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September 15, 2009* Courtesy of ASAP Sports
Penn State head coach Joe Paterno was in an awfully jovial mood this afternoon for his press conference at Beaver Stadium. Find out his latest comments on the offensive line and linebacker Navorro Bowman.
And, get his insights on some more random fare, like Josh Hull's mustache and the state of newspapers and whether or not Joe reads them.
Be sure to check out this entertaining press conference transcript.
With the conference opening next week, do you feel there's a sense of urgency on your players?
Paterno: No, no. We've got Temple to play. You guys can speculate. You can talk about this and different things that are going to happen this week, next week, what happened last week kind of stuff. We really don't talk about that.
I'm just trying to get our kids on this day. And every day we go on the practice field, get better, take care of some things and overcome some things we didn't do well and go from there.
So we had a decent practice yesterday. I'm looking forward to a good one today.
After looking at the Syracuse game tape, I was wondering, are you going to make any changes on the offensive line?
Paterno: Well, we might. We'll see what goes on this week.
Joe, do you expect Navorro Bowman to get back to practice this week, and how careful do you have to be with that kind of injury?
Paterno: I don't know. He didn't do anything yesterday. And we talked a little bit as a staff this morning. And I'm going to -- I think he's got to start practicing pretty quick if he wants to play Saturday.
But I haven't had a chance to talk to him today. So I'm reluctant to say what. I talked to him a little bit before practice yesterday and he said it was still sore. But whether it was that sore that he can't practice today, I don't know. I think that's the doctor's and trainer's call. And I don't know yet. I don't think we'll know until he gets out and tries to do a couple of things today -- I think he's got to do it today. I don't think we can wait until tomorrow because we've got some other kids we've got to get ready.
Opposing defenses keep coming at you with different formations and stacking safeties, are you comfortable to throw more than run?
Paterno: If we're effective, I'm okay. I think we have to play each game, down, distance, situations, field position, kicking game, all those things tie in with the football game.
Hopefully we can run if we run into the situation where they take away the passing game from us, and vice versa. I can't tell you exactly what I'm prepared, what we are prepared to do except hopefully we're practicing for any contingency.
I would hope when we stop getting blitzes -- I think Syracuse blitzed all -- maybe eight times. I think we had the ball 67 times. And I think all but maybe eight or nine times they blitzed. So when you're facing that, we try to be stubborn and try to run the ball because I think we need the work.
But whether we can do that against Temple, I don't know. And I don't know what Temple's going to do. Temple starts out with a different defensive scheme than Syracuse did. Temple plays a little different, as I said, scheme. So if they stay with the scheme they had it will be a little bit more balanced than what Syracuse gave us, and we'll have to adjust and so forth. So it's a cat-and-mouse thing.
I wonder if you could talk a little bit about Johnnie Troutman. You didn't seem real pleased with his off-season workouts. But how has he come along and what stands out to you about him?
Paterno: It wasn't being unhappy with his offseason workout; it was his weight. He was up to about 325. We told him he had to be under 310. I think he's now about 306, 305. Because he can't do some of the things that I think you have to be able to do in the way of stamina and quickness carrying 12, 14 pounds more than you need.
So I think he's down and I think he's getting better. He played some Saturday and he may play a lot more this Saturday. I think a lot will depend again, as I said earlier, how we practice, how he practices and how some of the other kids on the offensive line practice. But he's gotten better.
You always say that you like to see the most improvement in your team between the first and second games. Did you see that kind of improvement in the offensive line, and if not, what is your chief concern?
Paterno: It's hard for me to answer that question in the sense of being specific as to one area of our game we improved that much.
I think overall Syracuse is a pretty good football team. I think that shows with the way that Minnesota was able to come back and beat a good Air Force team. And I think we improved in a lot of areas. Whether the offensive line improves that much, it's hard to tell, because, again, as I said earlier, Syracuse just kept coming. They just kept blitzing guys, linebackers and outside people, and kept those two safeties very close to the football.
