October 5, 2010

Joe Paterno Press Conference Recap:
Illinois Week

Kevin Haplea
Penn State will start true freshman Kevin Haplea
this week, after Garry Gilliam tore his ACL against Iowa.
Kind of a "blah" week heading into the Illinois game. Sure, things are getting frustrating, but there were more questions this week about the Iowa game than the Illinois game.

Here's the highlights from JoePa's weekly press conference.
  • JoePa doesn't think this is a "must win" game, as in "win, or else..." This team is still developing, growing, and could end up being pretty good. The hope is the Nittany Lions play better than last week, that's the most important thing for a young team. 
  • Illinois is better this year. They played Ohio State tough, particularly on defense. The Illini QB, Nate Scheelhasse is a good player, and they have good running backs like Mikel Leshoure.
  • The opening quarter of games hasn't only been an enigma to the fans and media, but Joe Paterno himself. He can't figure out why the defense has been playing so timid the first 15 or so minutes of every game. Paterno has talked at length about it with the team, practiced hard on it, and hoped to get them prepared and ready to go from the first kickoff. But for some reason, it's still a problem. When JoePa says a beat reporter is correct in his assessment of something about the team, it's a big deal. 
  • The team overall is disappointed in the two losses, but not discouraged. With a young team, they have a lot of drive, but not as much poise. Mistakes here and there have cost the team big, like dropped passes and not enough defensive turnovers. Those are the kinds of things experienced teams can rely on more. But this team is young where they aren't making enough big plays.
  • The refs really screwed up before halftime at Iowa (as I pointed out in our game review), by not giving Penn State the timeout we all saw Joe Paterno and Mike McQueary signaling for in frantic fashion with six seconds left. Yeah, the team could do a better job getting into the end zone, but you don't need to fight both the other team, and the officials. Though, JoePa didn't get into the finger-pointing at the officials he has in the past after some bad calls.
  • Kevin Newsome is still behind Rob Bolden in terms of the mental aspect of the game, but is a very gifted athlete. Maybe the team could use him more, but the staff is playing it by ear for now.
  • Curtis Drake, and Gerald Hodges had been injured for some time now; Hodges during the 'Bama game, Drake in preseason. But last week against Iowa, Jordan Hill went down with a minor ankle injury. All of them are working in practice, but not yet ready to come back. JoePa even went so far as to say they could all be back within the month. But redshirting any of them hasn't yet come up.
  • Kevin Haplea is the only real option at tight end, as Garry Gilliam is done for the year (ACL vs Iowa) and Andrew Szczerba is still having back problems. 
  • Haplea is a good football player, but as a freshman isn't nearly as experienced as you'd like a tight end to be. It's not the old days where tight ends were mostly blockers. As long as Haplea stays healthy, he'll do alright.
  • Brett Brackett is a good motion guy, but doesn't have the skills that fit being a down tight end. He's much more valuable as a slot receiver, or a flex-tight end. But there has been more work with him near the line than usual.
  • Chris Colasanti and Ollie Ogbu have been slightly banged up, but have been playing well regardless. 
  • The injuries this year have been very bad, more than can be recalled in recent years. Experienced players, too, have been very hard hit, like Lou Eliades, Brandon Beachum, and others. It hurts the team. 
  • Joe can't talk about Derrick Thomas or Sean Stanley, as the University has strict rules about what coaches can and can't talk about. Those two players missed last week's game for undisclosed reasons. But Brandon Ware has been having bad academic problems.
Full transcript, via GoPSUsports.com

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