UNIVERSITY PARK -- There's a scene in the classic baseball movie "Bull Durham" where Kevin Costner tells the minor league manager that young players respond best when they're scared, so the manager throws a bunch of bats at them in the shower.
Joe Paterno can't throw things at players any longer. The 83-year-old can't physically line up next to them and start shoving them around like a young coach would. But he can still scare them in his own ways.
That's what JoePa did last week when he decided to strip all players of their first- and second-string status and essentially made it an open competition for starting spots.
Nothing scares a player like losing his job. And while it's unclear who or how many Penn State players may have been bumped from the starting lineup, the tactic did work in terms of getting their attention.
"That kind of just woke people up," cornerback D'Anton Lynn said.
The players needed "more passion," according to linebacker Nate Stupar, who said, "The last two games, I think we lacked a little enthusiasm."
The Lions had a bye last week, and the coaches used the grueling practices to remind the players that no job is safe.
"They were long, they were tough," Lynn said of the practices. "It was kind of similar to camp. They took away all our starting jerseys ... because they said all the spots were open again."
"I challenged the team," Paterno noted. "I said, 'We have to make some plays. We have played enough football games now that we ought to be able to go out there and understand how the game is won.'"
The result last week, Lynn said, was a renewed sense of competition for everyone on the team.
"It kind of raised the intensity level in practice up because, if you're second or third string and you saw that, you kind of took that as an opportunity to be your week to earn a starting spot," Lynn said. "So once the second- and third-string players raised intensity, that made the starters raise their intensity."
Place-kicker Collin Wagner, who is able to stand and watch a lot of practices since he can't be kicking all the time, said as a spectator he could see fights breaking out on the field during practice.
"Almost every play guys were mixing it up at the end," Wagner said.
The players were off Friday through Sunday, but Stupar said they brought that same type of enthusiasm back with them to practice Monday.
"We were really focusing on that in practice ... about just being enthusiastic and just having fun out there and coming out with an attitude, a little swagger, really just being blessed to be out there being able to play," Stupar said.
Paterno wants to see more of that kind of stuff from his players, but he admitted it can be difficult to gauge it.
"We don't have a laugh meter or enthusiasm meter on the field," he said.
Some of the players, Stupar pointed out, had "lost their way" after a disappointing 3-3 start.
"It's not fun to lose," he added. "So losing and things not going right, mistakes happening, it's not gonna feel good."
It would feel even worse for the starters to lose their jobs. As it stands, Lynn said no defensive starters had lost their starting spots on Monday, and he wasn't sure about the offensive guys.
That begs one obvious question: If the coaches don't follow up on the threat of benching starters, can the threat actually work?
"Yeah, the point did get made to players," Lynn said.
SUBHD: Stanley charged
Sophomore defensive end Sean Stanley was charged Monday with misdemeanor marijuana possession, which explains his suspension for the past two games.
Penn State Police found marijuana in Stanley's apartment Sept. 28, according to court records. His roommate is cornerback Derrick Thomas, a redshirt freshman who also has been suspended the past two games but has not been charged with anything.
Stanley has returned to practice, while Thomas has not, Lynn confirmed Tuesday. Paterno would not discuss the Stanley situation or his status for this week's game.
SUBHD: Injury update
Receiver Curtis Drake will redshirt this season, Paterno said, after suffering a broken leg in preseason camp.
Linebacker Gerald Hodges, who suffered a broken left leg in week two at Alabama, has returned to practice and could play this week.
Injured linebackers Michael Mauti (ankle) and Bani Gbadyu (calf) also are expected to return after missing the Illinois game.
Defensive end Jack Crawford (foot) still has not returned to practice and likely will be out at least a couple of more weeks. Paterno said it's doubtful defensive end Eric Latimore (wrist) can return this season but did not rule it out.
SUBHD: Defensive moves
Chaz Powell has been moved back from receiver to cornerback, where he spent most of preseason camp.
Powell went to Paterno to ask for the switch because he didn't feel he was being much use as a receiver, having caught only three passes for 11 yards.
Drew Astorino has been moved from the hero position, or strong safety, to free safety to replace Nick Sukay, who will miss the rest of the season with a chest injury. Junior Andrew Dailey has taken over at the hero.
Paterno said he does not plan to move Lynn from cornerback to safety.
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and email@example.com.