It came as "a bit of a surprise" to quarterback Matt McGloin that junior receiver Shawney Kersey decided to leave the team for personal reasons, and now Penn State will have to rely on more inexperienced players at another key position.
Kersey didn't put up big stats for the Nittany Lions -- six of his 12 career catches came in the first two weeks of this season -- but he did have significant game experience. He was on the field for 185 snaps last season and 150 in 2010, so he at least had experience running routes against live defenses.
Penn State confirmed Wednesday that Kersey had decided to leave the team, and he will remain in school and on scholarship. He had six catches for 44 yards the first two games.
"Shawney's not a focus at all, it's about getting a 'W,'" cornerback Stephon Morris said before adding, "Whatever Shawney's doing, I wish him the best. ... All I know is the train can't stop rolling. Right now we're 0-2, we can't really think about Shawney."
Kersey is the 12th player to leave the football team since the NCAA sanctions were announced, while two more (receiver Devon Smith and cornerback Derrick Thomas) had departed before the punishment came down.
"It's tough for a team to lose any member of it, but the thing is you have to move forward," center Matt Stankiewitch said. "It's just another opportunity for someone to step up."
Who will that be in this case?
Allen Robinson is Penn State's No. 1 receiver with 19 catches so far, and Kersey's departure puts the spotlight on junior Brandon Moseby-Felder, sophomore Alex Kenney and true freshman Trevor Williams, among others.
"Hopefully they understand the position that they're in and they have a chance to make something happen and contribute to the team," McGloin said of those receivers.
Kenney has five catches for 71 yards, while neither Moseby-Felder nor Williams has made a catch so far.
One potential issue with losing Kersey is that teams now can focus even more on stopping Robinson and forcing the other receivers to prove themselves. That likely means more double-teams for Robinson.
SUBHD: Injuries taking toll
Left tackle Donovan Smith has an ankle injury and has not practiced this week, Stankiewitch said. Mike Farrell has been working at left tackle, moving over from the right side, where Adam Gress is now with the first team.
Smith suffered from hamstring issues in training camp and in the first game before having the ankle problem surface at Virginia.
Defensive end Pete Massaro (shoulder) and linebacker Nyeem Wartman (knee) didn't take part in practice Wednesday, a portion of which was open to the media.
McGloin said his right elbow, injured at Virginia, is doing fine and added he threw a lot in practice Tuesday after not throwing Monday.
Running backs Bill Belton (ankle) and Derek Day (shoulder) both were in pads at practice Wednesday but didn't see much activity during the media portion. Belton had his left ankle heavily wrapped, according to practice observers.
Zach Zwinak was working as the first-team tailback, while Michael Zordich ran with the second team.
Notre Dame gained 293 yards rushing against Navy in the season opener, so Penn State is hoping to have enough healthy running backs to try and have similar success on the ground.
SUBHD: 'Must-win' game
Morris said, "This is a must-win opportunity" and spoke of the importance to get an early lead to try and force Navy to throw the ball.
Morris spoke in the preseason about how the much-maligned secondary would be better than expected, but he acknowledged that hasn't been the case through two games.
"So far we haven't proven the critics wrong," he said.
The main problem has been on third downs, as Ohio and Virginia combined to convert 18-of-21 opportunities.
"That's a huge problem. ... We've got to get off the field," said Morris, who added, "That's a DB problem. That's not a linebacker or line problem.
SUBHD: News and notes
PK Sam Ficken made all five of his field-goal attempts during the portion of practice the media was able to watch Wednesday. ... Paul Jones was working out with the tight ends rather than the quarterbacks. ... There were scouts from seven NFL teams on hand, a big difference from years past as Joe Paterno generally did not allow pro scouts at practice.
(NOTE: This story was updated Thursday morning to correct an errant web posting.)