Big Ten Q&A: Jay Paterno, Part II

Here's the second half of my interview with Penn State Nittany Lions quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno. For Part I, click here.

You've been in this system [Spread HD] now for a couple of years. You did some different things with Daryll [Clark] in Year 1 versus Year 2, so there's some adaptability, right?

Jay Paterno: Yes. When we go out Friday and Saturday to practice, they're not going to be able to handle everything that Daryll did, but you continue to build toward that. You have your base building blocks, things that are bread-and-butter plays for you, and things that they ran last fall, so you've just got to build off that. I think we'll see good progress as we go through spring with them. Just in looking at film with the guys, you could see toward the end of last year, we had one or two games left before the bowl, you could see both Matt and Kevin start to project, 'Hey, Daryll only has two or three more games.' As soon as he's done on Jan. 1 or whatever date we ended up playing, in their mind, they're thinking, 'I better start to ramp it up a little bit.' And they both did. They were starting to prep themselves last November and all of December. And we held four or five bowl practices where Daryll did very, very little and those guys ran the team. They ran the first team to get a feel for it. We started, in their mind, getting ready that way.

Robert [Bolden] is the other guy here, and he's not getting in until the fall. Do you have to wait and see how these three other guys do and then evaluate how he might fit in? Would you like to redshirt Paul or Robert? Is it too early to tell?

Jay Paterno: I don't think we'll know that until we get through August. We have 15 spring practices and 27, 28 in August before our first game. We'll probably go through all but seven or eight of those practices before we really make a decision, which is similar to what we did with Daryll and Pat Devlin. About a week and a half before the first game [in 2008], it became pretty evident who the guy was. At that point, we said, "OK, we're going to name our starter." I would imagine we're going to be in about the same timetable. It'll create a long summer for me because already it's been, "Hey, who's gonna start? Do you guys know who's gonna start yet?" That's the one difference. When you've got a starter returning, people leave you alone. But when you don't know, and you've got a bunch of young guys, everybody wants to know what's going on, and there's a lot of interest. Which is good. It's one of the things about being at Penn State that's great, there's always a lot of interest. But we won't know until August.

Would you be comfortable playing two quarterbacks?

JP: You'd like to have a lot of guys that are really good. We're going to have a handful of guys that are really top-level talent, it seems like. If we evaluated these guys well at all, we'll be in pretty good shape, talent-wise. You'd like to have a dominant guy, but if that's not the case, people forget that Chris Leak and [Tim] Tebow both played when Florida won the national championship a couple years ago. Leak was the guy, but Tebow came in. We've done it with Kevin Thompson and Rashard Casey back in '99, and we had a really good offensive football team that year doing that. Whether that's the case or not, who knows? That's something that down the road, it's going to sort itself out. Ideally, you'd like to have one guy, but sometimes you have different talents and you want to utilize them. But that'll be something that comes down the road.

And finally, Jay, you have experience elsewhere on the offense. How helpful will that be when you have a new starting quarterback? You have Evan [Royster] coming back, a lot of your wide receivers, too.

JP: We've been pretty fortunate in that in '05, we had Mike [Robinson] as a first-year starter at quarterback, but an experienced guy, a guy who had been around and knew the system. He was an experienced guy with young wideouts, so he was able to make sure in the huddle they knew what they were doing. And then Daryll's first year as a starter [2008], we had experienced wideouts, so he knew where they were going to be and could rely on them. And then Daryll's last year, in '09, you had an experienced quarterback with young wideouts, so he could get them going.

Now we've got experienced wideouts with a young quarterback. So we're fortunate in that there are people around him, whoever the starter is, that know what they're doing, that have been in a lot of tough games and know what's going on, and have talent. We have good talent at the skill positions, we've got speed, so it's a good situation for a young quarterback to step into. You have some guys you can trust and who can make plays for you. There's some experience in the offensive line that's back, too. If we had a whole new offensive line, new wideouts and a new running back and we were breaking in a new quarterback, I'd be more worried. But the fact that he's going to be surrounded by some guys that have played is going to be a big help, whoever [the starter] is.