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What is the status of Patrick Humes and how are the special teams doing?
Patrick Humes has not been invited back because we thought we had a couple of kids coming in that might be better prospects. If they don't turn out to be better, we will have Patrick. Patrick is coming back to school. We got a good look at Pat in the spring and didn't think he was quite ready. You never know with over the summer working at it and hitting the weights and that kind of thing. Right now we have two young kids in camp and it is hard to get three. Pat is really not in our plans unless these two kids do not do well. So far they have looked pretty good.
Can you assess the tailback situation and talk specifically how Austin Scott has come back from his surgery?
We have only practiced four days and have only had two days with shoulder pads. We had two days with helmets. It is just a learning process right now. It is difficult for me to tell you how far he has come along. He has come back all business. He looks real quick underneath. Having said that, I have not spent a lot of time looking at the running backs. I think that Austin Scott, Tony Hunt, Rodney Kinlaw and a kid that played with Scott in high school, Nick Pinchek, who has come back and looks pretty good. We will have to play it out, but I think that Scott came back ready to make a move.
Talk about E.Z. Smith's status and the rest of the offensive line.
E.Z. Smith, right now, is not allowed to be on campus until school starts. That is a university decision. What is going to happen there will be up to the university. I am a little disappointed that they handled it that way. I had understood that at the end of summer school he would be eligible to come back out and we could play him. At that time, I had talked about not playing him for a couple of games. He has not been in the weight room and has not been around our team since last January. The university says that they will not let him even be back on the campus until fall semester begins, which is Tuesday before our first game. So I don't think we can count on E.Z. right now.
What do you think of Jim Shaw?
I like both of the Shaw kids (Jim and John). They are kids that are all business, have good athletic ability, good size, good strength, work all the time and both are the kind of players that you can move. We moved Jimmy back to defense and John is over playing tackle. That is kind of a switch for us. John was on defense. I think both of those kids are going to be good football players.
What is your overall view of the wideouts and Jim Kanuch's progress?
I think we are going to be better. It is hard for me to tell you how good any one individual is going to be until we put pads on. You bang them around a little bit and see whether they will catch the ball coming over the middle and that kind of thing. I think we are going to be better. I think Jim Kanuch has a chance to be a really good wideout. He just has to have a little more confidence with his hands. He certainly has the speed and the athletic ability. He gets a little bit careless once in awhile and gets a little discouraged because he has not done a lot as a wideout. I think he is going to be OK. I am optimistic about our wideouts, generally speaking, because I think we have enough speed. For me to tell you where we are right now would be just a guess.
Talk about the offense and the defense, which has always been good.
I am glad to hear you say that it has always been good. Sometimes it has been good and sometimes maybe not quite as good as I would like it. I think the defense is going to have a real challenge this year. I think we did some things last year that people were not quite ready for. Now you either get better or you get worse. That is a rule that I usually live by. I think we have to be a little more aggressive and get a little better pass rush and do a couple of things to come up with some bigger plays on defense. We certainly are in a position to have a good defensive football team. There again, kicking, field goals and those kind of things all tie into how you play defense. Offensively, we have to be better. There are no two ways about it. We have to make more big plays. Hopefully, we will be able to do that.
Talk about the progress of Anthony Morelli and what you expect his role to be this year.
I think Morelli has a chance to be really good. He has to come to the front a little bit. I don't know whether Anthony is?? all the business about Michael Robinson. My job is to make sure that Anthony realizes that he has to be a prominent player in what happens on this football team this year because there are going to be a lot of times when Morelli is going to be in there. He is going to have to do a better job with some certain things. Right now he'd be behind Michael Robinson but he can't be satisfied with that decision. I don't think he is but he has had a good couple of days. A couple days of practice are all we have had.
Are you surprise that Joel Holler left?
We sat Joel down and told him that he better get his rear end moving and lose weight. He would have to do a lot of different things if he wanted to be good enough here. We told him about some of the real good offensive linemen we have had here and tried to compare his work ethic with them and whether he really wanted it or not. He came back and said, ??I think I want to transfer,?? which is fine. I think Joel is probably selling himself short. He has the makings of a really good football player. Unless he wants to pay the price it takes to be really good, he probably made the better choice for himself.
