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Last updated: February 17. 2013 1:49AM - 46 Views

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With the Patriots, he rotated running backs by design. Through three games at Penn State, Bill O'Brien hasn't had a choice in the matter.


Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, the coach's most frequently used phrase during this first month is "day-to-day."


The status of three prominent players – top tailbacks Bill Belton and Derek Day, along with starting left tackle Donovan Smith – remains uncertain as Penn State prepares to face Temple on Saturday.


"Some of guys are day-to-day, but I feel good about the backfield situation for Saturday," O'Brien said Tuesday at his weekly press conference when asked about Belton and Day.


Asked later about Smith, O'Brien also labeled him "day-to-day."


"I know you guys hate that answer, but it's the truth," O'Brien said. "If he comes out today and he can move around, then maybe he's got a better chance to play. If he comes out today and he's gimpy, then (he) probably won't play."


Belton has a nagging ankle injury suffered in the opener against Ohio. Day (separated shoulder) and Smith (foot/ankle) both exited after halftime the next week against Virginia. All three sat out of last week's win against Navy.


Penn State listed Belton and Day as "possible" to play against the Owls, though O'Brien said Day is further along in his recovery.


"These guys get beat up during the season," O'Brien said. "They're running backs. That's the nature of the position, so the next guy has got to be ready to go.


"We've gotten decent production out of other guys. Curtis Dukes came in and did some good things on Saturday. (Michael) Zordich did some good things. (Zach) Zwinak needs to probably play a little bit more. So we've got some guys there that can step up, we believe."


Backup center Ty Howle, who suffered a torn pectoral over the summer, could return as soon as this week. Senior defensive end Pete Massaro, however, will miss his second straight game with a shoulder injury.


Smith was not listed on the injury report, but he also did not appear there last week and ultimately missed the game.


Long-term injury for Wartman?

The news has not been encouraging for Valley View grad Nyeem Wartman. The true freshman linebacker injured his knee against Virginia, did not play against Navy and has already been ruled out for Saturday.


"I wouldn't expect him back for awhile," O'Brien said.


Wartman had earned a spot as the second-team middle linebacker for the opener and made the quickest impact out of all of his rookie classmates, blocking a punt against the Bobcats to set up a Lions touchdown.


"It is disappointing because you feel bad for the guy," O'Brien said. "He's just a great kid who has a really, really bright future at Penn State. You just feel bad for him that he was playing pretty well, and then he has the injury."


Sorting through redshirts

Wartman is one of six true freshmen to see the field this season, joining QB Steven Bench, CB Da'Quan Davis, TE Jesse James, CB Jordan Lucas and WR Trevor Williams.


With the Big Ten season approaching, O'Brien said the staff would like to redshirt the rest of the freshman class, including WVC standout Eugene Lewis. Injuries to players ahead of them on the depth chart, however, could always force a change of plans.


"These guys are ready at a moment's notice," O'Brien said. "They are. They practice that way. Some guys go back and forth between the (scout team) and the first- and second-team practices. That's tough on them. But this is a very strong freshman class that I think has a really bright future here."


Firmly on the radar

Allen Robinson career day on Saturday earned him a belated spot on the Biletnikoff Award watch list for the nation's top wide receiver.


Robinson caught three touchdowns against Navy and leads the Big Ten in receptions (24), receiving yards (322) and touchdown catches (4), ranking in the top 10 in the country for those categories.


UP NEXT


Temple at Penn State




TV: 3:30 p.m., Saturday. ABC, WNEP-16



Where: Beaver Stadium, University Park.



Last Meeting: PSU defeated Temple 14-10 on Sept. 17, 2011.



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