We're lousy, Joe Paterno said Thursday afternoon at the start of Penn State's preseason Media Day. I have nothing to be excited about right now as a team. I'm serious about that. We've got too many things we have to get accomplished. We've got a lot of work ahead of us to be a good football team.
Paterno's mission at Media Day, as it is every preseason in which the Nittany Lions are considered BCS worthy, was to tamp down runaway expectations and keep the focus on the holes the team has yet to fill as opposed to the spots at which it appears loaded - spots such as quarterback, running back, linebacker and defensive tackle. He did a good job, highlighting concerns in the offensive line, the secondary and the kicking game. Asked what he has to be excited about, he cracked, I'm excited to be alive.
Well, yes, there's that.
There's also the fact that Penn State returns 10 regular starters and nine others with starting experience including two Outland Trophy watch-listers (Jared Odrick and Stefen Wisniewski), a leading Davey O'Brien Award contender (Daryll Clark), a Doak Walker Award favorite and six consensus preseason All-Big Ten selections (Odrick, Wisniewski, Clark, Sean Lee, Navorro Bowman and Evan Royster).
But having star power isn't enough. It's filling the remaining positions that concerns Paterno. Said the coach, We have to play with 22.
In other news from Media Day
Cornerback A.J. Wallace might miss a game or two as punishment for cutting class, and Paterno said he could sit out his senior year if it happens again. You've got to send a message, and there's no sense sending a message to somebody who isn't a player, Paterno said. He's obviously one of our better players. And I think he'll be all right.
Offensive linemen Dennis Landolt and DeOn'tae Pannell are swapping positions, with the senior Landolt moving to left tackle and Powell, a sophomore, moving right. Landolt, who started all 13 games at right tackle last season, will be watching Clark's blindside. I don't think there's any question the left tackle has to be a little bit better as a pass-protector, Paterno said. Landolt is a better tackle than Pannell right now.
There's still no final decision on whether Lee will play inside or outside linebacker. It's possible he will play both. We've got some flexibility there, Paterno said. We're really just waiting to see how some the younger kids -[Michael] Mauti, [Nathan] Stupar, [Bani] Gbadyu and those kids - come along, and where we'll plug them in as backups before we make a decision on the top three.
Offensive guard J.B. Walton is no longer at Penn State. Paterno said the redshirt sophomore from Indian Head, Md., was diagnosed with a learning disability that Penn State was ill-equipped to help him overcome. Walton could be a really good football player, Paterno said, but we couldn't do the job for him academically that I think he's entitled to.