Paul Jones could see his first career snaps as a Nittany Lion on Saturday -- but not as a quarterback.
The Nittany Lions' tailback picture is a lot more uncertain.
Jones, the 260-pound sophomore, still has yet to play a snap in college after redshirting his freshman season, missing 2011 due to academic reasons and not seeing the field in Penn State's first two games. When true freshman Steven Bench went into the Virginia game ahead of him on Saturday, speculation that Jones might be looking elsewhere sprung up. O'Brien made it clear Tuesday, though, that Jones still factors into his plans for the offense, if not at quarterback.
"Paul and I have a great relationship," O'Brien said. "We have had a lot of discussions about his role on the team. We feel right now the best thing for him is to try him at this F position."
O'Brien said that Jones still has "a package" of plays at quarterback and could still be used at that position. Saturday, at least, the plan is to play him at the F, a position the coach has been creative with both here and with the New England Patriots.
"We're just trying to get our best players on the field," O'Brien said. "He's a guy that we've got to play and that's on me to get him into the game."
In other news Tuesday O'Brien said that running backs Bill Belton (ankle) and Derek Day (shoulder) remain day-to-day, and that Curtis Dukes, Zach Zwinak and possibly even fullback Michael Zordich would get work at tailback against the Midshipmen if the first two backs can't go. Asked later about Akeel Lynch, O'Brien said the true freshman is "in the mix" but that he would ideally like to redshirt him this season.
First-string quarterback Matt McGloin was held out of throwing drills on Monday to rest the right elbow he injured in the Virginia game but O'Brien was optimistic that McGloin would be ready for Saturday's game.
As for kicker Sam Ficken, O'Brien pointed out that when he looked back over tape of Saturday's game, he found that the snaps and holds for the sophomore kicker, who was 1-of-5 on field goals and had an extra point blocked, weren't always great, nor was the protection. He said the team has an open tryout for the kicking position (as well as the long-snapper position) each week and that Ficken has won it each week.
"He's the best of what we've got there," O'Brien said. "That's no criticism of the other guys."
One of the keys for Ficken, O'Brien explained, is to make sure his plant foot is pointed where he's kicking each time, an element he said the coaches are emphasizing with him this week.