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Oct. 23, 2007
Joe Paterno PRESS CONFERENCE October 23, 2007
You have seen James Laurinaitis on film more than we have. What makes him so effective?
He's like a lot of our kids. Very much like (Dan) Connor and very much like (Sean) Lee. They're smart, they can run, and they're very aggressive.
He is a fine football player. He might be a little bigger than Connor and Lee. I don't know him that well. He is very smart, very alert, a very aggressive football player and loves to play and can change directions and do all the things that you like to see in a linebacker.
In fact, you'll see this week, this Saturday, you will probably see four or five of the best linebackers in the country on the field at the same time. I don't mean at the same time....they will be there at one time or another.
What is the extent of Matt Hahn's injury, and do you really have a fullback on your roster who can do all the things that he did for your team?
Dan Lawlor, who was a backup guy, is going to have to do it. And then we have a walk.on kid by the name of (Larry) Federoff who transferred from Edinboro, who is a good, tough kid. He might not be quite as athletic as Lawlor.
Lawlor has got all the stuff to be a fine fullback. He just has to step up to the plate and go to work.
What is Hahn's injury?
He's out. He has got an ACL (right knee). He is going to have an operation, and he is through for the year.
We've had a tough year injury.wise. We've lost Hahn, we've lost Hayes, who was a heck of a football player for the year. (Jared) Odrick is out for the year. We lost a really outstanding young kid, (Devon) Still, who probably would have been playing a lot. It has been a tough year for us physically, plus a couple distractions.
Coach, the last time Ohio State lost a regular season game was at your place in 2005. When you're playing a No. 1 team in the country, does it add a little more excitement to the week leading up to the game?
I think it does for the fans. You have to keep your team playing your game. If we're good enough, we're good enough. If we're not good enough, we're not good enough.
I don't think you can go in there and say, "hey, that's the number one team so now we have got to do this and we got to do that." We've got to play the football we know how to play. And if somebody happens to be as good as Ohio State, you hope you can compete with them. Whether you can or you can't, you never know until you play. But they're a fine football team.
I had not realized the last time they lost a regular season was against us. I was not aware of that. I don't particularly look back a lot of times. I can tell you right now they're playing really well and Jim Tressel and his staff are doing a great job of coaching them.
Joe, you're going from playing a noon kickoff to an 8:00 p.m. kickoff. Can you talk about some of the adjustments the players have to do and if you'll do anything special on Saturday to help them pass the time.
Well, I think it helps in the fact that we went from a 12:00 game on the road to an 8:00 game at home. I think that helps a little bit because you can get them back home and it is obviously easier to handle the logistics when you're home.
But basically, not really. You try to practice the same way. You get in a routine. You want kids to come out there and know what to expect in the way of practice. Saturday is a tough day when you play at 8:00 if you're a player. We'll get them up a little later. You have two meals instead of one meal before you leave. We're out at Toftrees, which has really been a nice place for us because we can take a walk and hopefully will be a nice day. If it is a nice day, the kids can get up in the morning, take a walk and then go back and either take a nap or watch some football that will be on television.
So it is not really a big deal that way. I think it is for the fans. I think the fans, the tailgaters and all that stuff, they tailgate a little longer with 8:00 and probably...I won't get into that.
It is some adjustment but not a big adjustment. But I do think it helps, if we were going to play 12:00 at home and 8:00 on the road, then it is a little different. It might be a little bit tougher.
With Jared Odrick out, who do you see stepping up in his place? Has Phil Taylor improved his stamina enough to be out there longer for you?
We've played a lot of kids. We're playing Taylor. We're playing (Chris) Baker. We're playing (Ollie) Ogbu. (Tom) McEowen is going to have to start to play some and (Abe) Koroma, who was hurt earlier in the year, fell behind, has been able to play the last couple weeks. I think we're okay inside.
That doesn't mean they're as good as Odrick. Odrick was on the verge of being one of the better football players around, he and Hayes both.
Hayes was playing really well and so was Odrick. So those are big losses. The other kids are going to have to step in there and go. We have bodies. We have people who have the ability. They haven't had the experience that you would feel is nothing we need to worry about. We have to worry about it.
We have to make sure we give them enough reps and don't make it too complicated and don't start changing a lot of things around and let them do what they can do. I think they will be competitive. And, unfortunately, they're going against one of the best offensive lines around and a very, very, very well.organized offensive football team with just about everything you want -- good wideouts, got a couple of darn good running backs, big blocking fullback and a quarterback who has been waiting his turn and has been doing everything, doesn't make mistakes.
It will be a good experience for them. Whether they're good enough, they'll learn from it any way.
