UNIVERSITY PARK -- Joe Paterno likes to take jabs at the media, and he had a good and pertinent one Tuesday when discussing new starting offensive lineman Chima Okoli.
Iowa has not just good, but great defensive ends, and JoePa understands that no matter how well Okoli plays at right tackle in his first career start Saturday, he certainly will struggle at times.
"I think [Okoli] will do a good job," Paterno said. "But I'd have to define what I think is good. You guys on Sunday may say, 'Well, so and so missed a block.' Yeah, he's going to miss that block."
Just like writers will make a mistake from time to time, he added.
"You guys, every once in a while, you ought to check your grammar," Paterno said. "Every once in a while, there's a couple of things in there I say, 'Didn't this guy ever take English?'"
Paterno's point was to judge Okoli based on the entirety of Saturday's game, not just a play or two in which he may look bad.
The reason for that is simple: Hawkeyes defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Broderick Binns will make a lot of offensive tackles look bad.
Clayborn is one of the best defensive players in the country and a likely first-round NFL draft pick, while Binns also wreaks a lot of havoc.
Okoli takes over at right tackle for Lou Eliades, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Temple, and he will be thrown to the fire against Iowa.
"Get ready. Here it is. That's literally what I said to myself," Okoli said of playing against Temple after Eliades' injury.
"I was like, 'It just got real. It just got real. Let's get it,'" he added. "There's no more time for being timid or going in there on your tiptoes. You really gotta get in there because it's real now, and everything counts."
Penn State's offensive line has struggled most of the season, and now it's replacing a key position at a tough time with conference play looming.
Okoli began his career on the defensive line, playing tackle the past two years, before moving to offense in the spring. He called it a "shock period" moving over to what he referred to as "the dark side" being on offense.
"I was like, 'Wow, man,'" Okoli said of the move. "It was a little bit of, 'Man, I've gotta learn all this stuff. Now I'm on the dark side.'"
He used to talk trash to all the offensive linemen, but now he's one of them.
He hates to see his friend Eliades get hurt, but Okoli knows what's at stake for him.
"I've been waiting for this since July 1, 2007 when I got on campus," he said. "I came here on the D-line, and it didn't really work out. But now it's really my time.
"Success is when preparedness meets opportunity. I've been preparing myself for my opportunity, so hopefully success will follow."
And how does he plan to have success?
"On the field, you really have to be mean," Okoli said. "This isn't a game where you can afford to go in there timid. That's how disasters happen. I learned tenacity and intensity from Lou, and you can't really put a price on that."
SUBHD: Kersey stays put
Redshirt sophomore receiver Shawney Kersey was not at practice last week and had planned to transfer, but he had a change of heart and returned to practice Monday.
Paterno was tight-lipped about Kersey's situation Tuesday.
"He practiced [Monday]," he said. "Some days, sometimes kids will miss a practice."
Receiver and captain Brett Brackett said, "He's just a young guy, and that's just something that's gonna happen when you're young. You're far from home -- he's from Jersey like I am -- and just trying to keep your head straight and focused on football."
Kersey hasn't caught a pass this season but did catch two TDs in the Blue-White Game.
SUBHD: Red zone issues
Paterno reiterated his comments from Saturday about playcalling being questionable at times in the red zone against Temple.
"Maybe the play selection has to be a little better, throw a little earlier in some downs and things of that sort," he said. "But overall, I don't want to go berserk. I think we've got to be solid when we get down there."
SUBHD: JoePa the motivator
Paterno spoke to Evan Royster early last week and again before Saturday's game, telling him both times to keep his head up and keep fighting for extra yards.
That was one small example of how JoePa is still very much involved in what's going on with the players.
"I wouldn't say we're extremely close because he's got a lot of people to worry about," Royster said. "But he always knows what to say to get you going. That's what you look for in a head coach. He's got so many people to worry about, but he knows what to say and can get people fired up."
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.