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O'Brien knows young talent could leave after season, goal is 'to take care of the now'

September 6, 2012 - Cory Giger
Bill O'Brien knows he has some talented young players to build the Penn State program around, but even he has to stop himself from looking too far into the future because he realizes nothing with his roster is guaranteed beyond this season.

During his weekly radio show Thursday night, O'Brien talked about two true freshmen, linebacker Nyeem Wartman and cornerback Da'Quan Davis, and said they have bright futures at Penn State.

The coach, without being asked or prompted, abruptly switched course to remind everyone that all the Nittany Lion underclassmen will be free agents once again at season's end because of the NCAA transfer rules.

"Another reality of this is that these guys, after the season, might get recruited again," O'Brien said. "But these kids -- this is a great freshman class -- and I hope people support them and understand they have really bright futures."

The question, once December rolls around, will be whether those futures will be at Penn State, or if a large number of players will decide to transfer.

Host Steve Jones asked O'Brien if the concerns about players potentially leaving plays a role in any redshirt decisions.

"I think the No. 1 thing we try to do as a staff is try to take care of the now," O'Brien said. "Do what's best for the football team right now. And we've done that all the way through, regardless of the sanctions or not. ... Sometimes it's best for that player to be thrown in the fire early. Some other guys maybe are not quite ready but have great futures for us."

SUBHD: RB update

O'Brien confirmed fifth-year senior Derek Day will start at tailback Saturday in place of Bill Belton, who's nursing an ankle injury.

"I'm not sure if Billy will be able to go," O'Brien said.

It will be the first start of Day's career, and O'Brien noted junior Curtis Dukes also will get some carries Saturday. Redshirt sophomore Zach Zwinak also should see action.

Dukes was impressive for a stretch last season, finishing third on the team with 247 yards rushing while averaging 5.8 yards per carry, but the 245-pounder rarely saw the field the second half of the season.

O'Brien made it sound as if true freshman Akeel Lynch will not play Saturday.

"He's made a lot of progress," O'Brien said of Lynch before adding that others ahead of him will get an opportunity first.

If Lynch doesn't play this week, it could be an indication the coaches plan to redshirt him.

SUBHD: Defending Roof

O'Brien seems to be aware that his defensive coordinator and good friend, Ted Roof, has been drawing a lot of criticism after Ohio gained 499 yards on PSU.

"I have a ton of confidence in Ted," O'Brien said. "Let's remember now that Ted won a national championship at Auburn."

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