Extra Motivation for the Lions?

Finishing outside the top three in the Big Ten's preseason poll does not sit well with PSU players. Also, check out their reaction to the upcoming Outside The Lines program.

CHICAGO -- At Big Ten Football Media Days here every year, the conference announces the results of a press poll predicting which program will win the league title. But it only announces the top three place-winners.

So while that gives the teams who finish in the money something to brag about, it can also supply plenty of motivation to the eight teams who are picked to finish at least fourth or lower.

Ohio State, Wisconsin and Illinois were the top three this time around. That meant Penn State finished somewhere between fourth and 11th, which did not go over well with the Nittany Lion captains who attended the event at the Hyatt Regency.

“You come here expecting to be in the top three, especially with what we have returning,” center A.Q. Shipley said. “What it comes down to is we're coming to the Midwest and we weren't put in the top three, and obviously we're going to leave here with a chip on our shoulder.”

Fellow senior Derrick Williams would not admit to be motivated by the preseason rankings. But the tone of his voice suggested otherwise.

“My thought is, after the season we can talk about who is in the top three,” he said. “I really could care less what people say about where Penn State is because no one has played yet.”


Sunday Morning, ESPN is running an Outside The Lines piece on the off-field issues that have impacted the Penn State program in recent years. So what do the current captains think about it?

“All of that stuff was from a year and a half, two years ago,” said Shipley, who was interviewed for the program. “But the piece is gonna run this weekend — the players know it — so we'll go from there. Guys [who have been in trouble] have accepted the consequences and paid the [penalties].”

When asked if he could give a recap of the ESPN interview, Shipley declined. But he did say, “Basically, they are questioning the character [of the team] and some things we think are bogus.”

Senior defensive end Josh Gaines said he did not hear about the report until he arrived in Chicago and was told about it by PSU football spokesman Guido D'Elia.

“But I'm not bothered by it, because I know what kind of people we have,” he explained. “I don't care what they have to say. … I won't watch it at all, to tell you the truth.”

Williams took it a step further.

“I have no desire to watch that show,” he said. “I will go home and watch cartoons all day.”

Williams added that, in his view, the players who have encountered off-field issues have generally been “18- and 19-year-old kids.” He believes players of that age are more prone to make mistakes, but believes they learn from them.

While finding the glare of the media spotlight comes with the territory for Penn State players who encounter legal issues, Williams still does not like it.

“It bothers me to see it,” he said.


Everyone has been trying to figure out who will be Penn State's starting quarterback this fall — Daryll Clark or Pat Devlin. Naturally, the subject came up Friday.

When a reporter asked Gaines who he thought ought to be the starter, the senior had an interesting answer.

Abe Koroma,” he said, trying to keep a straight face. “He has a great arm.”

Koroma, of course, is a 316-pound defensive tackle. Which meant the answer was Gaines' way of scrambling away from trouble.


By Penn State's reckoning, the NCAA allowed each of the three players who traveled to Chicago for the media event to receive $49 dollars in spending money. Interestingly enough, athletes from certain other schools had nearly twice that amount.

The Windy City may be a lot of things, but cheap is not one of them.

So how far did the $49 go?

“Not very far,” Shipley said. “We went through that at lunch yesterday.”

Overall, though, the PSU players enjoyed their day plus in Chicago.

“It's awesome,” Shipley said. “I'd rate it up there with the top cities I've been in. I'd like to spend a couple more days.”


Alas, Shipley and crew were hustled out of Chicago early Friday afternoon. That was good for his family. His sister, Nicole, is being married in State College Friday.

Shipley figures to be making it back in time to attend the reception at Toftrees.


The three Penn State players in Chicago spent part of Thursday afternoon grabbing lunch with Iowa counterparts Mitch King, Matt Kroul and Seth Olsen.

“They're good guys and great players,” Shipley said. “It was fun hanging out with them.”

King, a defensive tackle who has literally gone head-to-head with Shipley the past two seasons, enjoyed getting to know the guy he's been battling on the field.

“It's a fun situation,” he said. “You finally put a personality and face to what you see on film and on the field on Saturdays.”

Thursday night, the PSU players hit the town with the guys from Iowa, as well as players from Michigan and Michigan State.


Purdue coach Joe Tiller is retiring after the 2008 season. When asked when friend and peer Joe Paterno might hang up the whistle, he said, “Joe has to stay around for at least two more years.”


Well, Tiller loves fishing, and central Pennsylvania features some of the best fly-fishing in the nation. Paterno has offered to introduce Tiller to local expert Joe Humphreys.

But Tiller is worried — with tongue planted in cheek — that if Paterno retires after this season and moves away from State College, that he'll never been able to take him up on the aforementioned offer.

“I want to go there for some fly-fishing,” he said.


Tiller's dry sense of humor will be missed in the conference. He had the quote of the day Friday when he was asked what he will miss least about coaching.

“I won't miss going to a 17- or 18-year-old's house and lying through my teeth by telling them, 'You'll make the difference for us,' ” he said with a smile.


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