Ohio State lost a Heisman Trophy winner and several other key players after last season but, yet, they're undefeated again at this point in the year. How does a program maintain that kind of consistency year in and year out?
I think you'd have to ask Coach Tressel that.
It seems like opposing offenses have thrown a lot more at Justin King this year than last year. I was wondering how you think he has done this season. Has he done as well as you expected him to?
I think Justin King has played very, very well. You've got to realize he takes on the best guy the other guy's got and he's hung in there. I tried to tell people last week that I was very, very much concerned about the quarterback and that 8-2 wideout (James Hardy) that you guys didn't believe was 8-2, but he sure looked like he was 8-2 to me last Saturday.
He had a tough assignment. He is out there all alone. We didn't give him a lot of help. Later on in the game we gave him some help. And I think overall he played really well. He's had some bang.bang plays. He was in a great position on the one touchdown, if it was a touchdown. Might have been on the two-yard line when the big guy out-jumped him.
If you look at the tapes, Justin must have been two feet off the ground and the other guy was two feet off the ground but he was five, six inches taller.
I think Justin has been good. He is a fine football player and he has been asked to do some tough things.
You and Jim Tressel have a little bit of a history even dating back to before Ohio State. But since he's come to Ohio State, they've had amazing success. How would you explain that?
He is a good coach and Ohio State has a great tradition and they have done a really good job recruiting. And Jim has got a fine staff. He has got another kid who works with him, Joey Daniels, who is a Western Pennsylvania kid who we've had a lot of association with who's had some physical problems, but thank goodness he's got those under control.
And the rest of them.. Jim is a good coach. He comes from a great coach. His father was a great coach. His father, Lee Tressel, was Coach of the Year one year when I was Coach of the Year. Lee was at Baldwin.Wallace. Jimmy knows how to coach, and he has good people around him and they are able to recruit good people.
Ohio State has great facilities and has a great tradition, and Jimmy's made sure they didn't waste those.
Coach, some teams, they throw the ball 50 or 60 times. Other teams run triple option. Would it be accurate to say that Ohio State is more of a "meat and potatoes" conventionally good sort of team?
Well, there again, you want me to categorize people in situations. I think they changed. Last year they were.. with the kid they had (Troy Smith), they did the things that he could do well.
They're not doing some of the things this year that they did last year because this kid isn't quite the runner. But this kid, the quarterback they have (Todd Boeckman), we've known his father. His father was a very successful high school coach in Ohio, Saint Henry's. Jeff Hartings, who played for us; we went out there and recruited one of his kids.
He's grown up. Football.wise, he is a smart kid, knows how to protect the ball. He knows who's open, and they've changed their game. They've adapted to what they have.
So I think they're just doing a good job coaching with what they've got. I think they did a good job last year with the other kid who could run and hurt you and run the triple option or whatever you want to call it, read option. Nothing but the old.fashioned Houston option, but the read option.
This guy, they don't do much with that but they've changed their game a little bit in order to take advantage of a couple of really good wideouts and a heck of a tight end and a couple of big, strong running backs and outstanding offensive line and a very, very smart, poised quarterback.
That doesn't answer your question but that's the only way I know how to answer it.
Just wondering if you and your staff will do or say anything this week to the offensive guys to prepare them for what could be a low.scoring defensive battle so that they don't get discouraged and make sure that they hang in there.
You have some suggestions? We're going to play. It is a football game. Yeah, we're playing against one of the better defensive teams in the country. We are playing against the number one team in the country according to some.. all the polls, I guess -- and we've just got to go out there and do the best we can and see what happens.
If you are going to get discouraged because you can't do certain things on one play or another, then you will never be really good. I think we'll play hard. We'll play as well as we can play. If it turns out to be a low.scoring game, it is a low.scoring game. If it turns out to be a shootout and we can't shoot out with them, then that's another problem.
You've just got to go out and play and find out how good we are. And this gives us an opportunity, when you play a team as good as Ohio State, as I've said now I think about three times already today, then you find out some things about yourself. We're young and Ohio State is fairly young. I think they are two good young football teams going after each other.
I know one of them is good. I know Ohio State is good. We've got to find out how good we are.
I was wondering if going through a night game earlier this season against Notre Dame is going to better prepare some of your younger players for what they can expect on Saturday.
I think any time you go through one type of experience and then it is repeated, you hope you've learned from the one prior to it. So how much, I don't know.
I've mentioned some of the kids who were key people against Notre Dame aren't going to be in there. They're hurt or for one reason or another they're not with us. I don't know how much that's going to help us. It certainly can't hurt us.
