Joe Paterno News Conference

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March 30, 2009

University Park, Pa., -

How is the hip? Great. I was a little concerned about whether I needed a little help at practice but I wanted to go over for a couple of hours the other day...no problems whatsoever. Tommy (Venturino) had a golf cart out there in case I got tired, but I feel great, I really do. I'm not sure about from the neck up, but from the neck down I'm okay.

Do you plan to be on the field next year? Right now, I think I'm 100 percent. I feel good, I really do.

Did you do anything special for rehab? Well, they gave me some exercises and things. My problem at the ballgame (Rose Bowl) was the fact that I didn't know whether I could handle standing up two, three hours and I hadn't been able to do it in practice. But after three months, I've been doing exercises and things like that. I'm fine really. I think that's a dead issue, really.

How did the game vs. USC influence the winter and off-season program? We didn't play well, we didn't coach well and I walked away from it not feeling very good about anything and I think we can do better.

Has this been one of the hardest winter workouts? You'd have to ask them. Well, I got all young players. We've got some young kids who have never really had to muster and some of them have been overweight and things like that so I felt we had to zero in on getting those people to understand what it's going to take for us to be a good football team. I thought we've had a good winter program, I really do.

With the loss of the veterans, how important is the spring? Well, that's exactly right. You lose what, 15, 16 starters? What'd we lose - three wideouts who carried us for a couple of years, three, four years, and a secondary? We lost three really fine offensive linemen. We've had those three kids leave, Maybin, Evans, and the then the other kid who graduated (Josh Gaines) who was really an unheralded kid who played as well as either Evans or Maybin. He was solid. So, that's one of the reasons we needed a good, tough winter program so we could go into spring practice and have a big time spring practice. We've only had one day and that's without pads and we're going to go today without pads because that's an NCAA regulation. The first few days you have to go with pads and the three of the 15 (practices) you've got to work without pads.

 

 

Do you plan on trying people at different positions in the secondary? Right now we've tried to determine by watching them in the winter program and things like that. We're doing some agility drills and things you're allowed to do [since] you can't do anything with a football. But there are a lot of things you can do to evaluate kids; how they change direction, jumping and things of that sort. And we try to plug each kid in. We spend an awful lot of time talking personnel on our staff, mainly because, I think, as I've said to you guys many times, I think the toughest job in college particularly is getting the right guys, in the right place, doing the right things, the things they can do. So we spend a lot of time doing that, but I don't think we're going to make many changes now. I think we've got them all pretty much where we want them.

Do you feel more pressure coaching a young team? I don't know whether they call it pressure. I like to coach and I'm fortunate enough, as I've said to you guys and you've heard me say this so many times, I've got a great staff and I like to teach and coach and I don't have to worry about little details because they're there to do a great job. The last two years I've not been that much help to them on the practice field and they've done a heck of a job. Hopefully I can do a little bit more this year; I'm looking forward to it.

Of those areas where you did lose veterans, is there one area that you think you need to prioritize in finding a replacement? I think we have some young kids who can do it. We've lost some kids but, until you really put them through...as I said, we had a fine winter program, that's a start. The first day of practice without pads was enthusiastic and I thought it was good. Today is the second day of practice. We're going to go without pads, which we have to, as I just said. But I think we've got some good young kids. Hopefully we have it and I think we have a good freshmen group coming in; some kids who won't be out there. Three or four of them will be out there, but that started in January. So, we've got a lot of work ahead of us, but I don't think it's a situation where we can't be a good football team.

Were you worried about losing Larry Johnson to Illinois? Sure I was worried about losing Larry to Illinois. I couldn't promise him Defensive Coordinator or anything like that which he had out there. But, I tried to tell him I felt that it was important, we wanted him to stay and I'd like him to stay and I felt that if the time came that he wanted to be a head coach, [then] maybe he didn't have to be a coordinator because I think Larry would like to be a head coach and I think he's capable of being a really fine head coach. Jimmy Caldwell was here, was not a coordinator, went from here to head coach at Wake Forest and I tried to tell him that and I was delighted he decided to stay. Larry's done a good job for us.

It sounds like Sean Lee is going to be held out of contact. How hard is it going to be to hold him back from contact drills? He doesn't have to prove anything to us. We know Lee is a good football player. We have some young kids that we have to find out some things about. After we get done kicking the ball, we'll be out there for another two hours in in that period you only get some reps that you can do. Instead of getting kids that you know what they can do, we're trying to find out about some other kids. You still need some good kids to challenge the younger guys so they get an idea of what it's going to take. Sean's been great. He's one of the best kids I've ever coached and I don't mean just out on the field. He's out there coaching kids. He's done everything so far. I'm going to try and keep him out of contact.

