Bill O‚??Brien apparently will hold auditions for kickoff returners this week after the Penn State coach made it clear Tuesday that he is not happy with that aspect of special teams.
The Nittany Lions are 10th in the Big Ten in kickoff returns (17.2 yards per return), and a fumble by sophomore Bill Belton on Saturday saddled Penn State with poor field position and set the tone for the second half in a 35-23 loss to Ohio State.
‚??I thought our kickoff return team was terrible,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said during a Big Ten coaches‚?? teleconference. ‚??We have to coach it better. We have to get going there and do a better job.‚?Ě
Belton and Jesse Delle Valla, a Shaler graduate, have been the primary kickoff returners, but O‚??Brien said there will be a competition for those jobs this week.
Wide receiver Alex Kenney and cornerback Adrian Amos are among those who could get a long look from the Nittany Lions coaches while Penn State prepares for a 3:30 p.m. game Saturday at Purdue.
‚?Ę Tight end Kyle Carter‚??s availability at Purdue could be in question after the redshirt freshman hurt his ankle in Penn State‚??s 35-23 loss to Ohio State. ‚??I think that‚??s going to be a day-to-day thing, and I‚??ll know better at the end of the week,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said.
‚?Ę Purdue senior defensive tackle Kawann Short is questionable for Saturday‚??s game after injuring his ankle in a loss at Minnesota. Short watched the game with a protective boot on his foot after getting hurt in the first quarter of 44-28 loss. As for Short‚??s status for the Penn State game, Purdue coach Danny Hope said, ‚??I think he wants to play, so I‚??m optimistic that he might be able to play Saturday.‚?Ě
‚?Ę Hope said Penn State‚??s front seven is the best in the Big Ten and may be the best Purdue has seen this season. That is high praise considering Purdue played Notre Dame earlier this season. A front seven led by linebacker Manti Te‚??o may be the biggest reason why the Irish are undefeated and No. 3 in the BCS rankings. ‚??I think Penn State‚??s front seven is every bit as good,‚?Ě Hope said. ‚??They make plays with their defensive fronts, and their linebackers play with a passion. They hit hard, are very smart and fast.‚?Ě
‚?Ę Hurricane Sandy shut down Penn State‚??s campus for part of Monday and forced the rescheduling of O‚??Brien‚??s weekly news conference, but it has not has much of an effect on the football team. Penn State practiced Monday night and Tuesday in Holuba Hall.