Penn State notebook: Injury sidelines Lehman for season
UNIVERSITY PARK — Matt Lehman's season is over. Bill O'Brien isn't ready to say the same about the tight end's career.
A left-knee injury Lehman sustained during the second quarter of Penn State's win over Syracuse on Saturday will keep him out the remainder of the season, Penn State coach O'Brien said Tuesday.
Although O'Brien didn't specify Lehman's precise injury, he cited former Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti as a template for inspiration. Mauti tore the ACL in his left knee for the second time in November, and he made the Minnesota Vikings' roster last week after being drafted by the team in April.
“I think (Lehman) is a guy that can fall into that category,” O'Brien said. “If he's willing to work at it, he's got a future in football ahead of him.”
Lehman's left knee gave out on him — without being contacted — while running a pass route at MetLife Stadium. A senior by eligibility, he had 24 receptions for 296 yards and three touchdowns last season, his first as a player. Lehman transferred from Shippensburg after his freshman year, enrolled at a Penn State branch campus before ending up at University Park and walking onto the football team in 2011.
“I just absolutely love guys like that, guys that overcame the odds,” O'Brien said.
Lehman could apply to the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility via a medical redshirt.
Carter ‘day to day'
O'Brien classified sophomore tight Kyle Carter as “day-to-day” after he was limited in Saturday's game because of an apparent forearm injury.
If Carter can't play, O'Brien said senior Pat Zerbe — a fullback — could play tight end along with Jesse James and Adam Breneman. O'Brien also said safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong would take practice reps this week at tight end. Redshirt freshman tight end Brent Wilkerson is not an option because he “is out for a long period of time” with an injury.
Hackenberg the starter
After intentionally withholding his choice of starting quarterback throughout camp, O'Brien removed any doubt that freshman Christian Hackenberg will be the quarterback for at least the foreseeable future.
“Christian is the starter,” O'Brien said, “and Tyler needs to be ready to play.
“But Christian is the starter.”
Zero … point … zero
O'Brien was in a jovial mood Tuesday, needling media members and making self-deprecating jokes. He even claimed that when the Lions went for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 35 during their first possession Saturday, he thought it was actually first down.
O'Brien quipped that none of his assistants wanted to correct him.
“It was like John Belushi in ‘Animal House,' ” O'Brien said, referencing the 1978 comedy. “ ‘Just let him go,' when he said ‘When the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor.' ”
New bag policy, scoreboard
Saturday's home opener against Eastern Michigan will be the first at Beaver Stadium under a policy banning most bags, although small clear plastic bags will be permitted for certain items.
School officials also announced that a new sound system and video scoreboards would be installed after the season in time for 2014.
After previously being listed as co-starters, Garry Gilliam was listed above Adam Gress at right tackle on the official depth chart. O'Brien, though, said “both will play a lot.” … O'Brien did not elaborate on the status of Mike Hull a day after telling the Big Ten Network the junior starting linebacker was “probable” for Saturday's game. … Freshman defensive back Kasey Gaines was cleared to return to practice, but O'Brien declared senior defensive end Brad Bars out for the season and sophomore receiver Deshawn Baker is out for at least this week.