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Penn State Football Notebook: Zordich Goes to O’Brien for Increased Role in Offense

by on September 16, 2012 1:30 PM

There is nothing fancy about Mike Zordich’s north-south running style. It’s pounding forward, again and again, over and over, and he used it once upon a time to rush for almost 1,000 yards his junior season at Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio.

So with running backs Bill Belton (ankle) and Derek Day (shoulder) limited in practice for precautionary reasons, Penn State coach Bill O’Brien had to dig a little deeper into his running back depth to gameplan Navy. Outside of Curtis Dukes, options were slim, especially considering the staff’s desire to redshirt freshman Akeel Lynch. O’Brien scanned his personnel packages and determined he could better utilize Zordich, one of the pillars of the senior class that helped save Penn State football in 2012.

“He's always reminded me that, 'I used to run the ball in high school, Coach,’ O’Brien said. “It's like being Ferris Bueller's teacher, it's over and over. He's a great kid and with the injuries there, we felt that he was a guy that we wanted to get on the field a little more. I thought he did well for the most part. He's got to get his pads down at times, but for the most part he did a good job.”

Zordich carried 11 times for 50 yards, caught two passes for 25 yards and lined up outside in another formation. His hands, strength and agility allow O’Brien to be versatile in where he sets up his fullback.

Belton will likely resume his role as the featured back once his ankle heals. O’Brien said he still considers him day-to-day. Day has a separated left shoulder and is also day-to-day. Regardless of their availability, O’Brien has to get his best players on the field. Zordich is certainly one of them.

Donovan Smith Day-to-Day with Ankle

Penn State’s starting left tackle should be OK to play Saturday against Temple, O’Brien said, but more will be known how Donovan’s Smith injured ankle is progressing midway through the practice week.

Smith missed Saturday’s 34-7 victory against Navy after he injured the ankle the previous week at Virginia. He did not practice last week.

On the defensive line, end Pete Massaro (shoulder, knee) can pretty much be considered day-to-day the rest of the season, O’Brien said. Massaro injured his shoulder in the first half at Virginia on Sept. 8 and has had setbacks in his surgically repaired knee. He did not dress against Navy.

Freshman linebacker Nyeem Wartman (knee) was also held out Saturday.

Ty Howle Could Return for Temple

In better injury news, backup center Ty Howle, who ended the spring as the top long-snapping option, should return against Temple, O’Brien said.

Howle, who tore a pectoral muscle earlier this summer, was thought to be out for the entire season.



Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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