Paterno eyes young talent
Linebacker Dan Connor's suspension bothers the Nittany Lions coach.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- With an injury to a top returnee at wideout and off-field distractions taking a toll on Penn State's roster, coach Joe Paterno wants a closer look at some of the young guys and reserves who might step up.
After a rare, brief glimpse by reporters of football practice Friday afternoon, Paterno was happy to give an update about his youngsters and the progress of his offense.
He wasn't pleased about having to answer questions about the distractions, though, namely the indefinite suspension of linebacker Dan Connor after he was cited by police for allegedly placing harassing phone calls.
"Let's get that out of here. Let's talk about football," said Paterno, who added that he hasn't decided anything more on punishment for Connor and two others reportedly connected to the incident. "All I'm trying to do is trying to get this football team ready."
Connor, last year's second-leading tackler (85) as a freshman, was in uniform on Friday, and team officials said he was on the scout team.
Tyrell Sales, a redshirt freshman, practiced at middle linebacker, which is Tim Shaw's usual spot.
Shaw was moved outside to Connor's position. Junior standout Paul Posluszny, a captain, is the other starter.
"One of the reasons we scrimmaged today -- ordinarily we wouldn't do it -- I wanted to get a look at some of the younger guys," Paterno said.
Penn State's first game is Saturday at home against South Florida.
Connor, along with two reserves, receiver Jim Kanuch and safety Nolan McCready, were placed on "team probation" last week by Paterno for their alleged roles in the incident, though it remains unclear what that means and whether Kanuch and McCready face any further punishment.
The alleged victim is a retired member of the athletic department, though the school has said that person wishes to remain anonymous.
Quarterback Michael Robinson, a senior captain, said Connor has apologized to the team.
"Everybody knows he was sorry. It was something stupid that happened. The team forgave him," Robinson said.
Robinson, who appears to be firmly at quarterback now after also playing running back and wideout, must lead a re-tooled offense that is especially young at wide receiver. Paterno wants to open up the offense this year after it struggled last season.
A season-ending ankle injury suffered last week by sophomore Mark Rubin depleted the wideout position. Rubin (16 catches in 2004) would have been Penn State's most experienced returning receiver.
Paterno hopes freshmen Derrick Williams and Justin King can contribute there and on special teams. He's also been looking at freshman Lydell Sargeant at wide receiver.
"We are moving along. It's a little tough when you get a lot of young kids at the skill positions," he said. "You've got to be careful you don't go too fast or give them too much."
Non-football incidents have raised questions about depth and roles on the offensive and defensive lines.
Defensive end Tamba Hali said he's getting himself mentally prepared "to play more snaps than we ever played."
"The focus isn't the guys that left. It's the guys that are here so we can work with them," he said.
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