So once in a while when we did look like we might have a chance at the run it was an unblocked safety. You're not set up for that, really. They were playing eight and sometimes you could look in there and think it was nine guys in the box.
So I think the kids kept their poise and outside of the fumble on the goal line, I think we're starting to play with some poise. I'm a little disappointed we're not getting more turnovers. Only had three turnovers in two games. The other guys, they're hanging onto the football and being careful with it. So it's just not a question of our being able to make some things happen. I think the other teams have been careful with the football. And I think we have. I think we've made some improvement. How much, tough to tell. It really is tough to tell. But I think we did make some improvement.
You guys have gotten a lot of really good contributions from some walk-on players the last few years. Can you talk about how you guys kind of go about recruiting someone as a walk-on, guy like Deon Butler, Graham Zug, any kind of particular attribute you look for in a kid like that?
Paterno: We've had great walk-on players.
Not really, we will look at a player, high school player with the idea -- there's a couple of ways to look at it. We have walk-ons that if we had more scholarships we'd try to give them aid. You're limited as I think all of us know to a total of 85 at any one particular time, regardless of whether you give them $10 or you give them a full grant. They all count as one.
So then we look at a kid and say, gee, we'd like to have him, but we just don't have the aid. So you try to tell the kid, hey, if you want to come and walk on, we have what we call invited walk-ons, people that will be included in the 105 limit that you're allowed for your preseason practice.
So that's one route that you take with walk-ons. The other is you get high school coach will call you and say, hey, I got a real good kid here, he just hasn't had the exposure. He was hurt most of the year, why don't up take a look at him; he wants to come to Penn State. Send us some tapes, whatever you on him, and we'll look at that particular player with the idea maybe he's a possible invited walk-on. What I mean by invited, I mean one of the 105.
But once you start on it, we have a day where we may have two days now where we invite anybody from the student body who wants to come out and literally try out to be a walk-on. And we'll get a couple of kids there. But most of the good ones we get are kids we knew about before they came here, kids that we probably, if we had more aid, would have recruited.
The other day your son, Jay, said, "We're doing analysis of our offense so we can avoid predictability in key situations, the importance of this cannot be overstated."
Paterno: Who made that statement?
Your son, Jay. So do you agree, there's a predictability issue?
Paterno: Sure, I think there's something to that, absolutely. That's why you are trying hard to always be able to do what you don't want us to do, when you try to take something away from us, we'd like to be able to adjust to it, whether it's down in distance, whether it's a whole approach to a game, whether the weather's a factor, which it has not been up until now, we've obviously not had to contend with the weather or a wet field. The field was dry enough Saturday that wasn't a problem.
So I think you never want to be where, hey, they're going to do this, they're going to do that. And we may be that a little bit on the goal line. We've not been a real good goal line team. That's one area we have to improve tremendously.
Do you find it more difficult to prepare for Temple given that they only played one game and it was two weeks ago?
Paterno: Well, we would have preferred to have them play another game so we had a better chance to evaluate their personnel and also to see whether they're going to stay with the same scheme they had, but the Villanova game is a tough game for us to evaluate Temple, because Temple turned the ball over five different times.
They ran up and down the field against Villanova and fumbled the ball. They go in for another score and fumble. They lost the ball five times against Villanova. So we would have preferred to have another look at them, but that's the way it goes. Nothing we can do about it.
What is your impression of Temple's quarterback, Vaughn Charlton? He threw for over 300 yards against Villanova but picked off three times.
Paterno: It's a one-game kind of thing but, although he played some last year. He's a good, solid player. Now, the three picks, I'm not so sure they were his -- it's tough to tell whether the whiteout ran the right lane or didn't run the right lane, whether he Made an adjustment that the quarterback wasn't ready for, thought he was going to make a different adjustment or whether the timing was off. But overall he looks like a good, solid quarterback. Knows what's going on. Got a good arm. Nice release.
So we think he's a good player. How good, it's hard for me to tell you that. But I think he's a good, solid player.
