Penn State coach Joe Paterno answers a question during his weekly news conference on Tuesday in State College. Penn State hosts Michigan State on Saturday.AP PHOTO
Joe Paterno was adamant that he will return to coach next season. And he made sure everyone knew it.
When a reporter began a follow-up question by saying, “You mentioned earlier you hope to be back,” Paterno cut him off.
“I didn’t say hope,” Paterno said.
Paterno, who turns 84 next month, doesn’t see anything stopping him from coming back in 2011 to lead Penn State for a 46th season.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Paterno said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “I think we’ve struggled a little bit this year, with the youth and with the injuries and the whole bit. I think we’re not where I would like us to be yet. But I think with a good spring and a preseason practice, we could be a pretty good football team next year, and I’d like to be part of it.
“So it’s been a good situation. And I don’t see any reason to leave it right now.”
The announcement was not a particularly surprising one, given that Paterno still has a year remaining on his contract and the Lions will lose only a handful of impact players after this season.
But after a tough offseason in which Paterno battled illness and emerged looking and sounding in bad shape, there was plenty of speculation that this year could be his last.
“I’ve never indicated to anybody that I wasn’t coming back,” Paterno said. “It’s always been in my mind that now’s not the time to go. We have a good young team. We may not be there yet, but we will be there soon.
“I have not thought about getting out of it. Hopefully the good Lord will keep me healthy.”
Paterno acknowledged that the decision isn’t 100 percent up to him, but was not concerned about Penn State stopping him from returning.
“I don’t think it’s entirely my call. I’m not running the university,” Paterno said. “But I would hope that what I want to do would be taken into consideration and go from there.”
Penn State is still waiting to see whether a pair of starters – center Doug Klopacz and linebacker Michael Mauti – will be able to play Saturday against Michigan State.
Klopacz injured his left ankle on the first drive last week against Indiana, forcing the Lions to shift Stefen Wisniewski back to center and plug redshirt freshman John Urschel in at Wisniewski’s spot at right guard.
“I would doubt very much that (Klopacz) is gonna play, but he’s a tough kid, and he wants to play,” Paterno said. “And the doctor said let’s see what he can do (today).”
Wisniewski would start at center if Klopacz can’t go, with either Urschel or DeOn’tae Pannell playing at right guard.
As for Mauti, the sophomore has missed the last six quarters with a dislocated shoulder and has been relegated to mostly non-contact drills in practice.
“Mike is gonna be in what we call a green cross. … You get a red cross, you can’t do anything. Green cross, you can do some things,” Paterno said. “And they have him in a green cross for today. I think after we watch him do some things today, we’ll have a better idea how much he can do on Saturday, if any at all.”
Penn State listed 18 players who will be honored before Saturday’s game for senior day, including two scholarship players who still have a year of eligibility remaining.
In an unexpected move, junior safety Andrew Dailey is planning to skip his final year of football. Dailey will graduate next month and will likely move on. Junior defensive end Kevion Latham is also scheduled to play his final home game on Saturday.
Dailey was just named Big Ten Co-Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday after blocking a punt that was returned for the game-winning touchdown in the third quarter against Indiana.
Paterno said he spoke to Dailey Tuesday morning to try and convince the Ohio native to stick around for his fifth season.
“He’s a good student,” Paterno said. “He wants to go on and get a masters in the business school. … And I told him, ‘Just wait. No hurry.’ And he’s been banged up so much. He’s had shoulder and neck (problems). I said, ‘We’re gonna take care of your scholarship until the end of the spring semester. And let’s just play it by ear right now.’
“He’s a good kid, and I’d like to keep him if I can. But whatever is best for him, we’ll try to help him if we can.”
No. 10 Michigan State (10-1, 6-1)
at Penn State (7-4, 4-3)
Beaver Stadium, State College