Joe Paterno and members of the Penn State football team greeted members of the press for the 2008 Football Media Day. The Lions kicked off pre-season practice on Monday (Aug. 4) and open up the season at home against Coastal Carolina at noon on Aug. 30.
The 2008 edition of Penn State football will be Joe Paterno's 43rd squad as head coach of the Nittany Lions. He was optimistic about the team's prospects for the season. "We've got a good young squad," Paterno said. "We'll be better than people think."
More than 160 media members gathered at Beaver Stadium for Joe Paterno's annual pre-season press conference. "I really like this squad," he said. "They've gathered together and made up their minds that they are going to be a good football team. I think they have the potential to do that."
Redshirt freshman running back Stephfon Green wowed teammates and coaches in practices last season and showed fans a glimpse of his impressive speed with a touchdown run in April's Blue-White Game. Green and sophomore Evan Royster expect to compete for the starting tailback position, but Green said all the Lion running backs are good friends. "We've got a tight relationship," Green said. "The running backs stick together. When one of us is down, we help each other up. We don't look at the number one guy like we hate them. We're together."
Senior wideouts Deon Butler (left) and Derrick Williams (right) join with fellow senior Jordan Norwood to form one of the Big Ten's most formidable and experienced receiver corps. Williams is excited by the potential of the Nittany Lion offense in 2008. "It's looking good," Williams said. "We're very explosive. I think this year can be one of the offenses I've been a part of. All the quarterbacks we have this year are a little more mobile. These guys can run and pass pretty well."
Quarterbacks Daryll Clark (left) and Pat Devlin (right) may both see time behind center throughout the 2008 season. "I think they've both done well," Paterno said of the signal callers. "And everyone keeps pushing [senior quarterback Paul] Cianciolo to the side, but I don't. The quarterbacks are obviously comfortable with the three kids [wide receivers Norwood, Butler and Williams] who have been around. The nice thing about it is the wideouts have helped the quarterbacks, helped coach them. I think we've made some progress but we've got a long way to go."
Senior kicker Kevin Kelly chats with a reporter on the practice field outside Holuba Hall. Kelly became Penn State football's all-time leading scorer last season.
Punter Jeremy Boone talks with reporters at Media Day. Boone, a former walk-on, was selected first-team All-Big Ten following last season when he averaged 43 yards per boot. Boone was also an Academic All-American.
Redshirt freshman receiver Derek Moye was cited by Paterno as a potential significant contributor behind the team's three senior wideouts. "Moye's a big, tall kid who has a lot of ability," Paterno said.
Quarterback Daryll Clark was surrounded by reporters early and often at 2008 Football Media Day. Clark, sophomore Pat Devlin and senior Paul Cianciolo are all competing for the quarterback position.
Quarterback turned receiver Brett Brackett figures to be a key contributor to the Nittany Lion offense this fall. "These guys (seniors Butler, Norwood and Williams) have done great things for the football program, and we're excited that there's people behind those three that are extremely good athletes and really good at what they do and looking for the opportunity to show people what they can do," Brackett said
Redshirt sophomore Evan Royster will likely see significant time at tailback this fall after an impressive 2007 campaign that saw him gain 513 yards on the ground, on a stellar 6.3 yards per carry, in backing up 1,000-yard rusher Rodney Kinlaw. With Kinlaw now in the NFL, Royster would figure to be the main ball-carrier, but he said he is excited about the depth Penn State has at the position. "Stephfon's [Green] got some explosion out there. He can get the corner and go the whole field and I doubt anybody's going to catch him," Royster said. "I see myself as a back that can pound it out for seven or eight yards every time. If you give me an open crack maybe I can break it for 30, 40 yards. I think we're a little underestimated in the Big Ten. We've got a great set of backs -- me, Brent [Carter], Stephon, Joe Suhey. We've got a lot of depth."
Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley returns what is expected to be another terrific Nittany Lion defense for the 2008 season. In his 30th season on the Penn State football staff and ninth at the helm of the defense, Bradley has fielded squads ranked in the top 15 nationally for total defense for each of the past four years.
Members of the football team got in on the interviewing act at Media Day, as senior fullback Dan Lawlor turned reporter and grilled a few of his teammates.
All-Big Ten Center A.Q. Shipley joins three other seniors as team captains and steers a veteran offensive line that came together well during the 2007 campaign.
Cornerback Lydell Sergeant talks to a reporter about how the Penn State secondary is shaping up for 2008.
Junior defensive end Maurice Evans had an outstanding sophomore season in 2007, and is considered by most experts to be among the best defensive players in the Big Ten for 2008. "Maurice has a lot of ability" Paterno said. "He had a good year last year and he's been very, very good in pre-season practice so far. He's a good football player. He doesn't realize how good he can be."
Standout linebacker Sean Lee was expected to be the leader of the Penn State defense in 2008, but an ACL tear in the spring will sideline him for the season. He'll return to the field in 2009, but was still elected a captain for this year's squad. Paterno included him on the 105-man practice roster because of his leadership and mentoring abilities. "We've included Lee even though he can't work because I wanted him around the team," Paterno said.
Senior defensive end Josh Gaines chats with football beat writer Derek Levarse about the upcoming season. Gaines was also named a team captain, along with Sean Lee, A.Q. Shipley and Anthony Scirotto.
Offensive coordinator Galen Hall (center) talks with linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden (right) and Penn State athletics historian Lou Prato (left) during 2008 Football Media Day on the football practice field.