It’s the week where Joe Paterno often gets to lavish praise on his seniors.
After Saturday’s performance against Ohio State, the Penn State coach has more pressing issues on his mind. So there has been no “senior day” speech with the team ahead of the Nittany Lions’ home finale against Indiana on Saturday.
“Right now, I think we’ve gotta focus on getting to be a little better (of a) football team, regardless of whether it involves seniors or involves other kids,” Paterno said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “… So I have not really thought much about it, what I want to tell the seniors, because we’ve got another game after this one.”
Last week’s 24-7 loss to Ohio State at Beaver Stadium was a sobering result, as the Lions lost their only two marquee games on the schedule, both at home. Penn State was shut out in the second half of both contests.
A big punt return set up Ohio State’s first touchdown and punter Jeremy Boone had to make a tackle at midfield to prevent a touchdown on another.
Paterno said changes could be coming on the kick and punt coverage units.
“We’ll spend a little more time with (special teams),” Paterno said. “I don’t know if that’s part of the problem or not. We took a good look at them Sunday and (Monday). I think we’re gonna make a couple personnel changes.
“We went out (Monday) without pads, so on Mondays it’s tough to evaluate people. But we’ll go out there and challenge a couple guys a little bit so that we can find out whether we really have the right people in there.”
Special teams issues at Penn State are inevitably followed by questions about how the program handles it. Under Paterno, the Lions have not used a dedicated special teams coach, choosing instead to split up duties between assistants.
“It’s working. We’ve just gotta do a little better job, get some better people in there,” Paterno said. “That’s my problem, all right? I’ve gotta make sure we get guys in there that can get the job done. It’s not the scheme, it’s not the coaching, it’s a question of whether I’m giving them enough time or I’ve emphasized it enough and the whole bit.”
And the 82-year-old coach isn’t about to change now.
“When they limit you to nine full-time coaches, you’ve gotta be careful you don’t take one out of the mix and (have him) doing nothing but working with specialty teams,” Paterno said. “We haven’t been bad on special teams through the years. Let’s not get carried away. I’m not about to change. I think we’re doing fine. I think the coaches are doing fine.”
One spot where Paterno is second-guessing himself is with a few true freshmen that might have helped on special teams but have been redshirted.
“If there’s anything that I would question, it’s whether we may not have the best people in there. That partly is because I decided that I didn’t want to use some young, good athletes early in the year because I didn’t want to just put them on a couple special teams (plays). It had to be my decision, and that’s the one I made, and it may not be right.”
Sophomore guard Johnnie Troutman went down with teammates called a calf injury against the Buckeyes. Penn State listed him as “possible” for the game against the Hoosiers, but Paterno wasn’t even that optimistic.
“Troutman probably won’t play,” Paterno said. “He didn’t practice (Monday). We didn’t do much, but he didn’t do anything. …Troutman being banged up, in all fairness, Troutman was not playing that well. We’ll probably have to sit around and figure out what we want to do with the left guard spot.”
Redshirt freshman Matt Stankiewitch, who started the first two games of the season at left guard, took over for Troutman against the Buckeyes and would likely take his place against Indiana.
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