Paterno OK With Title Talk

But the veteran Penn State coach hopes his Lions are prepared to do what it takes to contend for a national championship. Also, Paterno chimes in on "the fight," tailback Austin Scott and more.

No one is more circumspect than Joe Paterno when it comes to Penn State's potential. Even when his team is loaded, he's usually quick to point out the flaws, to dwell on the hoops any potential champion must jump through.

So it stands to reason that Paterno wouldn't approve of his players' blithe talk this spring about contending for the national championship. Quarterback Anthony Morelli and receiver Derrick Williams have been outspoken about their lofty team goals, and other players have picked up on their chatter. That's a lot of verbiage for opponents and other disbelievers to seize upon in the coming months, enough to result in a gag order of some sort.

Or not.

“I sure as heck don't want to tell them not to think about being good,” Paterno said Saturday before the Blue-White Game. “But they [have to] understand what it's going to take to be a contender, not necessarily even a national champion, and do some things that will allow them to do what they're talking about. We've got a long way to go.”

Paterno said there are four segments to every off-season: winter workouts, spring practice, summer conditioning and preseason practice.

“We've had two good segments,” he said. “I think the winter program was one of the better ones we've had, and we've had a good spring practice. Now it depends on the summer. Most of them will be here this summer so we'll see how they adjust to that, and the preseason obviously is crucial.

“So I'm glad they're thinking big, as long as they understand it takes more than talk.”

In other news…

• Paterno said the team wasn't distracted this spring by a police investigation of a fight at an off-campus apartment in which unnamed football players have been implicated. Police have said they are interviewing players and that their probe could result in charges of burglary, criminal trespass or simple assault.

“I've got to concentrate on the football part of it,” Paterno said. “I try not to worry about things until I have to worry about them. I'm not sure I have anything to worry about yet. I'm not sure one way or the other.”

• Paterno said he was pleased with Austin Scott's development but he remains concerned with the fifth-year senior's durability. Citing his lengthy injury history, Paterno said that Scott, the team's projected starter at tailback, must show he can take a pounding.

“The thing about some of the really good backs that we've had is they're durable,” Paterno said. “[Scott] has to go out there every day and get the job done in practice and suit up every Saturday.”

• Paterno is eager to get back on the sideline after having to watch the Lions' last three games last year from a different vantage point following his knee and leg injuries at Wisconsin.

Paterno looked steady as he made his way to the front of the media room Saturday. He said he thought about watching the Blue-White Game from the sideline but decided to take his customary place in the radio booth.

“I didn't want to make a big deal out of it,” he said. “This is the players' game.”

He took a cart from the media room to the press box (where he did the radio color) before the game and made the return trip via the same cart after the game.

While riding back to the
locker room, Paterno stopped
to talk to former Lions
Brandon Short (left) and
Cordell Mitchell.


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