PSU defensive end Maurice Evans, left, and linebacker Sean Lee share a light moment during spring football practice on Saturday.AP photo
STATE COLLEGE — Joe Paterno leaned back a bit, casually chomping away at a slice of pizza while discussing his ultimate future at Penn State – among other simple matters.
Speaking for the first time since late December after the Alamo Bowl, Paterno showed no signs of concern about his expiring contract. Or his six suspended players. Or about his team’s battle at quarterback.
“I don’t even care if I get a contract,” Paterno said between bites on Saturday following the conclusion of Penn State’s first week of spring practice. “I’ll be very frank with you. I think the university will do what they think is right whenever the time comes. Right now I’m very comfortable.”
Paterno said there haven’t been any negotiations yet about an extension to his current contract which ends after the upcoming 2008 season. And that’s fine with him.
And while the 81-year-old coach is disappointed that some players can’t seem to keep out of trouble, he’s confident the Nittany Lions can survive if they need to without the services of the six suspended – Chris Baker, Chris Bell, Navorro Bowman, Andrew Quarless, Phil Taylor and Knowledge Timmons.
“I want to see their grades and wait till everything’s settled down,” Paterno said of those players, who haven’t been practicing with the team in the spring. “As I’ve told them and told their families, let’s just wait and see what their grades are and whether there’s nothing hanging over their heads so they can do the things they’ve gotta do.
“I don’t know. I would hope all of them would be out (with the rest of the team) in the fall. But right now, none of them are out there.”
Indeed, Paterno’s focus is predominately on the 2008 season and the players he currently has at his disposal.
The team donned full pads for the first time this spring on Saturday, as Penn State made the extraordinarily rare move to make the practice open to reporters.
Much of the attention was focused on the competition at quarterback as Daryll Clark and Pat Devlin traded off reps under center in seven-on-seven drills and some full-manned scrimmages.
At such an early stage, neither signal caller has had a chance to distinguish himself. On Saturday, Devlin likely had the two best throws of the afternoon, putting some nice touch on a deep ball to Derek Moye in seven-on-seven and connecting with Brett Brackett for a 15-yard touchdown over the middle in a scrimmage.
Clark, who flashed his athleticism in the Alamo Bowl win over Texas A&M, wasn’t given much opportunity to run on Saturday.
Paterno said he has no preference for when he’d like to decide on a quarterback – or even perhaps going with both.
“I think they’re all good kids, all have good arms and they all have a chance to be good quarterbacks,” said Paterno, who lumped in likely third-stringer Paul Cianciolo with Clark and Devlin. “The biggest problem we have is to make sure all three of them get an equal opportunity to show what they can do.”
Some of the players who stood out in Saturday’s session included:
•Redshirt freshman tailback Stephfon Green, who drew raves from none other than Dan Connor last summer because of his impressive speed. He showed that off in the scrimmages against the first-team defense on Saturday when he blew past the pack for a run of nearly 40 yards.
•Sophomore linebacker Chris Colasanti, who is hoping to battle for Connor’s vacant spot in the middle. He dished out the biggest hits of the day – though not always at the right time. Colasanti leveled Derrick Williams, who was going over the middle for a pass that was slightly behind him. Only problem was that it came in the seven-on-seven, where contact is supposed to be at a minimum. Williams had to take a few minutes to get himself up off the Holuba Hall turf.
Spring practice runs through April for Penn State, highlighted by the annual Blue-White Game on April 19 at Beaver Stadium.
For more impressions from Saturday’s practice, visit the PSU football blog at www.timesleader.com .