"I'm Here. Unfortunately, So Are You."

And with that quote, Joe Paterno began yesterday's press conference in Happy Valley.

Like almost all of his other interactions with the assembled media, Joe Paterno's annual spring practice press conference is an exercise in Kremlinology.  Oh, there are questions and answers, sure.  But the answers usually aren't answers in the strictest sense of the word -- they're more like responses to the general subject, if you're lucky.  So you can ask Joe Paterno a specific question about how Kevin Newsome's throwing the ball, but he's going to opaquely ramble on the general topic of quarterbacks.  Maybe he'll give you a useful quote about Newsome.  More likely than not, he'll spend a minute or two saying he doesn't know anything about anybody, then finish the statement with a short story about Doug Strang and say, "I just hope we're ready for Youngstown State."

And hey, he's Joe Paterno.  He's never been obligated to give you the desired information.  Never will be.  As usual, he's mostly right about the uselessness of these types of press conferences -- reporters have waited all winter to ask specific questions, and Joe just doesn't have answers yet.  However, there are some sporadic nuggets of information and insight that trickle out of these press gaggles, so let's get with the parsing.

On selecting a quarterback:

"There's no timetable. You just go day by day.  We want to just get them comfortable, find out what they can do and try not to give them more than they can handle. Every year is a little different. If we have to modify some things we do offensively to adjust to their ability, we will. But we don't know that. We're going into the season with the idea that we have some really good prospects.  We'll see what happens from there."

Joe trots out this sort of quote even when there's a clear leader at a position, but this year it's actually true.  There's no way to pick a starter at this point, and there probably won't be a clear choice until the Saturday before the Youngstown State game.  It'll probably be Newsome.  Might be McGloin.  Paul Jones, don't hold your breath:

"Freshmen! I don't even know they exist. You can't count on freshmen. Do you want to go down to Tuscaloosa with freshmen?"

So, Newsome and McGloin.  Uh, anything on their progress, Joe?

"I watched Kevin quite a bit just to see how he is handling the huddle," Paterno said. "I think he's made good progress. He's got a ways to go. But he's made good progress.

McGloin, a 6-1, 204-pound redshirt junior to be, saw very little action last season.

But according to sources, he has looked better than Newsome during Penn State's first three spring practices, which were closed to the media.

"McGloin is a good, solid kid, a smart kid," the coach said. "He handles the huddle well.

"Like I said, I'm not sure where we are going with the quarterback situation right now. Obviously, we don't have an established kid who's played a lot of football."

The obvious inference here is that Newsome's the leader and McGloin will be pushing him.  If Newsome doesn't come around, however, Lil' Red could be the guy against YSU and Alabama.

On linebackers:

"There again we've got Colasanti and Gbadyu, obviously, and Stupar are all kids that have played. I'm probably missing somebody else, but that's a position I don't study as much because we're in pretty good shape there. I think we've got some people that can play. Stupar's played, Yancich should be ready to be a good football player, Colasanti, Gbadyu, Stupar. Mauti's not in the mix right now because he's not doing much."



"Somebody else" is Mike Mauti, although there are a number of linebackers who could make an impact this season.  As usual, tinkering will continue throughout the spring.

You think Paterno's relieved to have Evan Royster around for his senior season?

"Royster doesn't have a lot to prove to us. He's a darn good all-around football player. And I certainly don't want to get him knocked around until we are sure what we are doing."

For those hoping that Stefen Wisniewski might get moved from center (where he's pretty good) to guard (where he's practically dominant), it remains a remote possibility:

Paterno plans to start senior-to-be Stefen Wisniewski at center for the second consecutive season unless the coach finds suitable replacement. The 6-3, 297-pound Wisniewski started at guard as a true freshman and sophomore.

As for your previously and currently injured Nittany Lions:

Linebacker Michael Mauti, expected to contend for a starting position before injuring his knee last August, is taking part in spring practice but is not participating in contact drills. Safety Drew Astorino, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, is out this spring. Running back Brandon Beachum may take part in some noncontact drills but will not be at full strength as he recovers from knee surgery.

I'd be shocked to see Beachum in any capacity this year.  Mauti and Astorino will be back.

Offensive tackles, Joe?

"You've got a big pencil and a big sheet? It sounds like I'm being evasive, but we're moving guys around. We argue every morning, can so and so handle the pass protection, let's move this guy around. For me to make any kind of statement on where guys will play is ridiculous right now. We've had one day of pads. We're gonna move a lot of guys around. Right now, I honestly couldn't tell you."

Last year's punt coverage fiascoes did not go unnoticed:

The Lions' lapses in the kicking game proved costly in losses to Iowa and Ohio State. "Obviously, we have to do a little better job on punt coverage," Paterno said. "That hurt us last year in two tough football games. We'll try to find out if some guys might do a little better job on coverage and that kind of thing. … I think that's a high priority for us, to do a better job with our punt game."

Of course, good punt coverage requires good punting, and that's an even bigger problem.  As we noticed yesterday, even Graham Zug was seen punting at practice.  Paterno says he has no idea who is going to punt.

The ongoing saga of DT Brandon Ware's weight and academic dedication:

Paterno was noncommittal about the future of defensive tackle Brandon Ware. "He has to prove to me he's going to do the job academically," Paterno said. "I think he's getting control of his weight … but he's got a long road to go academically before I'm going to think about playing him."

This is a Paterno tradition -- trying to get a player to see his own potential through the power of the press conference.  It's obvious that Paterno wants Ware to succeed -- he was supposedly slapped on the wrist and kept home from the CapOne Bowl for some unspecified academic reasons -- but it'll be up to Ware to straighten himself out.  Paterno's quote would indicate that Ware is at least close to emerging from the doghouse, even if he's not quite there yet.

Curtis Dukes?

Dukes has got a shot. He's got a long way to go in things like adjusting to pass protection, I'm assuming, but he has a chance.

Sounds like somebody who will be given every opportunity to play, especially if there's any concern about Royster's durability.

Rumors, confirmed:

Chaz Powell's on defense for the spring.  Brent Carter and Tom McEowen are no longer with the team. D'Anton Lynn "can probably play corner or safety."  Brent Brett Brackett hasn't been moved to QB.  Shaine Thompson is on scholarship this year. 

A summary, in 50 words or less:

Quarterbacks to be determined later.  Offensive linemen will be shuffled until they find the right combination.  Punting is losing.  Certain guys are too heavy, young, inexperienced, and lazy in the classroom.  Big ups to Brooklyn.

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