Rodney Kinlaw has carried 73 times in the last three weeks. How impressed are you with his durability and is he becoming an even better back than you thought he could have been?
I've always felt he could be a good back. I always.. used to drive me nuts because he didn't have any patience and he was always looking to make .. bounce it outside and outrun everybody, which he did in high school. When he's gotten the feel going for three, four, five, maybe break a tackle and sticking his neck down and get an extra yard, he has turned out to be a good solid back.
It is too bad it has taken him so long. Obviously playing behind Tony Hunt last year when Tony did most of the ball carrying for us, he didn't get as much experience as you would like a kid to get who is going to come into his fifth year. But I think he has always been a tough kid.
Now, having said that, that might be the kiss of death. You hate to even talk about that. But he has been a good, tough kid and I think he has got the makings of a good football player, and I think he has shown that. He just can't get too anxious to make big plays because everybody keeps.. is starting to talk about him and he has just got to make sure, hey, five, three yards, eight yards, 10 yards, maybe you get a 20-yard run and go from there.
When a kid like Odrick or Hahn gets hurt, they have been playing a lot and all of a sudden they are done playing for the year, do you ever have to kind of coach them in the sense of keeping their head up and stay involved and keep going.. keep committing to the classroom and all that kind of stuff? I would think that is kind of a traumatic thing for a kid. Do you have to deal with that at all?
Absolutely. They all come out to practice. And, as I said, we have three or four of them now out there and you just say, "Hey, you going to class? How are you doing? Make sure you keep your head up. There is always another year," that kind of thing.
I think that's a job that not only I have to do but, more importantly, their position coach has to do it. I always keep telling you guys, it is one thing that keeps me going, is the fact that we have such a good staff and those people have all been around those kinds of situations.
That and the medical people; the medical people do a great job here. They talk to the family and they talk to the kids and when they do their rehab, they encourage them. It's not easy for a guy like that. He (Odrick) is a true sophomore and here he is, about ready to have a great year and same thing with Hayes. Hayes has waited his turn.
Hahn is a senior. This is his last year. All of a sudden he is in the middle of the year, having a pretty good year and now he is through playing college football. That can't be easy for him.
Yeah, there is a lot of adjustments that they have to make and that we have to try to encourage them to make the right adjustments.
You said on Saturday Mike Lucian would be evaluated on Monday.
I don't think Mike Lucian will play.
I thought they did all right. They'll get better. Shaw hadn't practiced a lot because of his knee, and Wisniewski is a true freshman. But that was a good experience for them and they'll get better.
Can you talk about the impact the crowd can have?
I hope the crowd really gets into it, regardless of what you say. When you go to Ohio State, Ohio State's crowd is a great crowd and the stadium is built so you really- you've got to know what you're doing out there. I hope we can have a crowd that's really into it every play and they come with the idea they can help us win the football game because I think they can. I think they can help us, particularly with a young team.
Coach, do you expect to see one of those typical, physical Ohio State defenses Saturday? What stands out most to you about them?
Well, I think they will play the defense they've played the last couple years. They hustle. They've got some people that are really quick and aggressive. I think it will be a tough football game. I wouldn't expect anything less. I think they're going to be.. it will be a good, tough football team and I think their defense is one of the better defenses in the country. They're a challenge.
When was the first time that you really got to meet Jim Tressel? And did you ever have a relationship with his family?
As I said, Lee and I.. his father, Lee Tressel, and I...in the old days, when you were Coach of the Year, there were four or five clinics you had to go to. Maybe one in Detroit, one in Atlanta, some place like that.
So we traveled a little bit together. Lee and I were not really close friends; but as colleagues in our profession, I knew a lot about him. We talked football many times. And Jimmy was a kid.
And I don't know whether I'm accurate in this, I keep telling Jimmy, I remember when he was this big, he came on the trip with us. I think he dad took him on a trip because we're going back to '68, '69. I don't know how old Jim is now. '68, '69, he was probably just 11, 12. I don't know.
But I followed Jim at Youngstown. As a matter of fact, one time I was thinking about hiring him as a coach when he was an assistant coach when he was at Youngstown. He and I talked a lot when Jimmy was a youngster, made some notes.
A couple of your players mentioned that they could tell that you seem a little more excited this week, playing a tough game. Is it an exciting week for you? Is that because it is a number one team, or is it just because it is Ohio State and you know it will be a tough, physical game?
Well, I'm not sure (chuckles). I am glad to hear them say that. Most of them think I am an old...
You can't be naive about it. It is going to be a highly-profiled game, I guess is the best way to put it. Hopefully we will get a great crowd. We will have a rally on Friday night. Hopefully we can fill that place and you get caught up in the excitement of it.
