Joe Paterno held his weekly press conference on Tuesday in State College. Penn State travels to Evanston, Ill. on Saturday to play Northwestern.AP PHOTO
It started with an offhand comment by Joe Paterno, who was discussing his team’s leadership.
Among the names the Penn State coach listed was senior defensive tackle Jared Odrick, “who doesn’t really get the kind of credit he should,” Paterno said Tuesday at his weekly press conference.
He was later asked to clarify if he thought Odrick was underrated as a leader, or a football player as well.
“As a football player,” Paterno said before going on the offensive in promoting some of his upperclassmen. “I think he’s a heck of a football player. He’s a heck of a leader in practice. I think he’s a leader in the game. He makes plays when they have to be made.
“I just don’t think some of the kids have gotten quite the credit they should get. I don’t think (quarterback Daryll) Clark has gotten anywhere near the kind of credit he should have, after the season he had last year and the kind of season he’s having this year. And we’ve talked about (linebacker Navorro) Bowman. I think Bowman was the same way. Bowman was hurt by the fact that he didn’t play early.”
Despite Clark having just been named a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s best quarterback and the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, Paterno is upset that the Nittany Lions’ 7-1 start hasn’t translated into more accolades for his players.
The 82-year-old coach famously denies reading articles about himself or his team. So he said his frustration stems from questions from the local and national media.
Last week was something of a tipping point for Paterno, who disliked the attention that was paid to Michigan’s true freshman quarterbacks – Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson – over Clark.
“I don’t read the papers,” Paterno said. “But when somebody asks me about ‘Odrick this’ or ‘somebody about that’ or Clark… You know, I come to these meetings and you guys start asking me about a lot of other people, and I get the feeling that, just as we went into Michigan, that our guys had to show – Clark had to show that he could compare to a couple of freshmen.
“Whether you guys know it or not, you guys have a little bit of prejudice and it shows.”
Paterno lodged similar complaints during the 2005 season when he thought quarterback Michael Robinson wasn’t getting enough attention to be mentioned for national awards.
Robinson was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and finished fifth in Heisman voting that season.
Ako Poti has started the past three games at right tackle, but he will have some competition this week in practice.
Fellow senior Nerraw McCormack has recovered from an ankle injury and will try to regain his starting spot.
McCormack replaced DeOn’tae Pannell on the first team midway through a Week 4 loss to Iowa. He started the next week against Illinois and finished the game despite injuring his ankle, but hasn’t been able to play since.
Pannell has also been fighting an ankle issue and is at second-team left tackle while he works his way back to full strength.
“Pannell is OK,” Paterno said. “He’s not 100 percent. But he can go longer without that ankle starting to bother him. He’s certainly in the mix. McCormack’s OK now. So McCormack and Poti will probably fight it out for the right tackle spot.
“We’ll keep Pannell over on the left because it’s a little easier with that left ankle bumped up for him to push off his right foot when he has to pass protect on the left side.”
The only team regular who is unlikely to play Saturday at Northwestern is tailback Stephfon Green, who is also fighting an ankle injury.
“I think we’re going to be about as healthy as we have been all year in this game,” Paterno said. “I’m not so sure about Green and that bothers me a little bit. But other than that, I think we’re in pretty good shape.”