Talk about Michael Robinson as a quarterback and how his experience at other positions will help the younger players?
Michael Robinson is always going to be a quarterback. Every time you moved him around, he had one eye on what was going on in the quarterback situation. I know in the spring game we stuck him in there and he ran and we threw the ball to him. That is the first I had seen him do anything but quarterback all spring. He is a quarterback and certainly should have a feel for what the wideouts have to go through with the timing and that kind of stuff having played out there. All of that will help him. Right now, we have a lot of younger guys involved with our pass game. We are just trying to get everybody with the kind of timing it takes to be really good with the pass game. I think Robinson is going to be OK.
Do you feel that your receiving corps is inexperienced, given that the leading returning receivers are sophomores?
I don't think there is any question. These guys (Terrell Golden and Mark Rubin) have probably played the most and they are true sophomores. That is a fair evaluation. It is just one of those things where you just have to wait and see what some of these kids can do in tough situations.
Discuss the personal toll you have taken to gear up for a season in this kind of heat? Is it more taxing physically at this stage?
It is all mental. I am having a lot of fun. Obviously, Sue getting hurt has been a problem for me because it took 10 days away from our vacation. We had planned to be with our kids and our grandkids. I feel good. I like the squad and am enjoying it. As I have said so many times, the staff has stayed together. Even with the problems I have had with trying to make sure that Sue has been able to do certain things, the staff has stayed together with me. I think we are in great shape. That doesn't bother me one bit.
Can you clarify your stance on Anthony Morelli?
Don't misinterpret anything I have said. I have come from four days of preseason practice. I think Morelli is a fine prospect with a great arm. He has a chance to be a really good quarterback. Where it goes from there, I haven't got the slightest idea.
Is it possible that Anthony Morelli could play in a competitive game?
It is possible that you might even play. (laughter) Sure it is possible. I haven't got the slightest idea of what is going to happen. I really don't. Forty years ago I sat down at the Tavern Restaurant, maybe more than forty years ago, with Vince Lombardi who was the assistant coach with the New York Giants. He was up here trying to sign Rosie Greer. Vince and I grew up in Brooklyn, two parishes from each other. His cousin, Bobby Izzo? and I played ball together and I played high school football against Lombardi's team. The only team we lost to in my last year in 1945. We were talking and he said, ??As a young coach, what do you think is the most important thing??? He was trying to figure out what I was doing. I said, ??As I look at our squad here, you have to get the right guy in the right place at the right time and have him do the right things.?? Thirty years later I am reading that as Lombardi's quote - ??You have to get the right guy in the right place at the right time and have him do the right thing.?? If you want me to tell you today I know who is the right guy at the right time at the right place doing the right thing, I don't. It is as simple as that.
Do you have any reaction to the court ruling yesterday to release your salary?
Whatever the University wants to do is fine. They called me and said, ??What do you think??? I said, ??Look, whatever you think is best for the University is fine with me. If you want to release my salary, release it. If you don't want to release it, don't release it. I have no problems with it.?? I know what other people are making and I know what I am making. There are no secrets. What I am making may be a secret. I think the University will do what they think is best for the University.
Is there a specific game where you will know if you have a special squad on your hands?
We are not going to be a special team right away. It is going to take awhile for us to get to be good. There are a combination of things and what I just said about the right guy in the right place at the right time. That is going to take awhile for us to get there. We have the ingredients to have a really good football team. Whether we can handle some of the people on our schedule or not, that is what we are going to have to see. We are going to work to try to get the best combination. One of these days, maybe, I will walk off the field and say, ??Boy, this is a pretty good football team.?? I couldn't tell you we are a pretty good football team right now. Potentially, I think we are a pretty good football team. Maybe we will be better than a pretty good football team. That is all conjecture right now. I couldn't tell you that for sure.
A lot of the players were talking about the different attitude this year of being more confident and less willing to accept defeat. Did you have to challenge them to change their mental approach to things?
