1. Do you plan to start Michael Robinson at quarterback? Will you play him at any other than QB?
The team is going to go with spring practice and see what happens. They'll see where they need to fill in after spring drills. Michael would be in the lead, but no one has a locked in position. The team has had a good winter program. The best way to have a good spring practice is to have everyone in there competing. Joe hasn't thought about playing Robinson anywhere but quarterback.
2. Is there any chance of redshirting Morelli if he's not the starter?
Morelli is too good to sit on the bench the whole football game. Joe thinks Anthony will give Michael Robinson a real run for his money. He can't see Morelli not playing.
3. Is recruiting getting any harder for you?
Joe said he enjoys recruiting. As long as the coaches can walk away from people they don't like, then it's fine. The travel is the only problem. It's a longer recruiting season and sometimes you have to travel 500 miles and visit 3 kids in a day. Other than that, it's kind of fun. He enjoys getting to talk with the prospects and their families.
4. What is your take on the NCAA's guidelines for tracking academic progress?
Joe is not quite sure how those numbers work. He has discussed it with people in the university. The initial reaction he has gotten from some people is that Penn State's APR numbers would not be as good as other schools because the eligibility requirements are higher at Penn State than some other places.
Joe thinks you have to look at the numbers, analyze them, see where they fit in. Really, it's up to every institution to provide their student-athletes with a quality education and try to win games. Joe has a vanilla attitude about the APR right now.
5. How excited are you about getting a chance to start over and get the team to perform better?
The team was competitive the past couple of years. The coaches did some things in recruiting that will help the program this year and some players have switched from one side of the ball to the other. The coaches are optimistic that the kids that are coming in and the ones who have switched positions will give the team a chance for more big plays. Joe is excited to get started on Monday and see how good the team can be.
6. What are some of the position changes that are going to be experimented with?
Ethan Kilmer and Jim Kanuch will be looked at on offense as wideouts or slot receivers. They both can run really well. Deon Butler, a walk-on, who is a very quick kid almost moved over to offense last year, but they waited until after the season to make the move. He will be a wide receiver as well. They may have to move a couple of guys up front from defense to offense as well.
7. Is there any pressure to open up the offense and go for the big play?
It's not the Xs and Os that win games. It's the people at those positions. The team has been handicapped in recent years and could not do very much wide open stuff. Joe thinks the coaches has to look at what they have, then decide. He hopes the offense does become more wide open. The fans would have more fun watching them. You'll see the team trying not to underestimate the abilities of the recruiting class coming in and the kids who have changed positions.
This is probably the fastest recruiting class they've ever had, and that was by design. Joe hopes that there will be a few kids
that can provide a deep threat in the passing game.
8. How serious is Austin Scott's ankle injury?
Austin won't do much in spring practice. He won't play in any of the scrimmages and the coaches will baby the injury in order to prevent further stress fractures.
9. How did you sell the recruiting class on Penn State?
The coaches opened up the program to the recruits. The players were very positive about the program as were the coaches and that sold the recruits on Penn State. Joe is the guy who gets the publicity, but it's really the assistants and current players who made that all happen.
10. Do you get the sense that the kids who came in in January can be the 1-2 playmakers you said the team needed last year?
Joe is optimistic, but doesn't want to put too much pressure on them yet. He feels that those kids have the ability to make a difference. The team has other problems that it needs to overcome as well. The kicking game was erratic. The offensive line wasn't consistent. Those areas need to improve as well.
11. Is Galen Hall comfortable being in the booth calling plays?
Yes, he's comfortable up there. The offense was so limited last year. Joe kept telling Galen to keep it simple and not make it too tough on the defense. The offense stayed disciplined, but they couldn't quite make some plays when they needed to.
12. What's the status of Scott Paxson and Tyler Reed?
Joe doesn't know right now. He's gotten 6 different stories since January when the incident occurred.
13. Is this still a young team?
There will be more experience on defense. There won't be quite as much experience on offense, but they will be better. The team will be more mature, and the coaching staff is comfortable with their roles. All of that will factor into it.
14. How good can this defense be?
It depends on how hard they work at it. You can feel good about yourself and get complacent. In all fairness to them, they worked really hard in the winter program and feel they can be really good. They have good leadership, and Joe thinks they can be better than last year. A lot will depend on the kicking game.
15. Has your opinion changed about a kid skipping the spring of his senior year to enroll early in college based on the success of guys like Dan Connor?
Joe is still not crazy about it, but it is beneficial to the program. He thinks that a kid should enjoy his final semester of high school, but Penn State has had some kids who were determined to enroll early and it has worked out well.
16. How do you feel heading into your 40th season?
It's going to be a fun year for Joe. It's a big challenge for him personally and for the program. He's spent a lot of time on football related matters since the offseason began, only taking a break to go to Aruba.
17. What's the difference between this offseason and previous ones?
The players are more intense. Of course, when you've gone through a winter program and then the next one changes, it seems like a big deal, but it's really not. The coaches sit down each year and evaluate what needs to be accomplished during the winter. Joe doesn't know if he could play big time football. It's a full-time job. The winter program has been slightly different this year, but it will probably be different next year based on the makeup of the squad.
18. Is fullback a concern?
Absolutely. BranDon Snow has moved back there. Dan Lawlor will be there and participate this spring. Jed Hill is there as well. Snow wasn't a really good pass receiver before, but he told Joe that he has someone throwing him passes everyday, so Joe is anxious to see him.
19. Are you looking at playing a true freshman kicker?
There are two walk-ons already in the program in Humes and . Placekicker is a real big if for Penn State. Look at guys like Nugent at Ohio State and Adam Vinatieri for the Patriots. They always make big kicks. Penn State hasn't had that luxury.
20. How do you feel about the offensive line?
Joe is concerned about their mental toughness, not their physical toughness. The coaches changed their winter program to make them work hard and do some different things. They have to get more consistent performance from the offensive line to be successful.
21. What kind of satisfaction do you get from seeing former players work their way up the coaching ranks like Tom Bradley?
Joe has had a lot of players like that. He is glad to see that Tom finally got the credit he deserved last year for the great work he does with the defense after getting overly criticized in past years.
22. Will Dan Connor stay at MLB and where does Tim Shaw fit into the mix?
They're going to go back and forth on that. The system is set up so that it's not difficult to play inside or outside, so Connor and Shaw may play both inside and outside. The team is fortunate to have good athletes who are also bright kids at linebacker.
23. What do remember about the '94 team and have you pointed to them as inspiration for the current team?
Joe hasn't used them as inspiration. They had good leaders. They were as good as anyone in the country and didn't get any credit for it because Joe decided to be a nice guy at Indiana. He resents that because those kids deserved better than that. Joe doesn't think any team could have beaten them.
24. Will anyone else be held out this spring for health reasons?
Pavlik, a walk-on, has a blood problem and the doctors won't let him participate. Brendan Perretta is also nursing a knee injury and won't participate in contact drills. Everyone else is going to make it.
25. Any coaching changes?
The staff will not have any changes from last year.
26. Did Gio Vendemia decide not to come back on his own?
Joe talked to Gio and wanted him to come back, but he is a very good student and has two or three really good job offers. He called Gio over the holidays and asked him to call Joe after the break, but he didn't, so it looks like a done deal.