NITTANY NOTES: Back in Action

Paterno wasting no time focusing on 2009 season after Penn State's lackluster loss to USC in the Rose Bowl.

Penn State football coach Joe Paterno turned 82 and signed a three-year contract extension in December. But he clearly is not looking to ease his was into retirement.

Paterno's Nittany Lions dropped a 38-24 decision to USC in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, and the coach was said to be so disappointed in the overall performance -- by himself, his staff and the team -- that he wasted no time getting right back into the swing of things.

Most members of the Penn State staff flew back to State College Jan. 2. And one observer said Paterno convened a meeting of the staff within two days of the return. In the meeting, he basically read everyone the riot act.

An observer said Paterno was especially tough on the defensive coaches after the Trojans rolled up nearly 500 yards of offense against PSU.

“He's been on a bit of a rampage,” the observer said.

There was another meeting late Saturday afternoon. We have not received details from that get-together, other than the fact that defensive line coach Larry Johnson -- who is being targeted by Illinois to take over as its defensive coordinator -- was not on hand.

The assistant coaches are not the only ones who are being taken to task. Typically, when players return from semester break, they are given some time off before being thrust into off-season workouts.

But that is not the case this time around. Classes begin Monday. And so do strenuous workout sessions with strength coach John Thomas. Players are scheduled to report between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m.

“Everyone has a mandatory workout Monday,” an observer said. “No break this year.”

The first serious workouts of the spring semester usually don't start until a week or so after the players get back on campus. But they are ALWAYS among the more brutal sessions of the year.

So why start things early this time around?

While in Los Angeles for the Rose Bowl, Paterno gave the players plenty of leeway. There was no curfew on the first few days of trip. And he did not crack down on players who didn't shave. The shaving thing may sound like a minor deal, but observers were surprised Paterno let it go.

“I think he realized he was a little too lax,” an observer said. “That changes starting Monday.”


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