Thursday, August 16, 2007

Joe Paterno talks at Penn St. media day

You expressed concern about leadership in the spring. How do you feel about the leadership today?

I think they have practiced hard, and the kids have come to the front and worked hard. I think sometimes I have misled people at what I consider leadership. Leadership is the ability to do things that you do in the clutch. As I told the squad one day, ‘you know what, the guys that are the leaders are the guys that are on the beach at Normandy. The guys that when I was back in England or wherever we were, it was what great challenges were. And a bunch of guys, second lieutenants, and sergeants said, “come on let’s get off this beach,” they were getting the devil getting kicked out of them, by German artillery, and they were picking people up and bringing them with them.’ And basically, until you get a bunch of guys that look forward to that kind of challenge in a tough ball game and can make those plays, like Michael Robinson two years ago, that kind of stuff, then you know, you’re always not sure, particularly with a team that is as young as this one is. I think we have some guys that are going to be, but right now they have not had the chance to show people what stuff they’re made of. That sounds like a Marine Corps speech. We have a long way to go, we have a lot of young guys that are going to be really good football players, some of whom are impatient and that kind of thing, but I think it will work out.

Please talk about the loss of Tony Hunt and Austin Scott being the probable starter.

Why do you say probable starting running back? That’s a lousy question. We have Austin Scott, Rodney Kinlaw, Evan Royster, and a couple of freshman kids that are all in the running. Sure we are going to miss a good guy like Hunt, but Scott’s worked hard, and some people forget about how well he played two years ago against Florida St., in a tough situation. We’re not their yet, but that’s why were going to play. I think we have the chance to replace Tony. Tony was a really good back, but we’ve got to do that with other good backs. I just didn’t like the tone of your question.

Any decision regarding suspensions? The status of (Anthony) Scirrotto and (Chris) Baker?

Do you know what is going to happen to Scirrotto and Baker? You know just as much as I do. Until that whole thing settles down, I can sit back and take a look at what has and what hasn’t and so forth, I’m just going to play it by ear right now. And I realize there might come a time tomorrow, next week, two weeks from now that I’m going to have to sit down and say, ‘Hey, something has to be done.’ But as of now, everybody is in limbo.

Detail how the Coastal Carolina series came about.

I don’t like the tone of that question either (laughter). Are we playing Coastal Carolina? I haven’t got the slightest idea. Somebody said to me ‘What are you playing Syracuse for?’ Five, six, eight years ago people said, ‘When are you going to put Syracuse back on the schedule, they were 10-2?’ Paul Pasqualoni was coaching up there. Somebody said to me, ‘Where’s Arkansas State?’ I said, ‘All I know is that Arkansas State is on four or five teams’ schedules.’ Alabama and other people. When we went to 12 games, all of a sudden you have to look around for a 12th game. We have to have seven home games, not for football, we have to have seven home games to make enough money to support the sports that football supports.

You had nothing to do with the Coastal Carolina game?

They may say something to me, and say, ‘Hey, we’re having trouble getting a game here, or a game there, we’re supposed to get this club here, this club backed out, this guy did that.’ I say, ‘Hey look, you guys do what you’ve got to do that is best, based on we have to have seven home games, and who will play us.’ If I didn’t like it, they would reconsider. We’re fine. Let’s get on with something, we’re playing in 2007, and that’s all I’m worried about.

What’s the team captain situation?

I go around the block on that, you can point a finger at me on that on that one, because I’ve vacillated back and forth. I’m just not sure what’s quite best for this football team. We’ve gone through a very different preseason practice. It’s been very tough for us because we are in the middle of summer school, and almost all of our kids are in summer school. We have final exams coming up next Thursday. So we’re trying to work our practices in with that. I’m really struggling in making sure we don’t fall too behind as far as our preparation for the season. I haven’t done a good job just sitting back with the staff and talking about how we should handle the captain’s situation. Do I want to appoint them? Do we want to elect them? How are we going to do it? I’m not sure yet. Do we want to go game by game? I’ve got to do something pretty soon, but I’m going to try to get through the distractions of summer school, get everybody through summer school, so we can go out there and have nothing on our mind but getting better on the practice field. When I have the luxury of that kind of time, I really have to sit down and make a decision. I have not made it yet, and I don’t think that I have done a good job with it.

