it go.
But I think he’s going to be pretty good. Eventually I think he’s going to be pretty good. And I’m trying to convince him. We don’t want a tailback, we want a quarterback.

Q. Drew Astorino was on the field a lot last year. Can you talk about his development as a player and can he assume a leadership role?
COACH PATERNO: I think Astorino is a good football player. Astorino, whatever he’s done, you know, we took Astorino because I saw him on television I think when the state basketball championship, they won the state football championship, and he was going to go to a IAA school. His dad is an assistant wrestling coach up at Edinburgh. I got some more tapes and looked at him. He was the kind of kid that made plays in the clutch. We took him.
Good student. That’s what kind of football player he is. He knows what is going on. He’s smart, he’ll help everybody. He’ll help everybody. He’s a good player. He’s a tough kid and a smart kid. Wish he were a 4-4-3 guy, but he makes up for the fact that he’s not that fast because he anticipates things well, he reads things. You know, he gets a jump on the ball because he’s smart.

Q. Do you find it easier at this time of the year to get out of bed knowing you’re going to be on the practice field every day?
COACH PATERNO: For me?

Q. Yes.
COACH PATERNO: Oh, yeah. Well, of course, all spring, I didn’t miss any practice in the spring. Didn’t use the motor cart.
The only difference is that I really, right now because we don’t have pads on, we’re doing a lot of teaching, we’re on the practice field longer. We may be out there and hour and a half. Closer to a game time, I don’t like to be on the game field longer than two hours, that includes kicking and the whole bit, because I think you end up tiring your kids. Then it will be a little easier on me.
Right now, when I come off that practice field, my legs are tired. I didn’t do as much walking as I should have this summer. But, you know, I’m fine, except I get tired quicker.

Q. What excites you the most about this team and this upcoming season?
COACH PATERNO: What excites me? Nothing excites me yet (laughter). I’ll be honest with you. We’re lousy. I have nothing to be excited about right now as a team. I’m serious about that. We got too many things we got to get accomplished. I mean, we got a lot of work ahead of us, I mean, to be a good football team. So I’m excited to be alive. That’s about it (smiling).

Q. Could you expand a little more about Landolt and Pannell and why you swapped them? Is there really a blindside tackle anymore with so much gun?
COACH PATERNO: Well, yeah, I think so. I think blitzes and things. When I’m going back, you drop this way, all right, now if you want to go to a half roll.

Q. But the gun.
COACH PATERNO: We’re not in the gun that much. We’re in it, and we’ll probably be in it maybe more with Kevin. The gun gives you more running opportunities for your quarterback. But when you’re dropping back and you got to play the odds, even if it’s 50/50, dropback pass from underneath the center, tight end with 50% to shotgun, you’re still turning your back, coming out this way.
We don’t back up. Some people do. I’ve never been for that because I think you’re off balance. You come back this way, if you get a blitz this side, you’re looking at it. Get rid of the ball quicker. If we get hurt with a blitz coming this side, our quarterback fell asleep, or the hot receiver fell asleep. But now, if I’m going back this way, I get the blitz over here, somebody has to yell it out, and we do. We’ll have somebody up front. We have the type of blitz we’re going to get, we’ll call out its name so he know where the hot receiver will be to help him.
I don’t think there’s any question that the left tackle has got to be just a little bit better pass protector.

Q. Was it all about experience with Landolt?
COACH PATERNO: Landolt is a better tackler now. Landolt is a pretty good tackler. Pannell is just a kid. Was a true freshman last year. He didn’t play that much either. Played some. I mean, it would be foolish to put Pannell over there. We had him there last year, but we had him there because we didn’t have anybody behind Cadogan.

Q. You have two very talented backs in Green and Royster. Can you talk about what they bring to the table this season and the running game potential in general.
COACH PATERNO: Green can be a really good runningback. Green has got explosive speed. You know, we would have the ability to play Green at tailback and Royster as a slot back. Royster is a good receiver. He’s an excellent athlete, an all-around athlete. I could put Royster over on defensive and he’d be a heck of a defensive back. He was the best lacrosse player in the state of Virginia. He came out of high school. That’s pretty good lacrosse.
So Green does not have the overall athletic ability that Royster has, the insight to the game, things like that. He hasn’t had the background. Green played in the Bronx, New York, where the coach is a heck of a guy. He might have had one assistant, whereas Royster comes from a program that’s a high-profile program.
But I think if Green hangs onto the football, we could probably use Royster and Green in there at the same time, but put Royster at slot or put him as a wing or do something with him. But that’s down the line. We don’t have any plans yet.

