April 1, 2011

Penn State Spring Media Day 2011 Recap: Depth, Injuries, and Quarterbacks

2010 Penn State vs Youngstown State-1
It's not really football season until Joe Paterno
blows off reporters in a press conference, right?
The weather is warming (unless you're in State College), the trees are budding (unless you're in State College), and football is in the air (especially if you're in State College). Joe Paterno gave his first press conference today for the 2011 football season, focusing on spring practice, injuries, the quarterback situation, and a few other topics. It was only the average 30-minute Q&A with reporters. But afterward, players were available, who also had some good things to say.

Quarterbacks/Rob Bolden

Yes, we're touching on this first. Frankly, next to the injuries, it's the most important storyline going into the season that still looms five months down the road from now. Joe was straightforward about his desire for Bolden to stay at Penn State and be a competitor on this team. Joe thinks Bolden will stay.
(from PSu's released transcript) I think Bolden will be here. That's obviously something he'll work out. I'm certain that he's easy to…I think he's a good classmate. It's possible. Will he stay? I'll try to convince him to give himself a shot in spring practice and see what happens. And it's eight days now (of practice), so he's doing well. He's a good leader out there. He's got some enthusiasm. Looks like he's having some fun. So I've got my fingers crossed.
But if we all thought that was the extent of the quarterback talk this afternoon, we'd of course be wrong. Joe said that he hopes to have at least three quarterbacks ready to go for the fall, but all four would be even better. Two of them, though, have remained ahead of the others.
The kid (Rob) Bolden is who most people are interested in because of the fact that he's on the verge of playing, and he's had a really good spring so far, as has Mac (Matt McGloin). I think those two are ahead of the other group, and those two make it tough right now. I'm not sure which one's playing better, and then we have a couple of other kids (Paul Jones and Kevin Newsome).
On Kevin Newsome, Joe said that he may leave, but it's a different situation from the others. According to Joe, Newsome hasn't kept up in the classroom as much as he'd like, which makes up part of the decision-making process on who gets the nod as starter or even as the first backup.

Joe also said that there's a strong chance there won't be a number-one quarterback by the end of the spring practice period; even a chance there won't be a starter named before the end of the summer. Can you say deja vu?

Bolden and Joe have not talked about what happened this winter. It's not that they're not getting along. Joe said they will talk eventually about it.

2010 Penn State vs Temple-24
Losing Gilliam for another season could sting.

Here, unfortunately, is where the bigger news comes from. Though we know most of it already, there were some new updates to old injuries that weren't very comforting to those listening.

Curtis Drake, Garry Gilliam, Jack Crawford, Eric Latimore, and Zach Zwinak are all currently out with injuries. Drake we knew, as well as Crawford and Latimore. But I didn't know that Crawford and Latimore were potentially in danger of missing the season. That would be absolutely devastating after Pete Massaro's injury this week.

Gilliam and Zwinak was kind of news to me. Gilliam tore his ACL against Iowa last October. The usual recovery for an ACL tear is just under a year. But Joe said there was an infection that set him back pretty far. This is a big loss for the tight end position this year. Zwinak has been banged up for a while, and Joe said he hasn't been able to see him play much. With the redshirt year already used, Zwinak could use some touches/plays this fall in preparation for Joe Suhey and Mike Zordich graduating.

Defensive Line

This carries over from the injury issue, but defensive end is getting scary. Sean Stanley is apparently back in Joe's good graces (at least, enough to get out of the doghouse) and is one of the starting ends for the spring. On the other side is rising redshirt frosh C.J. Olaniyan. They're also trying out DaQuan Jones at end, but I suspect that's working about as well as moving Jordan Hill to end for the Minnesota game (read: not working that well). Jones is a beast up the middle. But isn't all that suited for the end. We'll see, though.

Brandon Ware is finally working to garner praise from Joe, as the coach touched on Ware's ability to finally lose some weight (20 lbs.) and do better in the classroom. This would be a huge asset to the line this fall, particularly if the ends are shaky. Depth on the line was a huge problem in 2010. Ware could go a long way to help that.


Sorry this update is so wonky, but I tend to care more about the nuts and bolts of the team, rather than the drama. But sometimes the drama affects what happens on the field, as was the case last year with Derrick Thomas. And as it turns out, the issue from State Patty's Day isn't much of an issue with Joe, since as he claims, alcohol didn't seem to be a factor in any of it.

As for the depth, Joe said that with Chaz Powell coming back at corner, and D'Anton Lynn, Stephon Morris and backup Mike Wallace making up the rest of the cornerback core group, not having Thomas right away won't hurt too badly. But, Joe also mentioned that Alex Kenney is playing cornerback this spring.

Other than those things, it was a pretty standard (boring) press conference. But any football right now is good football. So I'll take it.

Here's the rest of it:
  • The offensive line is still working on replacing guys like Stefen Wisniewski and Doug Klopacz. But generally the unit is ahead of where it was last year. Those are my words, not Joe's. But the basic idea is that the tackles are fine, and the interior just needs some work. 
  • Curtis Dukes (RB) is a good back, but needs more touches. 
  • Derek Moye could have a big year at wide receiver. But we all kinda knew that. 
  • No comment on Jim Tressel. 
  • No comment on Jerry Sandusky. 
  • Did I miss anything?

The Player Interviews:

Michael Mauti said he was playing in the middle, and will probably be there from now on. Mauti added that the starting lineup was a rotation of him, Nate Stupar and Gerald Hodges on the outside, with Khairi Fortt. That's a killer lineup. My guess is that Mike Hull will stay in the middle as Mauti's backup.

Chima Okoli said the offensive line, right now is "Myself, Johnnie Troutman, DeOn'tae Pannell, Quinn Barham and Matt Stankiewitch at center." No one believed me, but I called Stank starting at center. So, ha!

More player interviews.

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