I don't know whether that is challenging them. All of my life in coaching I have tried to get kids to realize how good they could be and work at it. Whether it was staying power or practicing and getting better each day, those kinds of things I have always believed. Most people are not nearly as good as they can be. I have always felt that. We weren't as good as we could have been last year. A couple of kids, maybe if I had gotten inside their heads a little bit, may have made a couple of catches. I wish I could tell you that we were going to do a couple of things differently, but I don't know. I am trying to make them understand where they want to go. It is up to them. I have told them, ??I am going to make you work because I think you can be good.?? Is that a challenge to be better? Hopefully, yes. They have to accept the challenge. If they said that to you, I am pleased.
For the offense to improve how much is the offensive line going to have to improve?
Our offensive line, obviously, has got to be a little stronger physically. It has to be more consistent. There again, until you get eight guys out of the box with your passing game it is going to be very difficult for your offensive line to produce the kind of running game you would like. You asked me the question about Austin Scott and the other running backs. With the kind of people we are playing where those great athletes can save decent linebackers, unless you can get them stretched out a little bit, we were not able to do that last year. It is as simple as that. The offensive line was not good enough last year. I think they will be better, but how effective it is will depend on how well we can stretch out some people.
Are you happy with Austin Scott?
I think Austin Scott has been really good. I think I said that, didn't I? He came back and still has a little problem with his ankle. He is not 100 percent yet. His ankle is still bothering him a little bit, but he has not missed one minute of practice and he has really worked hard. I am happy with him.
Talk a little bit about the tight end position. Who do you hope will step up? What role do you see the tight end playing in your offense this year?
You like to have your tight end be a bigger player in the offense than he has been with us the last couple of years; particularly, the last couple of years when we have not had the kind of wideouts or the dominant running game. A lot of people don't realize that all of those running backs were kids. Our offensive line wasn't a great offensive line. We lost Zack Mills and Michael Robinson for three or four games. We struggled and nobody was able to come in and do something. The tight end has got to be a better player if we are going to be a balanced, offensive football team. Isaac Smolko is the guy that should be ??the guy??. Smolko has been a little bit of disappointment to me because he has been very inconsistent. He got married this summer so maybe that will change. I will call his wife (Katie) every night and say, ??Is he behaving??? Smolko is the guy who has had the most experience. Patrick Hall is in there. We have a couple of young kids who we think may have a chance later on down the road, but they are not ready yet. We have a couple of freshmen kids coming in there that I like. There is a kid by the name of Jordan Lyons who is a redshirt freshman and was a quarterback. There is potential there. When you mention the tight end, that is an important part of if we are going to get better. You have to be able to keep those linebackers from running free and sticking their nose into everything. You have to have decent play action pass games. Those are the things that you have to be able to combine with the whole organization of your offense. We are not home free with the tight end right now, but we have a chance to be OK if a couple of guys would step up.
Where do Andrew Richardson and Tyler Reed stand on the offensive line? How have they responded to the difficult situation they were in during the spring?
Tyler and Richardson are both at the bottom of the list right now as far as I am concerned. They have to prove to me that they deserve to be somebody on this football team. They have made problems for everybody. When they got in trouble, everybody on the football team got in trouble. They have to step to the front, take their punishment, go to work and bust their butt and prove to the rest of the football team that they deserve to get in a position where they are going to play. So far so good.
Are you concerned about the youth of the kickers?
Sure I am. It is one thing to go out there and kick the ball in practice and it is another to go out there with 100,000 people and kick a field goal to win the game. That is a little different situation. Until they get into that, yes I am concerned about it.
Is the playbook going to change with some of the speedsters on the team now?
I would hope we have enough people that you can do some of those things. I think we are going to be a little bit more wide open. That is probably what you are saying. I would hope that we have enough skilled people that we can do that. It is all relevant. You can spread people out all over the place, but if the other guy is containing you one-on-one, you don't do yourself much good. You have to have a guy that when you spread them out is superior to the guy that is going to try to handle him. We have to play that a little bit by ear. I think you will see more of a spread type offense with us this year until we feel like we can't get it done with that. Right now, we are hopeful that we will be able to get it done.
Will a year like last year help with players who lived through it? Can you use it as a tool to help the players?