What do you expect from Derrick Williams this year?

Derrick Williams is a good football player. I expect him to have a good year.

Are you operating under the assumption that Scirotto and Baker will be available?

I’m not operating under anything. We’re going out there and taking our shots. Back in my mind is always that we may not have them, but I’m not going to make that decision until I know what is going on.

Are you proud of the way they have handled the scrutiny?

I don’t think they have responded to the scrutiny. There’s supposition there, and I don’t know what the supposition is. If something was said or done. Every once in a while, I see them on the field, and I say, ‘How are you doing, okay? Is there anything I should know?’

Talk about Anthony Morelli and his performance at the Outback Bowl? It seems like he got a lot of confidence and momentum for this year.

Well I hope your right, and I think you are to a degree. But it’s the cast of characters that is important. I’m concerned about pass protection in some key games last year. We did a couple things against Tennessee to help Anthony. I think we’ve got to be a little more precise, we’ve got to do some things a little bit better, with that whole concept of what he’s now available to do, because I think he has the potential to be a very good quarterback. You can only do some things, because you’ve got other people that can’t accommodate what you want to get done. That’s a fancy way of saying it. We want to throw the ball from drop back, and really, Anthony is a drop back passer. You have to have a pretty good offensive line. You have to have some wideouts that can read blitzes and have some sight adjustment, and things like that. We’re working hard on that. But, I think if we can till in there, and we can do a good job around him, then Morelli can be really good.

What do you have to guard against in season openers?

I am not really thinking of anything. The only thing I’m looking at is everyday, get the right guys in the right place, doing the things they can do best, and then build on that. It’s been a little more difficult to do that this year, today is the first day we had two a days and we had to work it around media day. I wasn’t going to have a media day, I didn’t know how Jeff would work it in, because somebody wanted to have it next Wednesday or Thursday and I didn’t want it next Wednesday or Thursday, because it is two days before final exams next Friday. I am not even going practice next Wednesday or Thursday. So, right now, we have a young team, a lot of young good players. I think we have a really fine young squad. Are we a good football team? We’re not very good right now. First we’ve got to make us good enough, then we can worry about the next guy. We’re probably 8-10 practices away from where we can really start to zero in on the schedule.

How has Austin Scott changed since the player you recruited?

He’s older. He has a little more endurance. He knows a little more about what the game is all about. He’s always been a good prospect. You know when he came in, things came so easy for him in high school. It was really interesting. Bobby Bowden, who I respect tremendously, and I think he has done a great job, he went in the Hall of Fame in July with Charlie Ward. Somebody sent me an article about when he recruited Charlie Ward, he said, ‘Can I bet some patience?’ The two of them went into the Hall of Fame together. And I think that is what was Austin’s biggest problem early. Things were so good for him early in high school. Maybe he expected some things to happen to him because he was Austin Scott. But I think all of that has settled down, and he has really so far worked hard this preseason. I hope he stays healthy. Last spring he got hurt, which set him back some. But, he’s grown up, he’s no 18 year old kid anymore, he’s 22. Do you guys remember how different you were at 22 than you were 18?

Are you 100 percent physically? Are you looking forward to getting back on the sideline?

I think I’m 100 percent. I’m not as fast as I used to be. But when I was 18, there was not a girl that was quick enough for me. But no, I’m fine, I’ve enjoyed practice. Today is the first day we are doing two a days. We went this morning for an hour and 45 minutes, and we’ll go for another couple hours. We will see how I’ll hold up after that. I thought from day one that if I can get through two a days, I will be fine. Because one a days have been a snap for me.

What do you think of the Big Ten Network?

