Penn State's chances at an upset this weekend at Nebraska could hinge on the availability of Jordan Hill and Kyle Carter. And the Nittany Lions are playing things close to the vest.
Lions coach Bill O'Brien said both Hill, his top defensive lineman, and Carter, his most productive tight end, are day-to-day with their injuries.
Hill suffered a sprained knee in the first half against Purdue and did not return. Carter injured his ankle at the end of the Ohio State game and stayed home in State College for last week's game.
If either is close to returning for Saturday's 3:30 p.m. kickoff at Nebraska, O'Brien isn't letting on.
That will be a later-in-the-week decision, O'Brien said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. O'Brien confirmed that both players were able to participate in practice to some extent on Monday but would not give details.
Hill and Carter remain listed as starters on Penn State's depth chart.
True freshman Jesse James stepped in for Carter at F-tight end against Purdue and scored a touchdown.
He has unlimited potential, O'Brien said.
At defensive tackle, fifth-year senior James Terry filled in for Hill for much of the second half last week. Sophomore Kyle Baublitz also saw time.
I've been pleased with both of those guys, O'Brien said. They're guys that don't start, but they play. And when they go in, they play hard. They do what they're supposed to do. ... They've made plays for us.
Tailback Curtis Dukes, relegated mostly to special teams this season, has been ruled out with a head injury. O'Brien said he believed Dukes suffered a concussion on the opening kickoff last week while playing on the coverage team.
At tailback, for the first time since Bill Belton recovered from an ankle injury, Penn State is listing the starting spot as belonging to Zach Zwinak or Belton.
As has been the case all season, O'Brien said Tuesday that the starting job will be determined from competition in practice.
Zwinak rushed for a career-high 134 yards against Purdue while Belton appeared on just one play and did not touch the ball. O'Brien said after the game that work on the practice field determined that.
On Tuesday O'Brien said the decision wasn't about sending a message to Belton as much as it was to reward Zwinak.