How is Joe Paterno?
Several observers indicate that they have seen "no significant change" with Paterno since the squad gathered in Florida last weekend. "The warmer weather (which has been in the mid- to high-60s) seems like it's given him a boost."
There are no indications that Paterno has limited his activities on this trip. "He's been at the meals, we had a nice cake for him (for his birthday last Tuesday), he's at all the practices, he's met with the media. I haven't seen any change really."
Paterno has typically avoided using the golf cart that has been provided for him at practice, instead choosing to walk between the two fields where the offense and defense are working out.
There are feelings that Paterno may be seriously ill. Have you seen any indications of this?
"I have heard the rumors, but he doesn't look it. If there was anything serious like the rumors say I'd think he'd be bedridden at his age," an observer said. "But I don't know. If it were true, then the guy is superhuman, because I have seen what cancer does to people half his age."
Several observers tend to share this sentiment, but admit they are not privy to information on Paterno's health. As one observer said, "Honestly, I'd think everyone would see it, though. I mean that would be pretty tough to hide."
Paterno has taken time out to meet with some notable people who have stopped by PSU's practices, including Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay, legendary boxing corner man Angelo Dundee (who is coming off a similar hip replacement surgery to the one Paterno had last year) and former Nittany Lions Mark Robinson and Aaron Harris.
Where is the team in terms of bowl preparations?
After two days of single "light" sessions, the team team got into more contact with two days of double sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, which had them drilling in their tops.
"There's certainly some rust with some guys, but the two-a-days were good," an observer said. "The offense particularly looked sharper. It spent some of the guys though. They haven't been through those sort of drills since the preseason."
Thursday the team got in in its first scrimmage sets in full pads since it arrived in Florida.
What is the focused of drills?
A lot of the initial practices focused on execution and timing of blocks, passing routes/delivery and hitting running lanes, pursuits and tackling. "The guys know the plays, the key is how they execute them," as one observer put it.
The coaches are presumably looking for a balanced offensive attack considering Florida is nationally ranked No. 13 against the pass and No. 27 against the run. There has been a strong focus on third downs and red-zone work.
Paterno has also but a very heavy emphasis on special teams work, as he feels that will be a key to the game.
Have Tom Bradley or Ron Vanderlinden addressed the players on the reports that they have been looking at other opportunities?
Most obersvers we've spoken with tend to feel the players have paid little attention or showed little concern with these situations.
"No one can control it, so I don't think many [players] obsess over that kind of stuff, since there's so many rumors it's hard to sort through it," one observer said.
Are there any indications Paterno has plans to hang it up after the bowl game?
"Who knows? I mean he's 84 now, so I guess he could get tired of it all," an observer said. "But this has been the story for years and years; people say he's definitely retiring this time, and Joe says he can go four to five more years. All I know is everyday that passes we get closer to the end, but that's true for every one of us."
As FOS reported earlier this week Paterno is acting very much like he intends to return next season. Paterno continues to talk to the players about using the bowl practices to "set the foundation for 2011."
"If [retirement] is the plan (after the bowl), he's not letting on at all," an observer said. "I don't know what is going on in his head and I'd bet only he and maybe Sue know what the plan is."
Has the team had any down time?
The players have been able to enjoy Clearwater. "There are shuttles to the mall and some guys were taking out go-karts and jet skis," an observer said. "There's been some time to get a little bit of fun in. But everyone knows this is a business trip."
- Former Penn State defensive back Alan Zematis stopped by practice to see the squad get some work in this week. Zemaitis is a former player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
- As we reported earlier Halladay asked to meet Joe Paterno during one of the practices at the Phillies' Clearwater facility. "It was funny -- you have this rock star in Halladay and he was so excited to meet Joe."
- Paterno was "very flattered" to learn he won the NCAA's Gerald R. Ford Award, which honors leaders and advocates of intercollegiate athletics. Paterno is the first football coach to win the award in the eight years it's been awarded. John Wooden was the first college coach to receive the honor.