If they can get enough coverage, then I think it should be a great thing for the Big Ten. I would hope our fans would get involved and talk to some people who could carry it. Again, you are talking to a dinosaur when it comes to some of the technology and that kind of stuff. People say DirecTV, that thing…When I can’t get a station on my television I say, ‘Sue, this thing’s not working’ (laughter). So I don’t really know, but I think any kind of exposure is good. One of the great benefits of the Big Ten Network is that they really want to give exposure to all the sports. As I understand, the women’s sports will get as much exposure as men’s sports, and I think that is a good thing. I am for it. If we get the same kind of exposure that someone in the Illinois area would get, I think that they are working on that. You guys would be amazed how little attention that I’ve paid to some things that I don’t know enough about the media to tell people what to do.

Is anyone injured or not practicing? Have you gotten a read on the true freshmen or junior college transfers?

Well, we had an injury yesterday that really bothered me. We had a good, young kid by the name of (Devon) Still. He hurt his ACL yesterday, and I’m pretty sure he’s out for the year. That was a real setback, but other than that, that was the only one we’ve had so far. (Tom) McEowen, who we had lost, has worked hard, he’s still not ready to go yet, but it looks like he’s got shot, but other than that we seem to be okay. Phillip Taylor got bumped up a little bit and had to lose some time, but the one that’s really hurt is Still. Still is a really big-league prospect.

Have you gotten a read yet on your true freshman or junior college players?

Not yet, we gotta do a little more hitting for me to tell you that, I think there are some really good athletes in that group, I think we filled in some spots that we needed to fill in. Overall, without getting into specific freshmen, as I said earlier, I think it’s a really good squad except it’s so darn young. You know, we only have four, five, six seniors. And then when you get into the junior group, there’s not many, not a lot of juniors that are going to be significant players. You get down to the sophomores and a couple of these freshmen that are going to play.

How concerned are you about the defensive line?

Sure I’m concerned about them, I’m concerned about the youth of the whole football team. I tried to make that, I tried to hit on that because that’s a weak spot we have. We’ve got a bunch of guys that are going to have to grow up in a hurry and they’re going to have to be able to play under a lot of pressure. People like to talk about some teams on the schedule. I’m looking at Notre Dame, Michigan, Iowa, Ohio State, and Purdue, who has everybody back. And new coaches at Michigan State and new coach at Indiana and unfortunately lost a great coach there with (Terry) Hoeppner. Illinois, Ron Zook is doing great. So I think we’ve got a lot really tough teams that we’re going to have to be good. Not just only good physically, we’re going to have to be mature, we’re going to have to be able to handle pressure, we’re going to have to be able to do some things when the momentum is not going our way. I think the factor of the defensive line is, I think there’s one guy on the defensive line, maybe Josh Gaines that played over 150 plays last year. I don’t think there is anybody but Gaines that’s done that. If you take the offensive line, we’re in pretty much the same boat. So we’ve got some people that are going to have to grow up in a hurry and, well, we’ll see.

How much do you feel recruiting has changed? What do you think of the last few classes?

I think we’ve got a really good squad. I’ve said that. I think, unfortunately, sometimes there are people, recruiting gurus that try to establish this guy is the guy you got to get and that guy is the guy you’ve got to get. Somebody is some system’s 100th best player and somebody else is that. I don’t buy any of that stuff, I never have. If somebody would tell me, with my staff with as much experience as we’ve had, or when I look at a couple of our kids that everybody says we ought to get and I don’t like them. I’ll say that kid is not good enough, not playing against good enough people and reject them and yet, he might be ranked one of the five or six best guys at his position by some guy down in Florida or some guy out in California. I don’t want to embarrass some guy here in State College sitting in the room, you know. I just, I can’t buy that stuff. I get a kick out of Mel Kiper saying, ‘this guy is the number one guy, because I like the way he moves his hips.’ So I think we’ve done what we have to do in the last couple of years. I said a couple years ago whenever we were having our trouble and were a couple of plays away, if I could keep my staff together, we’d be fine. We’re a pretty good football team right now, we’re not great, we’ve got a ways to go, but this team we have right now, keep them all in school, keep them all with their noses to the grindstone and make sure some have some patience, we’ll be a really good football team someday. We may not make it this year but, it’s going to make it.

Talk about Jeremy Boone.

