And the Nittany Lions will begin the 2006 season without Snow; not because of the injury, but because he broke an unspecified team rule in the off-season.
BranDon Snow won't get to play in the first couple of ball games for reasons I don't think it would be fair to discuss, PSU coach Joe Paterno said at the team's Media Day Saturday.
Like Paterno, Snow was anxious to put the unspecified issue behind him. When asked his thoughts on being in the coach's infamous doghouse, he said, I'm not too worried about that now. I'm focusing on getting better. I'm just trying to have another good year.
Through the early portion of the preseason, Snow was not clear where he stood on the depth chart. You have to take that up with [Paterno]. I'm just practicing right now.
With Snow out of the mix for at least the first two games, transformed tailback Matt Hahn and bruising Dan Lawlor will be asked to carry the load. The staff also moved redshirt freshman Mickey Shuler to the position after he played tight end in the spring.
Though Snow said Dan Lawlor is the man, Paterno believes the 6-foot-2, 241-pound redshirt sophomore needs to get a little bit tougher and a little bit more aggressive to become a good player.
Hahn, who checks in 6-0, 230, is more of a combination tailback/fullback than either Snow or Lawlor. The true junior is especially effective catching the ball out of the backfield, with eight grabs for 58 yards in his career to date.
A decade ago, losing a fullback of Snow's caliber may have had a major impact on the Nittany Lion offense. Yet while losing the strong blocker figures to be an issue considering the offense is breaking in four new starting linemen and a new starting quarterback this year, even Paterno admitted that the program's shift away from a traditional I-formation attack eases the blow a bit.
We have not been a big fullback football team the last year or so, the coach explained. So I think we're all right at fullback with what we want to do.
Indeed, though considered a starter because he was the first-teamer at his position in 2005, Snow was only on the field for PSU's opening offensive snap five times. In the other seven games — including the Orange Bowl win over Florida State — offensive coordinator Galen Hall opened in three-receiver sets.
Snow enters the 2006 season with a grand total of 12 carries for 26 yards and two catches for six yards in his entire career. While those numbers are not exactly eye-catching, the 6-1, 242-pounder has always been a blocking force, and he was hoping a strong senior campaign would make him attractive to NFL scouts.
Despite the misstep that will cost him at least two games, Snow is not giving up on that dream.
This is very important, he said. Senior season, final audition for bigger things than here. It is very important.