Q. Can you talk about your efforts to find a new kicker. Kelly is gone. Who are the candidates? Is there concern there?
COACH PATERNO: Well, we have a kid by the name of Collin Wagner who is a local kid, walk-on. He was very close to Kevin last year. He may have a little stronger leg. I don’t think he’s as consistent as Kevin was. But, you know, we’ll have to see. But I think he’s got a chance.
We brought in a kid from Texas by the name of Fera, whose family is originally again Philadelphia people. He has a strong leg, but he’s all over the place right now. We get his footwork down, I think he’ll be pretty good.

Q. You talked earlier about needing to find a couple guys on the offensive line. How do you feel about the overall depth there and your possibilities of sustaining any type of injury you might have at the position?
COACH PATERNO: First thing, you got to get one line, all right? We don’t have one line yet, all right? So when you say we’re ‘worried about depth,’ not yet (laughter). Yeah, once we get five guys across the board…
Last year, we were fortunate. Started out with five guys, stayed healthy the whole year. They got better and better and better and better as they went along. If you told me at the beginning of the year that that was going to be that good an offensive line in the middle of the year, I would have said, Hey, you’re daydreaming. A couple of those guys weren’t great athletes. But the fact that they played together, repeat, repeat, repeat, all right? They got to be pretty darn good.
We get five guys that did what they did in the sense of staying healthy and having some pride in their offensive line, some leadership on that offensive line, then we’ll be okay and we’ll start worrying about some depth. But first things first.

Q. Knowledge Timmons is a guy that has been around for a while. How has he positioned himself in the off-season to maybe achieve some significant playing time in the fall?
COACH PATERNO: Timmons. Well, he’s got a lot of potential. I mean, he can run and he’s tough and the whole bit. He’s just got to get a little bit more poise. He’s one of those guys, yap, yap, yap, yap. He ought to keep his mouth shut and concentrate on the next play. When we get him to do that, I think he’ll be pretty good.

Q. Devin Fentress and J.B. Walton aren’t on the roster anymore. What happened to those guys?
COACH PATERNO: Fentress graduated. Fentress graduated. In fact, I helped him get an apprenticeship with Nike. He was in Portland up until two or three days ago. I think he’s coming back to get a second degree in another major.

Q. And J.B. Walton?
COACH PATERNO: J.B. Walton, he’s got – I don’t know how to say this – J.B. Walton is a great kid. He really is a great kid. He’s got a learning disability that we can’t do a good job with here. We looked all over for a place where he could go where they could help him. That’s what he’s doing.
I mean, I would have loved to have kept him. Walton can be a really good football player. But we couldn’t do the job for him academically that I think he’s entitled to. And we had to bite the bullet there. We sat down with the mom and dad, with J.B. And he tries, and eventually he’ll be very successful. So that was a tough one. That was really a tough one. But he’s a great kid.

Q. I know you don’t like to talk about punting, but can you talk about Jeremy Boone and also how important has punting been?
COACH PATERNO: What do you mean I don’t like to talk about it?

Q. You might not like to punt, but they’ve been really good at it.
COACH PATERNO: Well, I don’t mind punting when there’s 30 seconds left to go, all right, and we got the ball on the 50 yard line. A guy can put it on the one yard line, I don’t mind that punt (smiling).
Jeremy Boone is a good punter, a good kicker. He’s done a good job for us. He’s a good competitor. No, I like Jeremy. You know, he’s a heck of a holder on field goals, extra points. He’s a good athlete, Jeremy. I think he’s done a really good job for us. Hopefully he will this year.