Well, Boone has been pretty darn good. I mean, I’m not as worried about Boone. I think we’ve got to be more consistent on field goals. I think Kevin Kelly has got to come to the front now and he’s got to be a really big-league field goal kicker. I mean, we can’t miss, we can’t miss 35-yard field goals in big, tough games early in the game. And we’re working hard. I’m a little bit, concerned is probably not the word I want, but a little bit uneducated about the new kickoff rule. You know, you’re kicking the ball off from the 30 and if you don’t have a guy that can kick that ball and you don’t have some people that can get down there, you’re giving up an awful lot of field position really quick. How does that affect your defense? How does it affect the way you play early, and then down, I don’t know. We’ve spent more time working on the kicking game this year this early than I’ve ever done, only because I’m trying to figure exactly where we’re going.

Do you have a number of plays that you want to have D-Line guys play? Do you want to see one or two guys pop out?

I think that really hits it right on the button. Having four-down guys if you’re going to play a four-man line is not good enough. You can’t keep them fresh. People will run the ball 40 times and you know, you get a good day and they run them back and forth, I think you really have to have some people behind them. Nowadays, particularly since we’ve gone back to the old rules, you may be in there for 80 plays on defense. You’re going to get 40, 45, 50 passes which we could get, you know, five, six, seven, eight games, tight games. You’ve got to have more than four-down guys. So I think that is a concern.

Would you like to see some D-Linemen pop out?

Oh sure, I’d like to see one or two guys be dominant, but I also realize that one or two guys are going to be tired. I’m not worried about the one or two guys that I know right now are good football players, I’m worried about the third, fourth, fifth, sixth guy on defense that right now, I think can be good, but they need a little more umph. And you know we’re fortunate, again, I always go back to coaches. I think we’re fortunate to have Larry Johnson. He’s done a great job with the defensive line and I think if you said well we’re going to be here, I always go back to we’ve got good coaches. I think we’ve got good, young players and I think eventually we’ll be okay but the other guy has good players too.

Where is the biggest concern? Are you glad to see Notre Dame back on the schedule?

We played them last year though. Notre Dame just so happened to be on the schedule last year. I think Notre Dame is a good game for us. Well, I’m concerned. I don’t have one concern, right now, I don’t know what kind of football team I’ve got. Somebody asked me how good are the freshmen, I think we’ve got some freshmen that might be better than some of the guys we have, I don’t know, right now, after five days of practice. Some of them worked with us in the spring obviously. I’m just concerned. I mean for Media Day to be before the season starts is always kind of comical because you’re asking me a lot of questions that I don’t, and it sounds like I’m being evasive, but I really don’t know. I just think we’ve got a bunch of good kids that have worked hard, I like what they can do. We had drills where you’d go over bags and you’d run backwards and catch the ball and all that kind of stuff. Hey, we look great. We’re great, alright? Now, all of the sudden you put somebody over there like a couple of the guys we’ve got to play against, make the tackle and we’ll see. That’s why we practice, that’s why I get all that big money that you guys want to find out how much. (laughter)

How is the offensive line coming along? How is John Shaw adjusting to his move?

Well, again, I go back to what I just said. I think they’ve done fine. I don’t think they’re, if I told you we’re home free, no…John Shaw, he’s got great physical ability and at times he just makes, every once in a while he loses concentration, which hurt us last year in a couple of ball games. You know, we had a chance to stay in some tough ball games and we made mistakes. We’re fighting to try and eliminate that part, but John Shaw is a great kid and he works hard and he’s got everything to be an outstanding football player. He’s just got to learn to concentrate all the time. I think the offensive line is going to be okay, but they’re not there yet. By a long shot.

When you hear about criticism of Jay Paterno, does that bother you?