How do you feel about building quarterback depth behind Daryll Clark? We have three kids who are working; the kid who came in as a walk-on from Scranton, (Matthew) McGloin, who I like, and (Kevin) Newsome who came here as a true freshman. There are a couple of other kids out there who we won't be able to give as many shots to as I would like to. So you work with the three. Jay will work with them and Clark will be a good leader. Clark has assumed a strong leadership role and that part will take care of itself. They'll mimic Clark. That's one thing that's good about having a guy that's had some success; you can mimic him.

Has Odrick's status changed after getting in trouble? Jared has been a pretty good kid. He called me up the next day after it happened and we talked about it. Obviously, it was Saturday night and he had too much to drink. Right now he's OK, but you only get so many shots.

Where is Brandon Ware at in terms of his weight? Brandon Ware is at 345 pounds. We want him to be at 320 pounds. Ware has had some back problems. He practiced the other day but he missed some winter workouts in the sense that he missed some drills. We have bikes out there that they pump when they can't run. I haven't seen enough of him. That's why there's spring practice. It's kind of a fun time. You just have to keep taking looks at different guys. Brandon has something about him. I think he has a chance of being a good football player. He has to lose some weight and to his credit, he has lost some. He was at 360 pounds at one point. He's down around 340 pounds. I'd like to seem him around 320 pounds.

What does the contract clause mean? It doesn't mean a thing as far as I'm concerned. I have a contract. I didn't even want a contract. I haven't even read the thing. In fact, I don't even know what you are talking about.

How do you feel about the wide receiver position? (Derek) Moye doesn't have a lot of experience. (Graham) Zug and (Brett) Brackett do. I don't know. I told Guido (D'Elia), I don't even know why we are having a press conference. I have to see these guys. I think there's potential there. We have four or five kids. You guys mentioned (Chaz) Powell; he might be the most gifted of them all, but I have to see if he can catch the ball consistently. He has great speed. I'm in the dark as much as you guys are. I wish I could tell you, "this guy, this guy, this guy." I can't. I can't even tell you what our first string offensive line is going to be.

Have you talked to Bobby Bowden about (the possibility of him ) losing wins? Bobby is a good guy and has been a great coach. Nobody wants to win by default. I don't think that's Bobby's fault. I don't think Bobby had much to do with what happened. We played Oklahoma in 1971 (1972 Sugar Bowl). They had an ineligible guy and had to forfeit the game. I've never taken credit for the game. You guys have to write stories, but I don't care. I just hope people don't distort what a great coach Bobby Bowden has been, which he has.

Is the placekicking job wide open? I think somebody would have to take over Collin Wagner. Wagner did a good job last year.

How comfortable are you with (Stefen) Wisniewski moving to center? He was a back-up center last year. He played guard and center. He's a smart kid and I think he can do both. Wisniewski comes from a football family. His uncle and father were great football players here. Young Wisniewski will be fine.

Can you talk about backup quarterback position? Right now there are two kids that I'm working with. There's McGloin, who's from the Scranton area. He did a great job on our scout team last year. And Newsome, the kid who started in January.

Will you hold anyone out of spring practice due to injury? Lee probably. I think we have to play that by ear if we have a tough scrimmage. (Doug) Klopacz isn't going to be able to go green. We have a whole mess of kids; (Brent) Carter, (Stephfon) Green, (Jerome) Hayes, and Klopacz We have 10 kids that can't go; five are walk-ons.

Are you thinking about Sean Lee as a middle linebacker? One of the things about keeping him out is that it gives us a chance to look at all the other kids. We've got some really good athletes at linebacker. Whether they're good football players, I don't know yet. But as far as watching them do things and timing and things like that, we've got some pretty good athletes. Lee can play inside or outside. Lee's darn near good enough to be a strong safety athletically, so you may be tempted to play him outside. Right now, if we were going to suit up tomorrow he'd probably play inside, until we find out some things about the other kids.

Why did you bring Sean Lee on the road last year when he was hurt? We brought him along because he has so many leadership qualities. He roomed with another kid and the whole bit, and I felt we owed it to him. He's just been such a good kid, so we brought him along. It cost us one of the numbers we were allowed to take on the road but we weren't really forced into a situation where we had to leave somebody home that should go in order to take Sean, so it really wasn't a problem. Sean, as I said, is mature, he's been around, knows the game and he has a great way with people. He's a real asset off the field as well as on the field.

(Drew) Astorino and (A.J.) Wallace -- how much will they be asked to provide leadership? They've got to go out there and practice, they've got to do well, they've got to help. We aren't going to coach them as much as we're going to coach some kid who hasn't even been in there. They've got to know how to line up; they've got to know the adjustments. All the sudden you've got a formation that the defensive coverage isn't ready to handle and you've got to change it. A guy like Astorino has got to call out, "White! White! White!" White changes the whole coverage. Red changes the coverage to something else. These young guys don't know that. That's all part of what we've got to go through.

