Joe Paterno gestures as he speaks during his weekly news conference Tuesday in State College.AP PHOTO
There was no long debate into the night. No massive summit involving a dozen coaches and players.
In the end, Penn State’s long, drawn-out process to name a starting quarterback concluded in the time it takes to boil a pot of water.
“Three guys, sitting around a table – all right? – telling what was going to be the obvious,” Joe Paterno said, describing his decision to go with Daryll Clark for Saturday’s opener. “(Clark) smiles. I said to the other two kids, ‘You guys OK with that?’ ‘Yeah, let’s go win.’ That was it. We’re talking about a three-or-four-minute meeting.”
So Clark will get first crack at leading the offense this season. How things go from there is anyone’s guess.
“We’re going to start with Clark and probably play (Pat) Devlin for sure some,” Paterno said. “And the other kid that I really think that we’ve got to give some time in there is (Paul) Cianciolo. All three kids have played in practice really well, and all three can get the job done. Clark’s had a little more experience. He’s had a good spring practice and a really good preseason. So we’re going to go with Clark.
“I don’t want him looking over his shoulder. I want him to come in and play. It isn’t a question of – if he’s going to go here, he doesn’t do this, he does that – he’s going to go in and play and take over the team and we’ll go from there.”
Paterno had suggested earlier in the month that he might not be comfortable designating a starter until a few games into the season.
Instead, he looks to have given Clark the benefit of the doubt, hoping that he’s able to take charge of the team a la Michael Robinson in 2005.
Still, Paterno stopped short of crowning Clark as the permanent starter, saying only that the situation was “fluid.”
Whether that means Devlin will see any snaps with the first team on Saturday is unknown. But Paterno has made it clear a few times that he’d rather not rotate signal callers.
“I still don’t want to go into the season with the idea you’ve got a two-quarterback or a three-quarterback system,” he said. “I think Clark oughta go in there and have a little fun playing. He’s worked hard to get in it, and hopefully we’re going to be able to give Devlin a chance to go in there and show what he can do.”
Paterno said he met with the quarterbacks on Monday to make his decision. Yet senior wideout Deon Butler said before Paterno’s press conference on Tuesday that he hadn’t heard who would be starting.
Both Clark and Devlin are scheduled to speak to reporters Wednesday morning.
“It was very close,” Paterno said of the competition. “I think I made that clear. I think we can win with any one of those three kids. It’s just right now I think Clark is the guy that should take precedence. And I think he’ll do very well.”
For the second straight season, cornerback A.J. Wallace likely finds himself out of the starting lineup, losing a battle with Lydell Sargeant. Senior Tony Davis has returned to play corner after starting at safety in 2007 and Sargeant will start opposite him on Saturday, according to Davis and safety Anthony Scirrotto.
Wallace will start the season playing in the nickel package.
In other personnel decisions, Abe Koroma and Ollie Ogbu are penciled in to start at defensive tackle against Coastal Carolina.
Jared Odrick was a starter last season before breaking an ankle midseason. Paterno said both Odrick and Jerome Hayes (torn ACL in 2007) will be ready to go Saturday.
Defensive tackle Devon Still and safety Nick Sukay, both redshirt freshmen, are likely out for the season with injuries. Sukay had surgery on his foot and Still suffered a broken ankle in camp.
Both players were highly recruited out of high school but have been unable to stay healthy in their first year-plus on campus.
Coastal Carolina (0-0)
at No. 22 Penn State (0-0)
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