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Penn State
Capital One Bowl Notebook: Linemen hope to dispel criticism

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

By Ray Fittipaldo, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

ORLANDO, Fla. -- While other Penn State players are using words like "fulfilling" and "gratifying" to describe their bounce-back season, Nick Marmo has a hard time feeling a part of it all.

The word he used to describe his season was "depressing."

Marmo, a redshirt sophomore offensive lineman from New Castle, was the Lions' third-string center after spending most of the spring as a starting guard.

Marmo was switched to center to be groomed for the position senior Joe Iorio will vacate after tomorrow's Capital One Bowl. Marmo and the other reserve offensive linemen have been criticized by Coach Joe Paterno, who has said many times this season that they're not playing to their potential.

"Sometimes me and [Paterno] don't always agree on things," Marmo said. "[But] when he tells you something, it's in your best interests, so when he says something to me I try to look at it and work on it a little more."

Thomas Jefferson graduate Tyler Reed, a redshirt freshman guard, has also come under criticism. A highly regarded prospect from the WPIAL, Reed spent the season as backup to senior Tyler Lenda.

"I try not to look too much into it, really," Reed said. "Some of those things are taken out of context. He always tells us not to listen to what he says in the paper."

Reed and Marmo will have an opportunity to prove Paterno wrong this spring. Four seniors are graduating from the offensive line, and competition for starting spots will be fierce.

"We're losing a lot of guys," Reed said. "We have great leaders and great players. They're good guys. They really set a standard for us this year, and they made everyone behind them better. They raised the bar a whole other notch. I think they helped us out by raising the bar.

"I feel pretty confident. I got into games here and there. I got a little experience under my belt, and I think that really helps. I'm feeling pretty good about it going into spring ball."

Reed will be favored to win a starting position somewhere on the line next season. Redshirt freshman E.Z. Smith and junior Chris McKelvy split time at left guard this season and should earn spots as well.

The future is less certain for Marmo. He split time with junior David Costlow behind Iorio, but he said he wouldn't be surprised if he were moved again after the bowl game.

"I just want to get on the field," Marmo said. "It doesn't matter. I know all the spots. That's another reason I'm always getting changed. It doesn't matter to me."

Marmo said he considered transferring.

"I've thought about it a few times, but I'm not going to do anything," he said. "I like it here. Eventually, I'm going to get on the field. I'd just like for it to happen now."

Richardson biding time

Andrew Richardson, a redshirt freshman tight end from North Hills High School, had some success during his rookie season. He played during some crucial minutes against Michigan after starter Casey Williams was injured and played more against Northwestern and Ohio State.

"I'm happy," he said. "I feel like I came in and did a good job when I was in there. Anytime I was in there, I felt like I did a good enough job. This year let me know I can play in the Big Ten."

Williams and backup Mike Lukac, both former walk-ons, will be seniors next season. Paterno has praised their work, but Richardson would like to see an open competition for the job in the spring.

"If I wasn't going to challenge them, then what's the reason for being here?" said Richardson, who is 6 feet 6, 260 pounds. "I'm looking to start next year. I'm looking to do everything I can during the off-season to get on the field. I know it's going to be tough because those guys are going to be seniors, and it's going to be their last year. They did a good job. But I'm not going to sit back and let them have it. I'm going to work by butt off to give myself a shot."

This 'n' that

Sunday was the final day for Penn State players to enjoy the Disney attractions, and talk yesterday centered around players starting to hone in on Auburn. "We came here to play a football game," receiver Tony Johnson said. "We had our fun. Now things are starting to get real serious." ... Quarterback Zack Mills proved he isn't easily startled in the pocket, but he was by some of the roller coasters at the theme parks. "I'm not one for roller coasters," he said. "I was pretty sacred at first. Now I kind of like them, so I have to thank the guys for getting me to try them." Mills reportedly was spooked by the Tower of Terror ride. ... Penn State sports information director Jeff Nelson said the Penn State ticket office sold 13,700 tickets for the game, not counting the fans who bought tickets through the Capital One Bowl.

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