You guys think that you write something and all of the sudden I’m bothered. I don’t read it. I hate to tell you that, I don’t have e-mail, I don’t have a cell phone, I went through all this business about text message and I thought it was t-e-c-h. My wife had to tell me, `Joe, it’s not tech, it’s text.’ I don’t know what you guys are talking about. I go do my job my business. I’m assuming that Jay and all my coaches understand that you’re in a business where you’re going to get criticized. You guys know that. Hey, I don’t envy you guys. I think the media job today is as tough as it has ever been. Television is ridiculous. I can’t turn on the darn thing ever without some guy on ESPN getting up there and saying,`who do you think is the new great new coach, who’s this guy, who’s that guy, boom boom boom.’ God bless them, they’re making a living. And you guys are making a living. I think that it’s a whole different world and you can’t get caught up in it. You get caught up in it and you can’t do the job you’re supposed to do. Not you, I’m talking about coaches, young coaches, and every time I talk to a young coach I tell them to make up their mind. You gotta have tough skin to forget about it, because it aint going to get easier. It’s certainly not going to get easier.

Last year the team was one of the nation’s leaders in field goals in the red zone. What do you have to do this year to turn those into touchdowns?

That’s one of the things we’ve talked about a great deal, trying to get a little bit better. But, again I go back to what I said. We hurt ourselves so much. We fumbled the ball, we jumped offsides, we had stupid penalties, that put us in a situation where we really never had a chance to score a touchdown. We had to go for field goals. And at times we didn’t make them. Which hurt us early in some big games. So I think that is something that we’re talking about all the time, working on it, trying to make some plays. But mostly I’m trying to get a bunch of guys concentrated, by handling pressure, and understand. We go back to the first question about leadership, and guys that can handle that kind of stuff, and make plays under that kind of pressure. We didn’t do it last year. We made mistakes that hurt ourselves. I think that last year we were a really good football team, and we were that much further from being really better than good. Plus the good teams, we could of beaten one or two of them. We played terrible against Notre Dame. They played great game against us and out-coached us. But other than that, I felt that we had a chance. You have to do some of the things you’ve got to do in the clutch. And that’s one issue.

How much did Andrew Quarless’ emergence last year help the game plan for this year?

Quarless, he better look out for me…I owe him two. (laughter) Andy’s a young kid. He was a true freshman last year. He’s not as good as he thinks he is. He’s got a long way to go. But, he can be a good player.

What are the challenges in the preseason with such a young team?

I think the challenge for them is to make sure they understand that they’ve got to get better. I’ve always tried to convince kids. Particularly when they’re young and they really haven’t really had a lot of success. You only get better, not worse in practice. But we have a blue line out there. I tell them, ‘when you cross the blue line, your mine. Don’t worry about your girlfriend. She is probably sitting downtown at the Rathskeller with a couple guys (laughter). You can’t do anything about it. Alright. You can’t do anything about the academics. You’re mine. And you may as well make the most out of the two hours, two hours and ten minutes, hour and fifteen minutes when we’ve got you out there.’ We pay attention to the little things. The little things make you better. And basically it’s all I do, and that’s what the staff does. And I’ll get at some of the coaches sometimes once in a while, if maybe some kid isn’t doing something all out, taking a blow or something like that. I go around with a piece of paper and a pencil and try to look like I know what I’m doing. And I critique a drill and do it that way. But basically, it comes out there. You don’t get better all of a sudden. There’s increments. I don’t understand your profession but, I’ve been a great believer. And you know, Hemingway, the way he wrote is the way I try to coach a football team. I take care of the little things, correct it, with out too much verbage. But, we try to take care of the little things. Try to tighten it up all the time. Try not to have too much.

How tough is it to keep the team/coaching staff together unity wise with kids leaving early and coaches that can leave at any point?

