No. 1 -- for now
Upton gets nod as Penn State's starting TB for opener
Posted: Tuesday August 26, 2003 6:53PM; Updated: Tuesday August 26, 2003 6:53PM
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Senior Ricky Upton got the nod as Penn State's starting tailback -- at least for now.
Upton was listed as the top tailback on the depth chart for Penn State's opener Saturday against Temple. But the depth chart had hardly cooled from the copier when coach Joe Paterno hedged on Tuesday, saying that Upton still needed to prove he could hold onto that position.
"To be honest with you, Ricky Upton is certainly in the picture, he'll probably start," Paterno said. "We have not seen him in a situation where he is in the game early and has to do some things to make some things happen."
In three seasons, Upton has just 30 carries for 119 yards. Last year, playing behind record-breaking tailback Larry Johnson and Mike Gasparato, Upton carried just eight times for 37 yards, often struggling to hold onto the ball.
Passed over for the job, Gasparato is listed third on the depth chart. His 32 carries for 153 yards last season are the most among Penn State's returning tailbacks. He's still recovering from a hamstring injury sustained less than two weeks into fall practice and might not play against Temple.
Listed second behind Upton is redshirt freshman Donnie Johnson, who has carried seven times for 34 yards in the spring scrimmage last year, but has yet to play a game.
Although the talent is there, Paterno said Johnson needs to hone his mental approach before he becomes a big-time college back.
"He's a kid who plays with a lot of emotion," Paterno said. "He's is young and he is very, very impatient."
Upton and Donnie Johnson will have to find their yards behind an offensive line that is equally inexperienced.
Only one player among the 15 listed on the depth chart, tackle Chris McKelvy, has any starting experience. Paterno announced last week that E.Z. Smith, one of Penn State's most experienced linemen and a projected starter, will not play this year.
That inexperience means Penn State most likely will use an eight-man rotation until the offensive line can gel.
"If it's a hot day, we would want to do that," Paterno said. "We're going to play a lot of kids."