I know you always strive for balance between running and passing. But if the season don't evolve where you're getting more of your yardage passing, would you be okay with that, if you continued to win, gaining 65, 75 percent of your yardage passing?
Paterno: I'd even be content to live with you guys if we win. I mean, I don't think that's even a question, really.
We're going to do what we can to win. Okay? And if we win by one point because we did something that was imbalanced, to use your word "balance," that's fine. That's what we -- we're out there to win a football game. One at a time.
And unfortunately the other guy's entitled to do some things he wants to do and he may determine how you're going to win it if you can win it. So you don't really know what you're going to do. You just hope you're ready to do what's necessary in order to be ahead by one point at the end of the game.
Andrew Quarless today said that in his career maybe things came too soon in his career. Came in as a 17-year-old. How do you think he's matured. And how do you go about taking into account that maturity when deciding to play these true freshmen?
Paterno: Talking about Paulus, the quarterback at Syracuse. I think what he says is probably exactly right, but I think his experience playing is highly visible and competitive as a Duke basketball team -- Quarless.
I'm sorry, I thought you said Paulus. He's grown up. He was a pain in their backside for a while, but he's grown up. He's a good tight end right now. He's on the verge of being better than good. He's got -- he's gotten a little careless once in a while in some things. And that's part of a process, I think, of what he's done in high school and what he did earlier with us. Little things haven't been that important to him, and that's on and off the field, and I think he's grown up and he's starting to pay attention to those things, and I think he's playing very well.
Coach, you had success running outside last week against Syracuse, is that something you can do as the season goes on, get the running going taking runs more outside as opposed to running up the middle?
Paterno: What do you mean? We scored on the outside.
Is that what you depend on the outside rushing game to get the ground game in total going as a whole?
Paterno: I can't answer those questions. I mean, we have an outside game. We have an inside game. We have fullback taking care of the football. We have play action passes. We have reverses. We have whatever we can use successfully, we use. But if that means we can dominate somebody in the inside, we will. If we can't, we gotta go outside, we'll try. If we can go outside, we'll stay outside.
I wish we got that precise and that smart we could sit down and say this is exactly what's going to happen each week. We don't know. That's why you gotta be ready to do what you can with the people you have.
And each week it's a little different match-up, little different situation that you've got to get your team ready for. It's one thing, so your right guard can block that guy, and the next week can he block the next guy. Might get his ears kicked in. The other guy might be a better football payer so you've got to make adjustments. That's where I think my staff has been so good.
They analyze what we've got to do and analyze people we're playing against and what they're doing and make some -- we put together a game plan that gives us a possibility of doing whatever is going to be necessary.
Can you talk a little bit about you've got some former players, Al Golden obviously played for you and mark D'Onofrio, could you talk about the improvement with Temple with them in charge a little bit and your feelings facing former players and matching Xs and Os with them?
Paterno: I think both, Al was on the staff for a while and then he had a chance to go to Virginia as defensive coordinator before he became the head coach at Temple. I think he's done a real good job down there. They've had a lot of tough luck. They lost to Villanova in the last play of the ball game and as I say five turnovers. Gave up the ball five times. Last year they lost the ball game to Buffalo when Buffalo won the conference championship, the last play of the ball game. Two other games last year they lost late in the game or on the last play.
And his kids have come back and been competitive. And that's what we're going to see this week. Al has not lost control of his football team. They're well coached and disciplined. At times maybe they've had some bad luck. But if you don't lose your poise and you don't start panicking, those things start to level off a little bit.
And I think Al and Mark -- Mark never coached for me but Al has and I know what kind of coach he is. Mark obviously is a very fiery player. And I'm sure the kids that play for him at his position coach are going to -- he'll have more fired up. So we'll have a very emotional game Saturday. It will be emotional.
The fact that even your experienced offensive linemen are playing new positions, has that contributed to the acclimation for the whole line, Wisniewski and Landolt that you've moved them around on the line?
