STATE COLLEGE - What's the deal with that "Spacebook" and "Tweeter," anyway?
When asked Tuesday about the attacks that sophomore kicker Sam Ficken has received on Twitter after missing four field goals and an extra point in Saturday's 17-16 loss to Virginia, Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien poignantly responded, though he didn't quite get the names of Facebook and Twitter right.
"Obviously, I think it's absolutely ridiculous. Not just because it's a 19-year-old college kid. It's just because, I mean, it's anonymous in some ways, and in other ways it's not. But at the end of the day, you know, these guys are really playing hard, giving great effort for us," O'Brien said. "To go on whatever, Spacebook [sic] or Tweeter [sic], or whatever [and] put stuff on there is just absolutely ridiculous to me and very cowardly, to be honest with you. But that's just my opinion . . . I don't know what type of people do that."
Some of the tweets Ficken received at @sficken1 told him his parents were ashamed of him and he's incompetent. Several went as far as to ask if Penn State hates convicted child rapist Jerry Sandusky or Ficken more.
Despite the social media vitriol, O'Brien gave Ficken a vote of confidence, saying he must have got off at least 300 kicks at practice on Monday - before later noting he probably exaggerated the number.
O'Brien said kicking is a team effort, and the protection, snap or hold wasn't always great for the kicks on Saturday.
"He's really working on it, and he takes a lot of pride in it," O'Brien said. "He's a great kid. He's a Dean's List student. And he'll be back."
He did note, though, that there is a nonstop kicking competition.
"You know, to be honest with you, it's open every week," O'Brien said. "We chart it. It's open every single week. We chart the kicks. We chart the accuracy. We chart the percentages of kicks made. We chart the operation time. It's really open every week."
It just so happens that Ficken has never lost the competition. The other placekickers on the Nittany Lions are sophomore Kevin DiSanto and freshman Matt Marcincin.
The football news site Lions247 reported that redshirt junior wide receiver Shawney Kersey has left the team.
Kersey, a 6-1, 197-pound native of Woodbury, N.J., had six catches for 44 yards and started both games. Listed behind him on the depth chart are true freshman Trevor Williams, redshirt junior Brandon Moseby-Felder and redshirt junior Christian Kuntz.
Some other options could be true freshman Eugene Lewis or redshirt freshman Matt Zanellato.
Running backs Bill Belton (ankle) and Derek Day (shoulder), defensive end Pete Massaro (shoulder) and linebacker Nyeem Wartman (knee) are listed as "possible" in the game notes for Saturday's Navy game. O'Brien also said left tackle Donovan Smith has some bumps and bruises and is day-to-day.
The running back replacements are starting to thin out. If both Belton, who didn't make the trip to Virginia last week, and Day cannot play, O'Brien said Curtis Dukes, Zach Zwinak and possibly fullback Michael Zordich will see time at the position.
O'Brien said in an ideal situation, he'd redshirt true freshman running back Akeel Lynch, but he might be forced to play him. If that's the case, the coach says Lynch will be ready to go.
"He's a very, very good player," O'Brien said of Lynch. "We've got some veteran running backs that have played and are playing pretty good."
Meanwhile, the defensive end starter would likely be Deion Barnes, who is listed as an "OR" with Massaro on the depth chart, and at left tackle, it would likely be Nate Cadogan.
Finally, quarterback Matt McGloin (elbow) will "be ready to go," O'Brien said, noting the toughness of the Scranton native.
McGloin has a new target to throw to.
Paul Jones could still play at quarterback for the Lions in specific packages, but O'Brien said the sophomore will play this week as an "F'' tight end, the one that does more route running.
When asked if Jones, who seemed to even be in the mix for the starting quarterback job in the spring, was angry with the decision, O'Brien said, "No. Paul and I have a very good relationship, very honest relationship. We've had a lot of discussions about his role on the team. He's a 260-pound guy that is athletic and loves to play football."