Well, with the coaches, we try to make it as good a job for them within reason. And there are obvious guys that have opportunities to go to other places. And we don’t have a good enough stage for them in that stage of their life. Greg Schiano, I hated to lose Greg. He told me how much money the Bears were going to pay him. I said, ‘Greg, get out of here! I’d love to keep you but I can’t pay you that kind of money. If I’d do that I would put the whole group out of whack.’ I hated to lose him. Jimmy Caldwell. I didn’t want Jimmy to take the Wake Forest job as a head coach; I didn’t think it was the best job for him. But he felt that it was, and he wanted it. So you’re going to lose guys because it’s a great opportunity for them. And I don’t expect people to come here, become priests, take a vow in the catholic church. They come here because they like to coach, and hopefully we can give them a good environment. I’m trying to keep them. I’m doing everything I can, to try to keep them, and make them feel good about their jobs. Same with our players. A kid like Mike Munchak, who was on television with the hall of fame thing with Bruce Matthews. We played against Matthews against Southern Cal at the Fiesta Bowl in ’81. I was telling the squad, ‘young (Stefen) Wisnewski is on our team this year.’ I said, ‘I just want you guys to know that Stefen’s father (Leo) beat the devil out of Matthews in the Fiesta Bowl and Marcus Allen.’ And he did. Munchak graduated and had another year of football. A couple pro scouts called me, couple friends of mine, and said, ‘it looks like if he comes out, he’s going to be the first lineman picked.’ I called him in and said, ‘Mike what do you want to do?’ He said, ‘Well I don’t know what I want to do.’ I said, ‘Get out. You’re going to be the number one pick. Get out.’ And that is what I would do with these guys. But if somebody comes to me and says, ‘I want to leave.’ And I say, ‘Well don’t leave until I can tell you where you can go, and then you can make your decision.’ I’m in the people business. I mean if I was in something else, l would of left a long time ago. There are a lot of more opportunities that would have been more lucrative. I don’t have any problem with that. But I try to be as honest and fair as I can when they talk to me about other possibilities. Sometimes they pay attention to me and sometimes they don’t. I did not want Richie Anderson to leave. Richie had another year. I sat him down, he hadn’t graduated. I said, ‘Richie, you’re crazy.’ I was wrong. He left and played what, ten, twelve years of pro football? There are no hard and fast rules. They are all individuals.

Justin King and Derrick Williams came with high expectations. How have they lived up to those expectations?

I think so. I think this a good year for both of those kids. I think that Justin honestly has been one of the better corners around. And I think Derrick has had his moments. Derrick has been a little inconsistent at catching the football at times, and things like that. I think he’s tried too hard. He’s put an awful lot of pressure on himself because, there isn’t a guy on the team that works harder than Derrick Williams does. And once again, he’s better than Williams wants to be. And I think this is a key year for him. You have to remember he came in here as a freshman and made a couple plays. Then he got hurt, broke that arm against Michigan. And that kind of set him back a little bit. So I think both those kids have done well. They’re true juniors, they’re not redshirts. They both have done a good job in the classroom. They have not given me any problems. I am looking forward to both of those kids having big years.

How hard is it for coaches to hang around for a long time with all of the changes in the media with criticism of coaches?

You guys think I’m that smart, and I’m going to tell you what will happen ten years from now. Seriously, I can’t tell you what I’m going to do tomorrow. I don’t know. I don’t mean to be a smart alec. I don’t know. I would doubt if anybody would coach as long as Bobby or I have coached, particually at one institution. So, there might be some other people can do it. But, it’s not something I think about. If I told you ‘Yeah, the way I figure it out is so and so can do this, and so and so can do that.’ I don’t have time for it. I go to bed at night with a pad, trying to figure out how I can get a guy to stay low coming out of a stance. So I don’t know. I would hope eventually the whole thing that we are going through will settle down a little bit. Where it won’t be, people want to make five million dollars, three million dollars coaching, I mean it would kind of settle down eventually, because that is the way most things have gone in life. It goes like this (motions up) and comes down a little bit, and you go along. And I would hope this would happen in my profession. I would hope that my profession would get some people in it, who are committed to their institutions, and want to, and the institutions all of a sudden wake up and realize that their athletic programs are a very important part of it. But it’s got to be in sync with the rest of the philosophy and goals of the university and go from there. I think that there will be some reaction. We’ve got boosters, and everyone else telling, ‘He didn’t recruit this kid. You’ve got to get rid of him. So and so got this kid and we didn’t get that kid, even though somebody didn’t recruit that kid.’ There are two or three kids that we didn’t even recruit, but we’ve got, I’ve got, and again I don’t have email, but at least that guy had to spend 35 cents to write the letter and send it to him. I mean if he spends 35 cents it’s important to him. But, ‘Tell me why didn’t you get this kid for us?’ I try to be decent about it. I write letters. ‘We just didn’t think he was quite quick’ enough, or I give him some gobblety goop, to make him feel good.

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