What was your reaction to (Aaron) Maybin and (Maurice) Evans going into the NFL Draft? Well, I knew Maybin was, but I didn't know Evans would go. I hope they made the right decision. You never know. They get hooked up with people, and again this sounds like I'm being critical of someone else's professions, but I think the scouts tell them what they want to hear. I can't even stand to look at some of the stuff on television anymore when some guy gets up there and says, "This guy is the number one corner, and I like this guy because he moves his hips and he does this." It's starting now in high school. I've got nine guys that have looked at thousands of films and then you get some guy who is running his mouth, I don't even look at them. "This guys a number four, a number five." The same thing I think goes with the Pros. If I could have talked Maybin into staying I would have tried to. But he was just as determined to go as his family was. And Evans, I talked to Evans' mom and I said maybe it would be better for him if he stayed, I think he might go higher, but whether he's a three or a one there's still a lot of big money. She had good reasons why she thought he ought to go. And of course I say, "good luck, we'll help him anything we can," same thing with Maybin. They're both good kids, they did a good job for us and I hope that things work out for them.

What was the importance of getting Newsome here early? I'm glad Newsome is here; I think that's a big help. Obviously right when (Pat) Devlin left, until the end of the year, I had no idea he was thinking about transferring. A lot of the kids on the team said to me afterwards that they knew he was going to transfer. Which is fine, he's got to do what's best for him. We're in the business of trying to help people, not hurt them. But I do think the fact that Newsome was able to come in January will help. It will help him and it will help us. But he's still got to beat out McGloin.

Who is getting looks as a kick-returner? I think Powell will be one of the guys we will look at; we'll look at a couple other kids. We're going to spend a lot of time on the kicking game this spring for that reason. Although, we've got (Jeremy) Boone back as a punter and we've got the long snapper back (Andrew Pitz) , so I think we're in pretty good shape. I think there's some little things there we ought to be looking at and one of them is who is going to be our return guy.

Has (Daryll) Clark changed from last spring to this spring? I haven't seen much of him this spring. We've only had one practice. Obviously, he has a lot more confidence. He has been a leader in the winter program. I can't recall if he was last year or not. He was fighting for the job with Devlin a year ago. Right now he knows that there are an awful lot of people depending on him to be the guy to get things done. If you asked me what the difference is between the middle of last year and now, nothing. If you ask me what's the difference between last spring and this spring, I really can't tell you. Once he established himself as the quarterback, he has been a leader on the football field. He established himself last year during the season.

How do you like the trend of early enrollees? I don't really like the trend. For us it's good that we got the quarterback (Kevin Newsome); I'd be dishonest if I told you otherwise. The rest is being selfish. I've told kids, "it your last year of high school. You only go to high school once. There's the senior prom and a bunch of buddies that you're going to know the rest of your life." I'm not really crazy about the idea. It has been helpful. I'd be dishonest if I said we haven't taken advantage of it when it's appropriate. In the back of my head I'm not crazy about it. Everyone now is speeding up things and that, getting into the pros. Kids want to grow-up and mature. As you know, I'm more of a traditionalist and conservative. Having said that, I graduated in January from high school. It's how it was. You started and then they had graduating class at the Jesuit high school I went to and then I went off to college before I got drafted into the Army. I went to my prom. The girl I took wasn't happy that I stayed (laughter).

How will the losses on the Offensive line and receiver affect what you can do on offense? We're not going to go into it with the idea that it's going to affect us. A lot of those kids have been around. We have a quarterback that has been here and wideouts that have played a lot of football. Zug and Brackett know what's going on. Powell has played some and Moye hasn't played a lot, but he's been around. We don't want to change a lot but we'll do what we have to do.

One thing before I go. I hope you guys are giving this basketball team a little bit of attention. We don't play a game for 100 days and they have a big game coming up Tuesday. I hope you guys talk about what a great job Eddie (DeChellis) and staff have done with those kids. They've played some great basketball games. I am going to New York on Tuesday. I played in the preliminary of the NIT in the old Garden up on 48th Street. I played six or seven games in high school up there. I saw City College (CCNY) win the NIT and then they won the NCAA in the same year (1950). I saw George Mikan come into the Garden. He was the first big guy and we all thought he was a freak. He was 6'9". The next year, Bobby Kurland came in from Oklahoma and was 7' tall. We thought he was a freak. I saw Hank Lacetti come in the Garden and shoot. That was the first time I saw anybody shoot one-handed. I saw West Virginia win in the NIT (1942) with this big fat kid by the name of Scotty Hamilton. He could hardly dribble down the court. That was before any of you guys were born. I was teasing my kids, I said, "you know when I played in the Garden, this is how we shot (mimics shooting under-handed free throw)."

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