I have to always look back. I know it sounds like I am being critical, but we lost a lot of games. Last year we played tough football. There was a play here, a play there, a play there. It was a catch here a kick there and that kind of thing. I have tried to zero in on that. We were so close to being a good football team. That and the fact of the coaching staff. I had three or four coaches that could have left this place like that (snaps fingers). The fact that they stayed and the kids realized that there were a lot of people that believed they were going to be pretty good all came out of last year. Nobody on the staff came out of last year feeling like we had a bunch of dogs. We just felt that we needed one or two players here or one or two players there and a little bit of luck here and so forth. We had a string of a couple of years where things had just not gone our way. If we had instant replay in the year of 2002, we probably would have gone to the Rose Bowl. It is as simple as that. We didn't and that is the way the life is. You have to live with that and adjust to it. I think these kids have.
How competitive do you think that South Florida will be?
That is a tough call. They have 18 kids back from their starters. They have a lot of junior college kids who you really don't know who you are going to play against until you see them. They are all going to play so you are going to run like the dickens. You make a couple mistakes and ??boom.?? I think they are going to be very competitive. They are in the Big East now and are upgrading the program and the whole bit. Cincinnati and South Florida are both in the Big East now. They have aspirations and programs to put together. For me to tell you about South Florida, I have looked at a lot of tapes of South Florida last year and they have done a lot of different things, are well coached and have some awfully good skilled people. I think they had the same record as us (4-7). I think that is what their record was last year. They lost to some good football teams so I think they are going to be very competitive. I think we are going to have our hands full.
Are you confident BranDon Snow can handle the load of fullback?
When you say confident, I think BranDon Snow has a ways to go, but has the ability to be a big time fullback. There again, somebody asked me ??Do I challenge them??? ??Do I have confidence??? They all cross over in the way I approach my football team. BranDon Snow is being challenged and BranDon Snow has the ability to be a big time college fullback. Has he done it yet? He hasn't had a chance to do it yet. Can I tell you in four days of practice, two days with helmets and two days with just shoulder pads? I can't.
Regarding running the spread, have you changed in your outlook on football or is the way the game is being played right now changed you?
I always get a kick out of those kind of questions. If you go back and look at our team in 1959 when Richie Lucas was our quarterback, we were in a run and shoot offense. We were in a double wing and teams didn't know what we were doing with it. You go back to my high school days and I was the tailback in the shotgun.
I don't think you were running that in 1975 or 1985.
That is different, but we weren't bad in 1975 or 1985. You made a comment of 1985, but we had a heck of football team. We lost the final game to Oklahoma on a third down and 18 when we blitzed and they hit Keith Jackson on a pass. We missed three field goals. We lost one game in 1985-1986.
I am not saying you were bad. I am saying why are you running the spread now?
I didn't say I was running the spread. I said we are going to do some things with it until we can see if we get some wins. That is what I said.
Austin Scott said he took things for granted when he first came here. With freshmen kids who come in who had a lot of success in high school, is it a common thing where they have to get used to being a number?
I think it depends on the kid, obviously. Austin Scott's whole background was one of where his family was not with him. His family was down in Texas. He was by himself. It was a whole different thing. Some kids are different. We have a couple of kids who are very, very high profile freshmen kids that came here with a work ethic. To Austin's credit, he sized up the situation and he is working to be a good football player. If he can stay healthy, I think he will be a good football player.
Can you give us a sense of the depth chart on the offensive line?
It changes. Honest to goodness, if you asked me who was going to be the starting offensive line if we were playing a game tomorrow, I couldn't tell you. I really could not tell you. Certainly E.Z. Smith is not going to be in it because of the situation with school. Reed and Richardson are very doubtful if they are going to even be close in the starting lineup. There will be a lot of other people involved in it. I am hoping Reed and Richardson eventually will be in it and Smith when he is back in school will have a chance to get back in it. We have to play with the guys that are here. We will work with them and get after some people to be better. I think we will be better. I go back to what I said earlier where you have to have a little better balance. You can't ask the offensive line to blow people off the ball all day if there are eight guys in the box and there is one guy you can't block. You have to be able to get the eighth guy out of the box. When you have the play action pass, you have to have a back good enough like a kid like Larry Johnson a couple of years ago or a Ki-Jana Carter when you stick him in and the eighth guy can't tackle him. He makes the eighth guy miss and he goes for 60 yards. You guys remember the Rose Bowl game when Ki-Jana Carter in the first play from scrimmage goes to 80 yards. We didn't block two guys. They are waving at him. It depends on who you have.
