Head coach Joe Paterno, who must replace 10 starters from an outfit that went 9-4 and beat Tennessee in the Outback Bowl, was typically non-committal when asked to assess the opening day of practice.
First day, everyone is just getting the feel, he said. Some of those kids have never been out here. It takes four or five days to find out if you're doing anything good or not.
For the coach, it marked a return to the field without the assistance of a golf cart and/or cane for the first time since he broke his left leg in a game last November. Other than a slight hitch in his step, Paterno seemed to be moving well.
I'm not doing as much as I'd like to do, he said. I'm a little bit nervous, to be frank with you. I have to watch a couple things. But it'll get better as it goes along.
Paterno appeared to be in midseason form during the 30 minutes of practice that were open to the media. He laid into several offensive linemen after they were beaten, snarled at a fullback who made a mistake and shouted for the media to stop shooting video and photos after about 15 minutes.
But afterward he was in a good mood. Asked if he intended to coach from the sideline next season, Paterno said, I'll be really disappointed if I'm not on the sideline. But I'm sure the kids wouldn't be. They'd just as soon have me back on McKee St.
Paterno lives on McKee, and it is where he did the bulk of his rehabilitation after the leg injury.
Now that he's back on his feet, he said the goals this spring are no different than any other year.
I gotta find out who the football players are and try to get them in the right spots, he said.
Here are some news and notes from the first practice. Keep in mind that this was the first day of spring ball, so things are a long way from being written in stone.
All-America linebacker Dan Connor has moved from outside linebacker to an inside spot. It is a similar shift to the one Paul Posluszny made last year. Connor said the staff talked to him about making the move early this week and he was all for it. That's probably where he belongs, Paterno said. But don't hold me to that. Two days from now he might be playing quarterback. Connor is now up to 234 pounds and is carrying the weight very well. Tyrell Sales was running first team at Connor's old spot and was backup up by Bani Gbadyu.
Jared Odrick has moved from defensive end to defensive tackle, and was running with the first team. The other first-team tackle was Abe Koroma. The second-team tackles were Phillip Taylor (who looks as if he has lost some serious weight) and Chris Baker.
Gerald Cadogan is running first team at left offensive tackle. Elijah Robinson is running first team at left guard. The right side (John Shaw and Rich Ohrnberger) and center (A.Q. Shipley) both return from last season.
Paterno said he is happy with fifth-year senior tailback Austin Scott. Austin is fine, he's OK. He did a great job on the foreign team (while redshirting) last season. He's got to do it this year for himself.
Redshirt freshman offensive tackle Antonio Logan-El is not with the team. Rumors that he is out of action due to an illness in his family appear to be untrue. He's got to make up his mind whether he really wants to play football, Paterno said.
Tailback Rodney Kinlaw looked sharp in the short time the media was allowed in practice. He broke one long run. In related news, he has changed his number from 8 to 20.
Mark Rubin's game of musical positions continues. He is back at safety. There is a new twist this year, though -- he has changed his number, too, from 80 to 9.
Grayshirt freshman defensive end Eric Latimore was playing on the third team and was clearly too much for the third-team offensive linemen. Josh Gaines and Maurice Evans were the first-team ends. Aaron Maybin and Chris Rogers were on the second team at end. Penn State is loaded with athletic ends.
Friday's practice was the first of 14 that will occur leading up to the April 21 Blue-White Game, which will mark the end of spring drills. The Lions open the regular season at home against Florida International Sept. 1.
The media's next chance to see the Nittany Lions will be in the April 14 Coaches Clinic Scrimmage.