Q. You talked about the offensive line. At the guard spots, they’re a little bit unsettled. Who would you like to see step to the front? Is it Eliades and Troutman?
COACH PATERNO: Troutman didn’t have a very good summer. But I think Eliades has a good chance. Biggest problem with Eliades, he’s not been durable. He’s had a neck. He’s had hamstring pulls and things like that. But he had a good summer and he’s got a chance to be one of the guys in there.
I don’t have any preference. I think we just got to work guys until somebody comes to the front. You know, Dick Anderson, Bill Kenney do a great job with the offensive line. You know, they’ll drill them till somebody becomes proficient enough that we’re competent we can stick ’em in there and play ’em. Hopefully that will be the case, that we’ll have a couple guys.
But Eliades certainly is one of the guys that hopefully will help, but he’s not there yet.

Q. Where does Brandon Ware fit in the defensive line picture?
COACH PATERNO: Brandon Ware is 20 pounds away from even coming close to being a football player. He’s just too heavy. Doesn’t have any stamina. But he could be really good. He could be really good. Quick, strong, but he’s way overweight.

Q. A little off topic here. Kerry Collins ended up having a nice run in the NFL. What do you remember about him? During his career here, would you have seen that he could have been this good of a professional quarterback?
COACH PATERNO: The only thing I really remember of Kerry Collins is he had a super spring, great blue-white game, came back to pre-season practice with a broken hand. He said he got it in a volleyball game. I said, Yeah, and I’m Knute Rockne.
He had everything. He had everything. He was smart. He was tough. He had the arm. If he had to run, he could run. He had great leadership qualities. That ’94 team was as good an offensive team that ever played college football. We averaged over 500 yards a ballgame in a pretty good league. We could have averaged 600 yards if we had done what some people like to do.
No, Kerry was a terrific guy. Bill, who worked for my brother, assistant coach for my brother at Kings Point, they were on my back about Kerry. He and the big guy, Mike McCormick, who had been at the Browns with a teammate of mine, he called me about three times. I said, Look, will you guys get off my back. Finally they called me the fourth time. Bill gets on the phone. He said, Joe, look, the last time we’ll call you. Will you talk to the owner about Collins? I said, What in God’s name does the owner know? He just has one question to ask you. So I think his name was Richardson, I don’t know what his name was. He gets on the phone. He said, Coach, I have one question I want to ask you about Kerry Collins. I said, Go ahead, but one question. He said, Will he still want to play when we give him a $5 million bonus? I said, Well, if he’s smart, he won’t (laughter).
But he’s a heck of a guy.

Q. I still have the press release that said it was a volleyball game.
COACH PATERNO: A lot of people swallowed it (laughter).

Q. Since we’re talking about guys in the NFL, have you talked to A.Q. Shipley since he was drafted by the Steelers? How do you think he’s going to fit in with that team?
COACH PATERNO: I don’t talk to the kids when they go in. I ask other coaches what do you hear about this guy, what do you hear about that guy, that kind of stuff. I thought Cadogan should have been drafted. He didn’t get drafted. Just asking about him the other day. I don’t even know where half of them go because of the fact that there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t like to waste time.
But Shipley, you know, if they let Shipley play, he’ll play better than they think he can play ’cause, you know, he’s not that big, rangey kid. He’s kind of squatty. He doesn’t have that much speed, but he’s tough and he’s smart. He’ll get the job done.
How he’s doing with the Steelers, I don’t know, I really don’t. And I don’t call those guys. I figure they have enough problems. Mom and dad are calling them. Everybody else is calling them. They’re in camp. They’re trying to feel their way. Let them alone. I try to.
Okay, guys.

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Countdown: The top three

Before I conclude the countdown of the 10 players I think will have the biggest impact for Penn State this season, a little bit of news.

Tomorrow (Thursday) is media day, there is always some form of news coming out of it, I will have updates via the twitter feed and also on here once the festivities are done.

You can read some of my stuff at Blue White Illustrated over the next couple of days too. I am pleased to be covering the team for them this season.

FightOnState broke the news that cornerback Devin Fentress is no longer a member of the team. You can surf over there to catch up on that news. The reasoning is a little odd, and Penn State doesn’t need any more bad news in the secondary.

