Joe Paterno: "This Week is Not Fun"

Members of the Penn State football team slowly walked off the practice field near the Lasch Building Wednesday morning, having just finished the early session of a two-a-day. They went into the locker room, and, 20 minutes later, began waddling out the other end of the building, back toward their on-campus housing.

In between, Nittany Lion head coach Joe Paterno met with the media and explained why his troops were moving at such a deliberate pace.

“This week is tough on everyone,” he said. “This week is not fun.”

Fortunately for the weary-legged athletes, Wednesday was expected to be the last day of two-a-days. There is a scrimmage slated for Thursday. Friday will likely feature one light session (without pads) focused on game-day substitutions and learning new NCAA rules and then another full practice session.

“If we can make enough progress in the next day or two, I'd like to give them a couple days off (over the weekend) and then start off (game week) on Monday,” said Paterno, whose team opens with Akron at Beaver Stadium Sept. 2.

Though in good spirits, the coach was typically vague when repeatedly asked to assess where Penn State stood near the end of two-a-days, saying, “we're making progress, but we have a long way to go,” and adding “I don't know,” when asked if he was pleased with the team's progress to this point.

“I know everybody wants me to say something profound,” he explained. “But I don't know. I really don't.”

He was equally non-committal when addressing some of the hot topics of the preseason.

When asked about the unspecified injuries sustained by running back Austin Scott and Rodney Kinlaw, he simply said, “Kinlaw had been hurt a little bit; he's fine. Scott's been running. Scott missed a couple of days. I think we're OK.”

When asked about the five-man race for the second-team quarterback job behind starter Anthony Morelli, he said, “I think all of those kids are doing well.” He added that true freshman Pat Devlin fell behind a bit after a bout with “the mono” and that “I keep trying to encourage him.”

When talk of the Nittany Lion defense playing a 3-4 came up, Paterno did his best to shoot that down. “Where do you guys get this idea we had the 3-4? I don't know where you got that idea. Yeah, we line up in something that looks like a 3-4 on passing downs, putting the nickel in and the whole thing…” Then, without finishing the sentence, he shifted gears and said the team is trying to zero in on Akron.

Earlier, he was asked which true freshmen were making an impact, to which he replied, “I would not answer that with a 100-foot pole.”

He did, however, admit that one of the challenges of the preseason is getting freshmen ready to man supporting roles on both sides of the ball.

“We're hoping to get some of those kids to where they are good enough to play,” Paterno said. “Some of them have the potential to be really good. But whether they're ready to play, you don't know. Pretty soon some of them have to go to the scout team, and that's a great blow to some of them psychologically. We just have to make sure we handle it as best we can and pick the best kids.”

While several players have obviously hammered down starting jobs, Paterno does not have “the slightest idea” when he'll have a handle on the first-teamers across the board. And though the rebuilt offensive line has been fine in the preseason, there are concerns there. “You put a bunch of kids into a football game who haven't played much, you are always worried.”

All in all, no significant news came out of Paterno's quick Q&A. And since he did not allow any players to be interviewed, his was the only voice to be heard.

From the program's perspective, however, no news is usually good news at this time of year. As is the end of two-a-days.

“Once we get through this week, it'll be OK,” Paterno said. “When you have a game to look forward to, and you can start to zero in, it's different.”

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