I would hope everybody on the team and everybody around Penn State football would be excited about having a team with the tradition and the caliber of a team such as Ohio State. If you can't get excited about that, then I think maybe you get out of it.
Personally, I am anxious to see how much progress we've made. I am really hoping our kids will go out there and just play a good, tough football game -- a lot of poise, patience, play every play and we see where we go from there.
That's kind of where I'm looking at. I think it is a big game for where we're going to go with this football team.
You guys had a pretty good association with Ohio State even before the Big Ten. Do you have a favorite Woody Hayes story?
Oh, boy. Woody Hayes...Woody and Rip Engle were good friends. We beat Woody, I think, in '64. I forget what year it was. Rip invited him to speak to our senior banquet, and Woody came up and he was.. Woody was really.. did a great job and bragged on Rip and what a great coach he was and everything else.
And then Rip got him on the AFCA board of trustees. He (Hayes) didn't want any part of the American Football Coach Association. And Rip said to him, "You should be on it and the whole bit."
The one story...Buddy Tesner, who played for us, is an orthopedic surgeon in Columbus. And when he opened up an athletic medicine facility, he asked me to come out there and help dedicate it. So I went out and one of Buddy's friends who is a lawyer now had been the manager of the Ohio State team one of the years that we played them when I was the head coach.
And he was one of the speakers, and he brought a tape. What he had done is he had taped all of Woody's speeches at half time and before the game. And we played them.. the first year we played them. Out of respect, it's the first year I'm the head coach playing against Woody Hayes. Before the game, I said, "you know, Coach, you look great. It is a great day." We are having fun like that.
So he went in (the OSU locker room) and he said, "you know what that little squirt said? He set me up. "That little son of a B.., he isn't going to set me up." So he played the tape. Woody turned it all around, I'm trying to be a nice guy (laughter.)
We had a heck of a game that day. They beat us. Coming down the end, Archie Griffin made a great catch on a third and eight. We had a pass interference play. Pete Johnson carried the ball three times, I think, on fourth down to make the first down as they came down the field. Pete was a kid from Long Island, a big, big fullback.
Ohio State's got a great tradition. We've had a lot of good games with them.
With the injuries on the defensive line, you mentioned Koroma and Taylor. Would you say they are 100 percent now or are their injuries still there?
Koroma's 100 percent now. He is behind a little bit where he would have been experience.wise and practice time and the reps he would have had if he wouldn't have gotten hurt. We are hurting a little bit there.
Taylor should be okay. Taylor has got his weight down. Baker played very well Saturday.
I think we'll be okay. You would love to have...I'm not sure any of those guys are as good as Jared is now because Jared has had a lot more work. He played a lot more as a true freshman a year ago. They have to step up to the plate to find out how good they are.
Evans had a dominant performance on Saturday against Indiana. Are you surprised how quickly he has matured?
He played a lot last year as a freshman.
Evans is smart and tough and intelligent and everything else and he is from Brooklyn. You would expect him to be (laughter).
Evans is a good football player. He will get better. He has played well most of the year. He really has.
When you talk about your opponents you always start with the quarterback, almost always start with the quarterback, how talented they are, how poised they are. How much of your success this Saturday night depends on Anthony Morelli?
I think a lot of it depends on Morelli and everybody else. We have to give him pass protection and have got to be able to handle some things these people do. You are sure not going to take the football and run it down their throat. Can't do that. They are too good for that.
You've got to change up, make some adjustments as they go along. Not sure exactly what kind of blitzes you are going to get because, as I started out saying, they really are well-coached.
This is not a team that you can look at and say, "They are not solid here, not sound there." They've got a good player in every place, and they coach them really well. So I think Morelli, he can't carry us. It isn't that he is going to carry us. We just got to be able to do some things at certain times that will be crucial if he can do it and I think he will. I think he has gotten himself in a position now that he can do it.
Since you joined the Big Ten, is Ohio State your rivalry now? Like Pitt used to be? Is this the rivalry game for Penn State, Ohio versus Pennsylvania?
I don't know. I've never thought of it that way. We end up with Michigan State every year. Every one of them is big for us right now. I don't know. I really don't know. At least I haven't thought about it that way.
Looking at Ohio State's offense, the quarterback Boeckman has had a good year. Chris Wells, their running back, has had a good year. This is a pretty balanced offense at Ohio State, isn't it?
I think I said that. I mean, I said they got a really good offensive line. They got great tight ends, good wideouts and running backs and they have a very talented, poised quarterback. I would think that sounds like it is a balanced offense.
Yeah, they're balanced.