You’ll note that there was not a member of the secondary listed in this countdown, and there’s a reason for that. They are too unproven and as the last line of defense and having to shut down the likes of Illinois and likely an improved Michigan and possibly a very game Michigan State by that point, there’s just too many questions regarding those guys right now.

I go back and forth on which area is more questionable right now, the secondary or the offensive line. Two weeks ago I would have said, ah, the secondary will be fine, it’s the O-line.

Now I’m convinced it’s even. Both units have to answer the bell. Which do I think will get it together faster? The offensive line. Why? Because the offensive line will always be tested in the first three games, while I am not 100-percent sure the secondary will. Makes sense.

COUNTDOWN No. 3: Sean Lee, linebacker

Lee would have been either No. 1-2 on this list if he didn’t miss last season. Not that I am holding that against him, but the top two flourished last season.

Sean Lee's value was maginifed a season ago when after tearing his ACL he was still named a team captain/Wire Photo

Sean Lee's value was maginifed a season ago when after tearing his ACL he was still named a team captain/Wire Photo

Here’s Lee in a nutshell: Leader, fiery, will do whatever it takes to win, personifies Penn State’s bring-your-lunch-box mentality that has been the blueprint for linebacker success since, well forever really.

He won’t be the quickest or freakiest athlete on the field for Penn State, but he will rock you with a jaw shattering hit, he will never take himself out of a play and he is fearless.

What else do you need in a linebacker?

You need no more about Lee than watching him on the sideline last season as a player-coach standing next to defensive coordinator Tom Bradley barking out signals, coaching up the young unit.

He may go down as the best to play the position at Penn State, No. 45 may  become the new No. 31, you never know. But what you do know is that Lee will leave every ounce of himself on the field week in a week out and whether you are a fan or cover the team you have to respect that and enjoy watching it.

COUNTDOWN No. 2; Evan Royster, tailback

Go back to the start of last season, Evan Royster was telling everyone that he didn’t think that the starting tailback would not have to be a workhorse or carry the ball 25 times a game.

Some of us, me included, scratched our heads at that one. How could a PSU tailback not carry the ball 20-plus times in a game.

Evan Royster is closing in on the top 10 all-time rushers in Penn State history and should get there this season/AP Photo

Evan Royster is closing in on the top 10 all-time rushers in Penn State history and should get there this season/AP Photo

Look at Royster in 2008. He did carry the ball 26 times against Iowa, but in every other game his highest total was 19 (twice). All he did was rush for 1,236 yards and 12 touchdowns becoming the premiere back in the conference headed into 2009.

Royster runs with such a precision, slicing through defenses. He’s stronger than his 209-frame indicates and his vision is second to none on the roster and perhaps in the conference.

Barring a setback, Royster will cruise past 2,000 yards for his career this season, probably in the first three our four games and could land himself in the top 10 rushers in school history by the end of the season. He needs just 863 yards to crack the top 10.

Numbers won’t matter to Royster, unless it’s in the W column, and despite some changes to the offensive line, I don’t see his numbers dipping all that much.

COUNTDOWN No. 1: Daryll Clark, quarterback

Now you know why people wanted Clark to play in 2007. He may very well have been the difference between one or two of the four losses PSU had that season.

Daryll Clark became the unquestioned leader of the Penn State football team in 2008/AP Photo

Daryll Clark became the unquestioned leader of the Penn State football team in 2008/AP Photo

Clark, in his first year in 2008 as starting quarterback was sensational. He combined to score 29 touchdowns in leading the Nittany Lions to the Big Ten crown.

Sure there was Iowa, but if you didn’t learn something about Clark’s character and him going back to that ability he’s had all his life to move on and get better again, then you learned nothing at all from last season.

Clark was tabbed the top quarterback in the Big Ten after last season.

What I think sets him aside from the rest right now…a season ago Clark was able to rely on the veteran wide receiving unit of Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood. This time around he will make those he throws to better, not the other way around.

Aside from that, there was a point last year where this became his team, and it may have happened very early in the season. The offense was able to put their trust in Clark and he responded. That sets a precedent for the coming season, no doubt.

Comments, feel free to e-mail me at ethomas626@yahoo.com or follow me on Twitter.

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