PSU's Paterno regrets not using Clark earlier
CHICAGO — Perhaps the biggest hurdle in the development of Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark was convincing his stubborn coach.
As a sophomore in 2007, Clark was the backup to senior Anthony Morelli. As the Nittany Lions trudged through an 8-4 regular season, quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno wanted to get Clark some snaps in live action, but head coach Joe Paterno refused.
"I thought it would discourage the kid that we were using," Paterno said of Morelli, a Penn Hills graduate. "I thought the kid we were using had the potential to be a good quarterback. I blew that one."
Clark attempted just nine passes that year, but he was electrifying when called on in the bowl victory over Texas A&M. He ran for 50 yards, including an acrobatic touchdown from 11 yards.
"It means a lot and lets me know that (the coaches) were thinking of putting me in the mix," Clark said. "Then (Joe Paterno) ended up doing that toward the end of the year and in the Alamo Bowl. It boosted my confidence and made me realize that next year, in the '08 season, I had a shot to be the quarterback here."
Clark, now a senior, beat out Pat Devlin last year and was the best quarterback in the Big Ten. His legs are still a weapon, but with Devlin's departure to Delaware, Clark will have to pick his spots when to run the ball. Behind him on the depth chart are two players who never have thrown a pass for the Nittany Lions: true freshman Kevin Newsome and redshirt freshman Matt McGloin.
"I have to learn to live to fight another down," said Clark, a team captain. "I've had three concussions already in my career, and I have to watch that. You have to be tough out there, but you have to be smart."
Clark is one of the few known commodities on a Penn State squad that will need to rebuild its offensive line, wide-receiving group and defensive secondary. The line is a particular worry.
"It's a big concern of mine, and I think until we go through a good, tough preseason practice with some of them, there's a little pressure on them," Paterno said of a unit that must replace all-Big Ten selections A.Q. Shipley, Gerald Cadogan and Rich Ohrnberger.
Stefen Wisniewski, a second-team all-conference guard last year, has been moved to center. Right tackle Dennis Landlot is the only other returning starter.
"A lot of them we've seen practice, and they've played some, but they haven't been anywhere where the success of a game rests on their shoulders, and they can't make dumb mistakes, can't jump offsides, can't lose hold of a guy, all those kinds of things," Paterno said. "I'm not quite sure where we are up front, but I think it is a question mark for us."
Even if he was a little confounding, Paterno defended the Nittany Lions' soft nonconference schedule that features home games against Akron, Syracuse, Temple and I-AA Eastern Illinois. None of those teams had a winning record last year.
"I don't know how good we are right now. We haven't played a game," he said. "I haven't seen these guys play a game yet. So for me to get up here and worry about what people think about our non-conference schedule (is pointless)."
"Hey, you guys have got to talk about something. The fans have got to put something on those — what do you guys call those things — Twittle-do, Twittle-dee• I haven't got the slightest idea what you're looking at," said the 82-year-old coach.