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Paterno has lots on plate

JoePa has personnel, scheduling and player legal issues to deal with before team starts getting ready for the Alamo Bowl.

Penn State’s Alamo Bowl matchup with Texas A&M isn’t for another 15 days, but there’s been plenty outside of that game that has kept Joe Paterno busy.

Since dropping the regular season finale to Michigan State on Nov. 17 – causing Penn State to drop down to the Alamo Bowl in the bowl pecking order – there’s been plenty to deal with.

Paterno was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, safeties coach Brian Norwood left for another job, scheduling changes have been announced and Penn State players continue to deal with previous legal problems.

Not much time to gameplan for the Aggies so far.

In turn, little of Paterno’s pre-Alamo Bowl press conference on Thursday at the Lasch Building dealt with the actual Alamo Bowl.

First on the docket was the departure of Norwood, who accepted a job as defensive coordinator at Baylor under newly hired coach Art Briles. Norwood has some ties to Texas, as he spent a year as defensive backs coach at Texas Tech before coming to Penn State in 2001. Briles was also an assistant with the Red Raiders while Norwood was there.

Replacing him is Kermit Buggs, who was serving as the team’s coordinator of player personnel and development, and has been with the program for five years, previously as a graduate assistant.

“Brian’s been a really good asset to my staff and to me,” Paterno said. “He’s been a good recruiter, good coach. His family has been a great addition to the community, and I’m going to miss him.

“But Kermit Buggs has been a guy that came here as a G.A., and I liked him. I liked the way he worked, I liked the things he did. He’s bright. He stayed close to the program even though he was not on the field, and I think Kermit will do an excellent job. So you hate to lose a guy like Brian, but I’m glad we have a guy like Kermit hanging in the wing.”

Buggs has already taken over his new role, as Norwood will not be with the team while preparing for the bowl game.

Norwood’s son Jordan, one of the team’s three regular wideouts, has one year of eligibility remaining.

Also related to Norwood, the Nittany Lions recently received a verbal commitment from D’Anton Lynn, a defensive back prospect from Celina, Texas, whom Norwood primarily recruited.

It’s still uncertain if Norwood’s move will affect Lynn’s decision to formally sign with the Lions in February.

Paterno also addressed two scheduling changes – one for next season and another long-term change in the Big Ten.

In an effort to bolster an apathy-inducing 2008 non-conference schedule (Coastal Carolina, Arkansas State, Syracuse, Temple) the Lions and Oregon State signed a one-game deal at Beaver Stadium on Sept. 6, replacing Arkansas State on the schedule – a move Paterno called “a good addition.”

The Big Ten presidents also voted recently to allow their football teams to schedule games past Thanksgiving, effective for next season, allowing the schools to play 12 games every year and still have an opportunity to have a bye week. It’s a change Paterno has been a strong proponent of the past two seasons in which Penn State has played 12 games in 12 weeks.

“I think we need it,” Paterno said. “You sit around and you watch every other conference in the country (that plays past Thanksgiving). … I like the idea it brought out things academically as well as physically. Everybody has a chance to have a couple of days off. It’s a good move.”

On the disciplinary front, Paterno said defensive tackle Chris Baker and Knowledge Timmons – both of whom didn’t travel with the team to Michigan State because of their alleged roles in an on-campus altercation in October – will make the trip to San Antonio. Paterno said he hadn’t decided yet if either will play.

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