Penn State defensive back Knowledge Timmons jokes with teammates during media day activities.FRED ADAMS/THE TIMES LEADER
STATE COLLEGE — Gone immediately was the defensive Joe Paterno.
The stereotypical and cantankerous Paterno? Gone too.
Those had been the most recent images of the Penn State coach after ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” ran an unflattering piece on the program’s off-field troubles.
But at Penn State’s media day on Friday, Paterno answered questions in a calm and earnest fashion, as he addressed players who are returning to the squad and others who aren’t.
Officially back in the fold are previously suspended linebacker Navorro Bowman and cornerback Knowledge Timmons. A third suspended player – tight end Andrew Quarless – has been practicing with the team in this first week of preseason camp, but his full reinstatement is dependent on his summer grades.
“We’re still waiting for grades on Quarless,” Paterno said. “Timmons and Bowman are right now practicing with us, as is Quarless, but he knows he’s gotta get a certain grade, and I won’t get into that.”
The three players were part of a group of six that Paterno had suspended during a four-month span from November 2007 to February 2008.
Three other players – Chris Baker, Chris Bell and Phil Taylor – have since been permanently removed from the team.
Baker and Taylor were dismissed just last week – days after the “Outside the Lines” segment first ran – though Paterno declined to give his reasons for doing so on Friday.
“You guys get me in a tough spot because I don’t wanna embarrass anybody any more than I have to,” Paterno said. “The reasons I dismissed Taylor and Baker are reasons that the squad knows, and I feel comfortable with the decision. Now whether that’s right or wrong, I don’t know.
“It’s very difficult,” Paterno continued. “Trying to be fair is not exactly the easiest thing in the world when you’re playing God with somebody’s life – particularly with that age. But I think we’ll be better off if we just let it go as it is.”
Paterno said the “Outside the Lines” piece had no bearing on his decision.
Also gone from the program, though under different circumstances, is former Southern Columbia standout Josh Marks.
Marks, who helped the Tigers win four consecutive PIAA Class A championships, did not report for preseason camp and will likely transfer.
“Marks has given it up,” Paterno said. “Marks never showed up when he was supposed to show up. Josh is a good kid and I don’t want to get into anything negative about him. Just sometimes people have to make decisions in their lives and it’s a very difficult one to make when you’re in the limelight as he is – people back home wanna know how he’s doing and so forth.”
A redshirt freshman on the offensive line, Marks would likely have battled for a spot on the two-deep headed into the season, possibly behind Stefen Wisniewski at right guard.
A year ago at this time, the Lions had already lost promising freshman defensive lineman Devon Still for the season with a torn ACL.
Nothing nearly so serious has occurred thus far, with only A.J. Wallace missing some time with a strained hamstring. He should return early next week.
Backup offensive lineman Nerraw McCormack has been held out of practice thus far while he works on his conditioning, but is expected to rejoin the team.
Two former Wyoming Valley Conference players – Ken Pollock of Lake-Lehman and Gino Ranieri of Meyers – will eventually join the squad as walk-ons, but not until fall classes start on Aug. 25. NCAA rules only allow teams to carry up to 105 players in preseason camp.
Two other former District 2 standouts already in camp are walk-ons quarterback Matt McGloin (West Scranton) and safety David Keisling (Abington Heights).
Though he said he didn’t want to mention him by name, Paterno even mentioned that McGloin “has really impressed” him.