Can we expect to see Justin King play both ways come fall?
I would hope he wouldn't have to, but I think he is probably going to play both. He is going to play more offense than he will defense.
Beaver Stadium has been historically a tough place for people to come and play on the road. You guys get three opportunities to win three games to start off the season. Talk about pushing this team to win.
I am not sure what you mean by pushing the team. They are pushing themselves. We went 4-7 last year. We go out to Big Ten and nobody even knows we are there. I would hope the squad itself would push itself. You say ??Home??. Fine, but we also have to play Ohio State the week after they have an open date and then we have to go out to Michigan and play the next week. It is an up and down kind of thing. I just hope they understand that they have to be ready each week. We play South Florida and then Cincinnati. Cincinnati is a good football team and South Florida has a lot of talented people. I have not looked much at Central Michigan yet because I am trying to focus on the first two games, but I will start to look at Central Michigan next week. If you ask me about them, I can't really be as specific as I can about the other two. I just hope that we understand that this is a big season for us. We want to get out there and do a good job. We are part of a tradition and I don't think anybody here wants to all of a sudden just let it go. We want to hang onto it if we can.
There is a lot of attention to the speed at wideout. Can you talk about Mark Rubin?
There again, sometimes you want specific people. Rubin is part of the wideout corps. He is one guy that has had some experience. He played last year and did some things and has somewhat of a leadership role. That is why I mentioned Isaac Smolko earlier. He is probably a guy who goes out there and challenges a people to get better. Rubin is a good man.
What about the leadership of your captains? Can your team feed off of that?
I hope so. The way we have handled captains through the years is different. Some years I have never elected captains. We included captains game-by-game and then at the end of the year we had them. Other years we have done like we did this year. All the way back in the late 1960's we elected. Mike Reid and Steve Smear were captains (1968-69). John Kulka was one of the captains (1968). I think this squad was ready to elect captains and I think they picked three good ones. They all have a little different personalities. Alan Zemaitis likes to talk. Paul Posluszny doesn't say ??Boo?? and Michael Robinson is a guy who really wants to be a leader. That part is going to be good.
How much does having Derrick Williams and Justin King play spring ball give them a leg up on really making an impact from day one, game one?
I don't think there is any question that is a big plus. You didn't mention Jordan Norwood or Kevin Suhey. All of those kids came in January. I think they are way ahead of the game. There are a couple of young kids who came in that we had not seen until we started practicing a couple of days ago that are going to be really good. We are not as committed with them as we could be with Justin King, Derrick Williams, Jordan Norwood or Kevin Suhey.
Talk about Scott Paxson.
I am disappointed when kids go that long. Paxson made some mistakes early. Tyler Reed made some mistakes early. Andrew Richardson made some mistakes early. Freshmen and sophomores sometimes act like jerks, but when you get to be a fourth-year guy or fifth-year guy and are still acting like a jerk, then I have problems with you. Until they prove to me that they are mature enough and can handle some of the things that have to go on in the football team, off the field activities and all that stuff, they have to show me they belong.
What is Lavon Chisley's status?
I don't really know what to tell you about Chisley because that happened this morning and I have not had a chance to talk to the doctor about it. I am also worried about Chisley academic-wise. He was here for summer school and we won't have the final grades until next week. I saw him come out on crutches and was a little bit surprised he was on crutches. I talked to Dr. Sebastianelli and he said he thinks he has a little bit of a tear. They were going to give him an MRI, but I don't know whether they had the MRI and had a chance to look at it yet.
Concerning the schedule with the seven home games this year with Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin at home, do you consider it a favorable schedule?
I think it is a fair schedule. If you want to be a big time football team and want some national recognition, you have to, obviously, have some opportunities. When we had good teams in '81 and '82 we played schedules that, at that time, were rated the toughest schedules in the country. We played the Notre Dame's and Nebraska's before we were in the Big Ten. I think it is a fair schedule. Whether it is a favorable schedule, I don't know. I know that Joe Tiller is upset because Purdue has to come back here back-to-back. I am upset because the last time we played Michigan we had to go to Michigan and we are going out to Michigan this year. Ohio State has a week off before we play them. Having said all that, I think it is a fair schedule.
