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Last updated: February 16. 2013 8:47PM - 167 Views

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Stephon Morris and his teammates hear about it every day. Their own coach won't let them forget.


Graduation, injuries and dismissals have created plenty of question marks for Penn State's secondary headed into the Saturday's season opener against Ohio. And new defensive backs coach John Butler hasn't had to look hard for bulletin board material.


"It's definitely been a motivating factor," said Morris, a senior starter at cornerback. "Every day before practice and after practice coach Butler reminds us. … In our meeting room, he gives us a little saying about what the media is saying and what Ohio is saying. Everyone is saying we're the weak link.


"We're ready to go out there and show everybody how hard we've been working."


The Nittany Lions won't have much time to get comfortable. Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton is one of the most accomplished passers they will face this season. Tettleton, the son of former major-leaguer Mickey Tettleton, finished with 3,302 yards and 28 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2011.


Who exactly will start in the defensive backfield is up in the air.


Morris is a lock at one of the corner spots. Adrian Amos will likely be opposite him, but the sophomore lined up at all four positions so far in preseason camp.


That's in part because safeties Malcolm Willis and Jake Fagnano both dealt with lower-body injuries that caused them to miss time.


Both are ready to play, though Stephen Obeng-Agyapong could start in place of Fagnano.


"I feel good about the secondary," O'Brien said. "I think they've been very well-coached by John Butler.


"He's a very detailed coach and done a heck of a job with these guys. We've got some younger guys that have come in and really improved, and we think they can help us.


"Now I'm looking forward to watching those guys go out and play again against an excellent quarterback in Tyler Tettleton and a corps of receivers and tight ends that are really good football players at Ohio."


Paternos in attendance

A family spokesman told The Associated Press that members of the Paterno family intend to attend Saturday's opener.


The late coach's severance included use of a suite at Beaver Stadium for 25 years.


Though the Paternos have expressed their displeasure toward recent events – namely Joe Paterno's statue coming down and his reputation being tarnished by the university-commissioned Freeh report – the spokesman said Saturday would only be about showing support for Bill O'Brien and the football team.


"The family doesn't want to do anything to distract from the game this weekend," Dan McGinn said.


Trouble with trophies

Confusion still exists about the fate of the six trophies the Lions earned from winning bowl games since 1998.


The NCAA stripped Penn State of all of its wins – including in bowl games – from 1998-2011 as part of the heavy sanctions imposed in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.


Earlier this week an NCAA spokesman told WHP-TV in Harrisburg that the governing body would request that Penn State return the trophies from the Orange Bowl (2005 season), Capital One Bowl (2009) and two apiece from the Outback Bowl (1998, 2006) and Alamo Bowl (1999, 2007).


But bowl games and the BCS are independent entities, meaning the NCAA would not have the authority to also take back the trophies.


"As a correction to our statement last week, the NCAA did not specifically direct Penn State to return its trophies from vacated bowl wins as a part of its sanctions," spokesman Chris Radford wrote in a statement to multiple outlets. "As such, Penn State and each bowl operator must decide what is appropriate."



UP NEXT

Ohio at Penn State


Noon Saturday


TV: ESPN



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