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Checking in with ... Jay Paterno, Part II

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Here's the second half of my interview with Penn State quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno.

Are you more curious to see the wideouts or the offensive line in camp? Everything depends on how those guys perform up front.

Jay Paterno: Probably about the same, but the key really will be the offensive line and how quickly they deal with things. There's some awfully good defensive lines we're going to play in this league. Ohio State's got people back, Illinois has people back, Iowa's always got people. That's just off the top of my head. It's one of those things where they're going to have to ramp up and get good in a hurry. That will be the key. That's what we're all going to be watching.

As far as the running back situation, from talking with Evan [Royster] in the spring, he wants to be a potential featured guy as far as carries. You have a lot of other guys there as well. Do you see things going like they were last year, more of a committee thing, or will Evan be more featured?

JP: I forget what he ran for, 1,200 [yards], I don't even know. He had a pretty good number of carries last year. The key for him is going to be staying healthy because he's done a lot of different things. He's a guy who catches the ball. Running with the ball, he's really shifty, makes big plays. He made a play that really got us going against Michigan when we really weren't playing very well. So he's a guy we'll obviously feature. The question is, there's a lot of guys behind him and a lot of competition. You've got [Stephfon] Green back there, you've got [Brandon] Beachum back there, you've got [Brent] Carter coming back from the injury he had. And then you've got Joe Suhey, who's kind of a hybrid fullback-single back, a guy who can catch, too.

We've got a lot of good backs. It's a great situation, but everybody's going to compete there. It's a position where if you're not careful, if you're not on top of your game, there's a bunch of guys that are clawing their way, trying to get playing time, too. But Evan's proven a lot of things in big games for us, so we're obviously going to feature him.

With Green, is he on schedule to come back at full strength after his [ankle] injury?

JP: He went through the Lift for Life [weightlifting competition/fundraiser] two weeks ago, and the Lift for Life is probably tougher than the games. So I think he'll be alright. The Lift for Life is almost torture. But it's a lot of fun. They raise a lot of money every year. The point is, he went through that workout, so a game will be a piece of cake for him.

You guys put up a bunch of great numbers on offense last year. With Daryll back, are your expectations the same as they were last year, or is it more a wait-and-see thing after the losses at wide receiver and offensive line?

JP: We want to be a little better than we were last year, if we can. Joe came in after last season in a staff meeting and guys are talking about, 'Well, we ranked here defensively, we ranked here in this, we ranked here in that.' And Joe said, 'Hey, look guys, we lost two games and that's all I'm worried about. I've never been a coach who's been content going 11-1.' He said, 'I want to win them all. I want to win the national championship. That's the one that we should talk about.' And that's his goal every year. We'll look at that and say, 'We need to improve.' We could have scored two more points at Iowa City and we're playing in the national championship. None of us are content with what we did last year. It's going to be a situation where we try and push and get better and better. Now, whether we can get there or not with a new line and some new wideouts, we'll find out.

I really sensed that Joe had a second wind in the spring. Did you sense that as well after his health issues were behind him?

JP: Yeah. Obviously, with the [hip-replacement] surgery, he had his own challenges there. But he's really, really been upbeat. Even on vacation, he called me a couple times, 'Hey, what do you got for me? What are you working on?' And I'm like, 'Well, actually, I'm on vacation. I'm not in here painting the Sistine Chapel for you. I'm working on it, sketching some things out.'

I was watching the British Open last week. They talked about Tom Watson, he had his hip [surgically repaired] in October. I said to Joe, 'Hey, he had his hip done in October and competed for the British Open. You got yours in November. Time for you to step up. Guys are making you look bad. Lance Armstrong's back on the bike and he's 37. Some guy out in Oregon, an 81-year-old guy, he did a NASCAR race.' I said, 'You're slacking. You're just coaching.' And he kind of laughed and said, 'You know, you're right. I'll have to pick it up.'