How do you feel about your bye week being at the end of the season?
I would rather have it in the middle of the year, but that is fine. I'll just repeat what I said. We cannot gripe about the schedule. It is a fair schedule. I believe that.
Do you expect Jordan Norwood to be on the field quite a bit this season?
There again, we have a bunch of wideouts that we are trying to figure out who the guys are going to be. It is hard to play six or seven. It depends on what we decide to do with the offense if we end up with four wideouts, which we may or may not do. I don't know. If you have four wideouts; obviously, you have to have six or seven kids who can play. If you end up with just as we have done some years with just two wideouts, a tight end and two running backs, then maybe he is not involved in it. Somebody asked me about BranDon Snow and the tight end. You get a big time tight end and BranDon Snow gets to be a big time fullback, that has an impact on how you play. As I said, the right people in the right place at the right time do the right things. We are just going through that right now. We are really going through that process.
You mentioned Vince Lombardi going back in time. Is that what has kept you on a fairly even keel during the time of losing seasons that you have not been accustomed to?
I never thought of it. I look at a season and I say, ??Hey, this is what we gotta do to get better and this is what we have to do, period.?? My mental attitude is a little different than I think you think it is. Whether I pay any attention to what you write? I don't. The media has no factor in my lifestyle, my coaching or how I am motivated. So that makes it hard for me to answer that kind of question about going back to Lombardi. Jim O'Hora died the other day. Jim O'Hora was one of the best men, if not ??the?? best man I have ever known. I went through 11 years working with him. I didn't know whether I wanted to coach or didn't want to coach. Whether that had an impact on me, I don't know. I don't have time for that. I have my wife, 14 grandkids and then I work on my football team.
What kind of season do you expect from Jeremy Kapinos?
I think Kapinos is going to be one of the better punters in the country. He is good, fast, consistent and a good athlete. He can do some things back there. I think that part is fine. Placekicking, obviously, is the question mark.
Why should Joe Tiller complain about his schedule when he doesn't play Michigan or Ohio State?
You will have to ask Joe that. What I am trying to say is that everybody has a little axe to grind. That is not fair for me to be critical. We were teasing??I was sitting next to him at lunch at the Big Ten and I am really very fond of Joe Tiller and his wife. I think he has done a marvelous job at Purdue. I think Joe Tiller coming into the Big Ten changed the whole Big Ten. He came in there and a lot of things happened. I bring it up only in the sense that everybody has something they would like a little bit better in their schedule. The question was, how did I think the schedule was? I think the schedule is a fair schedule for Penn State. Probably, if Joe Tiller sat back and had to answer the question, he would probably say he has a fair schedule. He may not. I don't know.
Do you have any other injuries?
We have a kid that is a walk-on kid that they were a little bit worried about. He is a freshman walk-on. He may be OK. Other than that, we have been pretty lucky, but we haven't done anything yet. We haven't banged each other around or anything. We had a little bit more aggressive practice today than we have had in the sense of the shoulder pads. We will go one-a-day tomorrow with pads and two-a-days on Monday. You are not allowed to have two two-a-days in a row. When you start banging each other around the bumps and bruises start to come up and the kids get hurt, but right now we are in pretty good shape.
Can you give us an overall assessment of the team's attitude right now?
I think we are OK. I don't know. Did you guys talk to some of the kids. I think we are fine. I think we are anxious to get to practice and anxious to get better. We have some good, young kids and some good senior leadership. I am very upbeat about where we are. Does that mean we are going to win an X number of games? I don't know. I think we are going to be a better football team than we were last year for some of the reasons we have already discussed. How much better? I don't know. I have enjoyed the team. I enjoyed them through the spring. I thought we had a great winter program. We had a good spring practice. I thought this was probably as good of a summer routine as we have had. We are just starting in the preseason so it is hard for me to tell you just how good the preseason is going to go. Up to now, everything has been positive. I am upbeat.
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