Paterno talks secondary struggles, scheduling

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Penn State lost all four starters from a secondary that held up for most of last season before being shredded by USC in the Rose Bowl.

Halfway through spring practice, the Nittany Lions are still picking up the pieces in the back half.

"I'm very concerned about it," head coach Joe Paterno said Tuesday. "We have a long, long way to go to be a good secondary. We're not even close, but they're working hard at it. I hope we'll be adequate by the fall."

Paterno praised the progress of safety Drew Astorino but said cornerback A.J. Wallace recently suffered a pulled hamstring.

The 82-year-old coach also weighed in on Penn State's nonconference schedule, which has been widely criticized by fans and media members. Penn State plays four home games against Akron, Syracuse, Temple and Eastern Illinois, a soft slate that could hurt the team's early ranking.

"What happened to Michigan when they opened up last year?" Paterno said, actually referring to Michigan's 2007 opening loss to FCS member Appalachian State. "I haven't got the slightest idea how good or bad the people we're going to play yet I couldn't tell you who the second game is, who we're playing. I've tried to discipline myself to take care of what you've got to take care of."

Paterno is asked to give input on who Penn State plays and acknowledged Penn State's need to play home games at 107,282-seat Beaver stadium. The coach said Penn State talked with TCU about scheduling at game in State College.

"We thought Texas Christian was going to come here, they backed out," Paterno said. They decided that wasn't in our best interests. Little things like that come up."

Other Penn State notes:

  • Paterno shot down rumors that wide receiver Chaz Powell sustained an injury at Monday's practice. Powell participated in the entire workout.

  • Paterno reiterated his support for Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden, who might have to vacate 14 wins as part of the penalties for the school's academic fraud scandal.

"It would be a shame," Paterno said. "Bobby won all those games. He coached with the kids who were out there, he and his staff did the job they needed to do to win. This thing about who wins more games than the other guy, I don't care. I just hope we do a good job here and win as many games as we can. I'm sure Bobby feels the same way.

"Knowing Bobby, I'm very proud of him and admire him very much. I just don't want to see it happen. It would be foolish to take those games away from him."