Backfield Concerns Emerge for Paterno

The Nittany Lion coach is not happy with Tony Hunt's recent academic showing even though the starting tailback is in no jeopardy of losing his eligibility. Paterno also talks about the status of fullback BranDon Snow.

CHICAGO — For a team whose offense has been billed as one of its potential strengths, Penn State certainly has a lot of concerns in its backfield.

Joe Paterno said Wednesday at the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon that he was unhappy with Tony Hunt's academic performance in the spring. Hunt, who spent part of the off-season rehabbing an ankle injury he received in the Orange Bowl, “didn't have a great semester,” Paterno said.

“He's a better student than what he's done, and if you turn your head, it goes from bad to worse,” Paterno added. “He's OK, but he started out being a good student. I thought he'd be a kid who would go to graduate school and the whole bit. But he's slipped a little bit. That's why I'm on his back.”

Hunt led Penn State in rushing last fall with 1,047 yards. He does not appear to be in jeopardy of losing his eligibility, but that hasn't stopped Paterno from worrying. Said the coach, “I'm worried that he isn't a 3.0 student instead of being a 2.2 or whatever he is.”

The Lions also have some uncertainty at fullback. Senior BranDon Snow ran afoul of Paterno after an unspecified disciplinary lapse and might miss some playing time.

“We're going to play that by ear,” Paterno said. “I've challenged him with a couple of things, and we'll see what happens. He's certainly in our plans for the season, but how much he's going to play early, we'll find out.”

In other backfield news, Paterno said he expects senior tailback Austin Scott to play this fall. Scott's knee was injured in spring practice, leading to speculation that he would redshirt.

“It's a possibility, obviously, but it's not in my plans,” Paterno said. “I don't know whether it's in his [plans], but it's not in mine.”

QUICK HITTERS

• Paterno praised quarterback Anthony Morelli several times during the two-day Big Ten media event, lauding his willingness to essentially sit out his sophomore season — he threw only 20 passes in 2005 — and saying “I don't think there's any question he's probably got the best arm and release” of any of Penn State quarterback he has coached.

“Anthony has been waiting, and, to give him credit, he hasn't moaned or griped about it,” Paterno said. “I had hoped to play him a lot more than I did last year, and I don't think he threw the ball more than 35 or 40 times. He's better than that, but Michael [Robinson] was such a dominant player and strong leader, it was difficult to take him out of some of the tough ball games we were in and put in the other kid. His time has come. We'll see how he does.”

• Paterno said redshirt freshman quarterback Daryll Clark will be practicing with the team in the preseason. Clark missed spring practice because of an NCAA Clearinghouse issue.

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