Big Ten teleconference: Joe Paterno

Penn State coach discussed instant replay, giving kickers scholarships and his young linebackers

Now that the coaches polls and the media polls have been given more weight in the BCS selection process there has been some talk about having the coaches reveal their ballots. Would you be in favor of doing that?

"No, absolutely no. I think a coach, you know, if it's a vote that it does not have to be disclosed he will vote it exactly the way he thinks it is going to be. Sometimes, if you are going to disclose it you have friends in the business, you have other people that can be alienated by it. There might be some hidden reasons and I think the way we are doing it now is fine."

How much time does it take you each week to put your ballot together and is it difficult to keep an eye on the West coast teams?

"Well sure it is, but I have somebody who helps me with that. Fran Ganter used to be my offensive coordinator and is now associate athletic director. He really is the guy that kind of puts it all together for me. And then if I disagree on some things than we'll talk it out."

Coming into the season it seemed like you were a pretty big proponent on the instant replay. How do you think things are going and are you still a proponent of it?

"I think it's great. I really do. Now, we had a couple situations Saturday that probably could have been called for replay but the game was out of—had no real bearing on the game. So the guy who was working upstairs, I don't even know who it was, didn't bother to stop the game because, you know, we were ahead, I think, 31-6 or something like that. It was a very questionable call and I'm sure that if it had been late in the game and the score had been 12-6 or something like that that he probably would have reviewed it. I think as long as we use some judgment there are some questionable calls that come at decisive moments in football games. And everybody knows they're decisive. I think if we have the luxury of having somebody just say, ‘hey, hold on a minute, let me take a good look at this thing. Maybe one official wasn't able to get in position and had to make the call even though he wasn't in the best position to see it. I think that's going to be a big benefit. I think that's good. I couldn't even tell you how many replays we've had. I know Wisconsin's opening game with UCF, there were two or three in that one… Other than that I don't know how many we are getting. But there will be some plays coming down the stretch that, particularly in Big Ten play; they are going to be bang-bang and are going to have a big impact on whether somebody wins or loses. I think if the call is incorrect, I think the instant replay is going to be the fairest way for us to make sure the better team wins on that particular day. So I'm for it. I really am. As long as we don't go overboard and we've got ten of them a game. That obviously would bother me."

How important is Michael Robinson to your offense?. Is it important to get him involved like he was in the last game?

"They'd better get involved. Yeah, yeah sure. We are playing one heck of a defensive football team. Wisconsin's a heck of a team. Very patient and Barry and his staff have done a great job with this team As they always do.

"Michael Robinson. If we can't get the ball to Michael Robinson or he can't have some impact on the game, it is going to be a long afternoon for us."

What do you think of your running game so far

"Better. Again, we haven't really played—BC was a good, solid defensive football team. Their scheme reminds me a little bit of Wisconsin's. And a coupe of the down guys are familiar.

"I don't think that Boston College had anybody quite as dominant as one or two of down guys that Wisconsin has.

"But they are pretty similar the way the play. They hustle every play. They are extremely disciplined and well coached. We had trouble running the ball against Boston College. I think we'll get better each week. We are going to have our hands full trying to move the ball on the ground against Wisconsin."

Do you think place kicking has gotten worse in college football? Have you seen a drop in talent in recruiting?

"That's a question I wish I had the answer too. There are some people like the kid at Ohio State (Mike Nugent), the Minnesota kid (Rhys Lloyd). There are some kids around, Wisconsin actually has had some problems but the strong legged kids… I don't know. I think the kids have kicked better, farther, harder, longer. Whether we ask them to do more and as a result we may have some disappointments, I don't know. But when you miss extra points you have to wonder how much pressure is being put on them, by the media, by the fans, by their teammates, by their coaches. I don't really know the answer to that. I certainly don't think it's a drop-off in talent. I certainly don't think it's a drop-off in recruiting. We probably, as a group of college coaches, We probably spend more time recruiting kickers now than we ever did."

Have you always scholarshiped your kickers or have you sometime taken walk-ons? Because some coaches don't think it's worth the risk.

"I prefer to take a walk-on and see what he can do because it is so hard to evaluate kids in high school. But every once in a while there is a kid comes along….the kid we had two years ago—[David Kimball]—was a kid from a local high school and we had seen a lot of him. He came in here with a scholarship. The kid we have now, Robbie Gould, came in here as a walk-on and after a year we gave him a scholarship. Our punter came in here on a scholarship. I just don't think you can say this is the only way to do it. If you know of a guy and you have enough information about him and you know he can help your football team, you give him a scholarship. The kid who plays for us now, Robbie Gould, his kid brother [Chris Gould] was coming out of high school and we didn't have—a I really couldn't afford to give him a scholarship and he went to Virginia on a scholarship. He's got a full grant at the University of Virginia. He's a good kicker."

Joe, you are using a first-year starter at middle in linebacker in [converted tailback Tim Shaw] and a guy who played offense before. How is he doing so far?

"Getting better. I kept him in the game, the whole game just about, on Saturday against Central Florida because he needs to be in there play a lot of plays. I think he's getting better all the time and potentially he's going to be a heck of a player. He can really run. He is a tough kid. He is a little hesitant as far as some play recognition and things like that. That will all come with experience and exposure. So I think he's done well."

Now is he like the other two young linebackers you have in there or are they completely different types of players.

"They are all kind of alike in the sense they all run really well. They are very alert kids. They practice hard, they study the game. They're very coachable. They are pretty much three pees in a pod."

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