Indiana Daily Student

Paterno just seven wins from record

Seven wins. \nThat's all Penn State's Joe Paterno needs to pass former Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, as college football's all-time winningest coach.\nThe Nittany Lions getting seven wins in a season is pretty much a given. Penn State has failed to reach the seven-win plateau just three times in Paterno's 34 years as head coach. The last time Penn State didn't win seven games was in 1988 when it posted a 5-6 record.\nPaterno, though, doesn't think winning seven games this season will be as simple as everyone thinks.\n"Seven wins isn't going to be easy with our football team and the schedule that we play," Paterno said.\nPaterno, who often speaks humbly about his team, might be correct.\nUnlike 1999, when Penn State had loads of talent and was a preseason No. 1, a lot of uncertainty surrounds this year's Nittany Lions.\nThe defense must replace nine starters, including defensive end Courtney Brown, who was the top pick in April's NFL Draft. \nFrequently called "linebacker university," Penn State's big question mark on defense is at the linebacker position. Paterno and his staff have to find replacements for all-American linebackers LaVar Arrington and Brandon Short.\nReplacing Arrington and Mac Morrison at outside linebacker are senior Eric Sturdifen and junior Shamar Finney, who made a total of 18 tackles last season. \nJunior Ron Graham has the difficult job of replacing Short at middle linebacker. Graham arrived at Penn State in 1997 as one of the most heavily recruited high school players in the country.\n"Ron Graham has worked unbelievably hard this summer," senior defensive end Justin Kurpeikis said. "When he gets on the field he's a great talent, and he has a lot of potential."\nKurpeikis anchors Penn State's defensive line and is a candidate for many postseason awards after tallying 52 tackles in 1999. Paterno thinks highly of Kurpeikis, who is assuming a leadership role on the Nittany Lions new-look defense.\n"Justin is going to be a great player," Paterno said. "He has been a strong leader and had a great winter program and spring."\nSeven starters return on offense, including quarterback Rashard Casey. Despite being arrested May 14 and charged with aggravated assault in the beating of an off-duty police officer in his hometown of Hoboken, N.J., Casey will be Penn State's starting quarterback when it opens the season Sunday against Southern California in the kickoff classic. Casey pleaded not guilty to the charges, and Paterno has defended his quarterback throughout the summer.\n"I'm going to play Rashard Casey until something convinces me I shouldn't," Paterno said at the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon in the end of July.\nKareem McKenzie, a 6-foot-7-inch, 321-pound tackle, anchors Penn State's offensive line. McKenzie is a two-year starter and was on the field for 908 snaps last season.\n"A lot of people are looking to roll over us this season," McKenzie said. "We have 11 guys on offense and defense that can play"

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