COLLEGE FOOTBALL Paterno preaches patience with PSU
The defense should be good and the offense should be better than last year.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Joe Paterno is preaching patience with the offense.
The Penn State offense was, well, offensive at times last year, often struggling to score points. Fortunately, for the Nittany Lions, the defense emerged as a force.
So Paterno says he hopes to juice up the offense by playing more wide-open sets, though it might take some time to jell because the receiving corps is young and there are question marks on the offensive line.
"We're going to work and try to get the right combination and maybe one of these days, we'll walk off the field and say 'I think we are a good football team,' " Paterno said during his annual preseason news conference.
"We're certainly in position to be a good defensive football team," said Paterno, entering his 40th season as head coach. "Offensively, we have to be better. We have to make big plays."
At least Paterno appeared to be in midseason form with the media. Looking tanned and wearing his trademark thick-rimmed glasses, Paterno picked on a few reporters and took lighthearted jabs at some questions.
"To be honest, the media has not been a factor in my lifestyle or my coaching interest or how I motivate," Paterno said after one exchange.
There was a hint of change at the start of the day when reporters -- without cameras or notepads -- were allowed to watch the final 15 minutes of practice, which doesn't often happen in Happy Valley.
Later, Paterno was peppered mainly with questions about the offense, which finished 110th out of 117 Division I-A teams in scoring last season.
Paterno said Michael Robinson, an athletic senior and a team captain, is ahead of strong-armed sophomore Anthony Morelli at quarterback, though Morelli could still see some time during the season.
Robinson had been Penn State's jack-of-all-trades, seeing significant time at running back and wide receiver as well as quarterback over the last several years.
"But anytime we moved him around, he's always had his eye on the quarterback situation," Paterno said.
Whoever plays quarterback will be throwing at young receivers, where sophomores Mark Rubin (16 catches in 2004) and Terrell Golden (three catches) are among the top returnees.
But the buzz in the off-season has been about freshman wideout Derrick Williams, who has dazzled teammates so far with his speed and work ethic.
Fellow first-year speedster Justin King is listed as a cornerback, though Paterno said King could see more time on offense than defense. Not surprising given that King rushed for 1,795 yards and scored 30 touchdowns as a senior last year at Gateway High School in Pittsburgh.
Paterno says he doesn't know how often he'll use three- and-four-wide receiver looks on offense -- sets that he showed off with success during spring practice. That depends on how the wideout picture shakes out in the next several weeks.
"Right now, we have a lot of younger guys who are involved in the passing game, and right now we're trying to get everyone down on the timing it takes to have a real good pass game, which is something that we haven't had a lot of the last couple years," Paterno said.
Junior Tony Hunt, who ran for 777 yards and seven touchdowns last year, returns at running back, along with fellow junior Austin Scott, who led Penn State in rushing as a freshman with 436 yards in 2003 before being limited by an ankle injury last season.
There are question marks on offensive line. Last year's starting center, E.Z. Smith, isn't allowed back on campus until the fall semester starts in a couple of weeks due to an on-campus incident earlier this year. Two other starting linemen from last year, Tyler Reed and Andrew Richardson, were also still in Paterno's doghouse due to the same incident.
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