Paterno: Landolt moved from right tackle to left tackle. Shouldn't be a big deal. And Pannell played -- Wisniewski moved from guard to center, but he played center last year as a back-up guy.
So I don't know whether that's really accurate. Troutman hasn't played much. Mark hadn't played much. And the right guard situation, Eliades hasn't played much and the kid behind him hasn't played much. So it's not -- I don't know whether that's a legitimate observation. I don't think we just -- we've got a couple of new people that are playing in a tough spot, playing guard. Center is tough these days with all the different stunts and things we're getting up the gut. It will take time.
What about your kick-off coverage, is that a concern?
Paterno: Gotta do better. Better do better. No offense to that kid. Sometimes the kid from winning that game, I was worried about that kid, because he ran one back 70 something yards back from Minnesota, the kid that ran it back. And we were very aware of that. And we had a true freshman in there who let him get outside on the first one when he ran it back to the 40 something yard line. But no we've got to do a better job in that, no question about that.
Following up on Neal's first question there. You talked earlier about making some changes this week on the line. How much do you balance out the need to find the five best guys with the need to build that continuity and the gelling with five?
Paterno: We've tried to make sure that they all work together at a certain time during a practice period. You take the second guards and you put them with the first offensive center at times. We do a lot of that work so they get a feel for each other.
So that if one goes down, you stick another guy in, because you always have to be -- when you analyze your football team, you're only as good as the poorest guy you've got. And the poorest prepared the guy may be. I don't know. Today we could go out there and get two guys hurt. They may not get hurt until Friday. Who knows. Something may happen. Somebody hits them with a car, something, you don't know. So you've always got to make sure that your second kid and in some play situations where it's a little tougher to plug somebody in, you may want to work with a third kid.
So you're in your practice, you're always in the back of your mind saying, hey, supposing so and so is hurt so he's got to work with Wisniewski and this guy has to work with Landolt, and the tight end has to work with Pannell. And flip them on the other side, he's got to work with Landolt and second tight end has to work with Landolt. So it's a question of, yeah, we've got to be ready. Our second kid has to be ready to play with the first group. The same way with defense. Bowman goes down early you have to have another linebacker that can go in there and some things.
And that's why at practice your practice plans have got to fit your squad and you've got to -- that's why assistant coaches are so important.
You mentioned Troutman earlier with his weight. On the other side Barham, what kinds of things, how would you analyze Barham so far? How close is that competition with him maybe getting --
Paterno: It's close. I think it's all close. I think we've got back-up tackles that's close. I think the two junior college kids, both Ty and McCormack, are close to the two guys playing ahead of them. And that's good. That doesn't mean they're ready to play or that they're as good, because they're not. Otherwise we'd play them more.
But I think we're trying to -- we're a project in development with none of those kids have played a lot. Ty hasn't played a lot. McCormack hasn't played a lot. Pannell is just a legitimate sophomore.
I don't know whether he played 50, 60 plays last year. Wisniewski, maybe we should have kept him at guard but we have to play a kid that hasn't played center at all, Klopacz, and they're all good kids and they're all working hard and eventually it's going to work out. As long as we don't get panicky and pay attention to you guys.
A little off topic, but there was a sign on the field last week about official petition for Paterno Field at Beaver Stadium. Have you ever given that any thought. If it came up with the university would you like that at all or would you not want that distinction at all?
Paterno: I don't think of those things. I really don't. I didn't see the petition or what. I don't know that much about what it is to be dead. How much do you know what's going on after you're dead? Huh? You look up, I don't know.
Nobody's told me what happens yet. So I don't know. I think that's up to some other people to decide. Obviously I'd be flattered and I think it would be nice. But it really isn't something I think about.
The defensive line has played pretty well the last few games, how much of that is with Ollie Ogbu playing in the shadows.
Paterno: Ollie Ogbu, my Staten Island ferry? He's a Staten Island kid. He's come to the front. Obviously he's had to step into some big shoes, but he's done a good job. Odrick is the one that runs that show for him. He keeps Ogbu under his wing. But Ogbu is hustling, playing well. He's a good kid.
Couple kids behind those two guys, how is Okoli progressing and is Tom McEowen healthy enough to play?
Paterno: Okoli, he's close. Tom McEowen is hurt. Didn't play in practice for the first three weeks. We're probably going to red shirt him, probably.
Two questions, and unrelated to one another. The first is, A.J. Wallace has entered the game pretty early for the second straight week. Does Knowledge still have a firm handle on that starting quarterback role?
Paterno: Both those kids, one does something better than the other. I don't want to get into that, help the other guy who is going to play. But we intended to play both Timmons and A.J. And I think that will stay that way for a while.
I was curious what your take on Josh Hull's mustache was, facial hair?
Paterno: Has he got a mustache?
You haven't seen it?
Paterno: I guess I've seen it but I haven't noticed it. As long as it's not coming down to his neck, is it?
Paterno: Then he's all right. Geez, you guys must think I go around...it's like that old Nash guy, the guy that was a major mash, call him out and have him review every morning. No. Good kid. Great kid. Doing great. Playing well. Heck of a student. He's an engineer, 3.5 grade point average. If he wants a mustache, that's okay.
Can you talk about the involvement of your running backs in the passing game?
Paterno: Well, they've always been a part of it. Royster has always been a part of it. Haven't thrown the ball that much, but in this day and age you almost have to with the coverages you have and things happening. But the trouble is it's hard to get them in the passing game if the other guy's blitzing a lot because they've got to stay in and help on the pass protection. And the other guy sends six, seven guys and you've got five linemen and a tight end you've got to sometimes you've got to keep them in. We probably haven't gotten them in the pass game as much as we'd like.
In fact, we even, we put Royster in motion, sent him out to try to get one of those guys out, and we end up with a touchdown. Quick slant to him, open field and he ran with the football. I think he went, what, 40, 35, 40 yards against Syracuse. But they're good. Royster is a good enough receiver to be a whiteout. So Green would not be, his hands not quite as good as Royster's but when he catches the ball, he's probably as fast as anybody we've got on the team.
I imagine you don't pay attention to rankings too much, national rankings, but being No. 5 in the country do you ever compare your team's development to other teams?
Paterno: No, don't get me into that. I don't know what we are, for crying out loud. Geez, that's the same thing -- hey, I honest to God, are we No. 5 is that what you're telling me?
Paterno: I don't know that we're No. 5. You guys don't seem to understand, I don't pay -- I don't read anything about us. I get the paper. I go to the bathroom. I take the paper in there and I scan it. I look at it. The first thing I do is look at who died. All right. Second thing I look at are headliners, something that says Paterno is the greatest, I read it. (Laughter) If it says I'm a bum, I don't even look at it. No, I don't pay attention. What you are today isn't what you're going to be tomorrow, all right? What you're going to be tomorrow is what you make happen tomorrow.
I read the newspapers. I feel bad about the way things have gone with the newspaper business, with the guys, with the whatever they call it, computers, getting all that stuff on. Because it's taking away some of the guys, and I think some of the great guys I've known and who wrote well who set a standard for writing, people don't realize guys, they were all sports writers. They were all sports writers first. Grant Rice and those guys, and I don't know it's a different world. And I'm not part of that world. I'm really not. I love to read the newspapers. I'd love to read the sports page, but to be very frank with you, I don't because so much of it is you guys have to base on what you are getting in an e-mail, what you're getting because I've talked to a couple of guys about it.
You're influenced by what people are after you to say something because you're competing. It's like I don't even turn on the television set anymore, because one television station is anti-Obama. The other one -- you like to have somebody have an impartial view of some things because they studied it and they know about it. And they're not being influenced by the guy that owns the paper or the guy that owns the radio station so it's a different world and it's not the kind of world that I'm comfortable with. That's a speech. I usually get 100 bucks for that.
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