Nittany Lions might be minus Hill, Carter for Huskers

Posted: November 08, 2012

STATE COLLEGE - The injury bug seems to be the Nittany Lions' weeklong opponent.

As Penn State (6-3, 4-1 Big Ten) readies for its last road game of the season, Saturday against the Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-2, 4-1), the Lions could be without two of their star players - senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill (knee) and redshirt freshman tight end Kyle Carter (foot). Meanwhile, running back Curtis Dukes (head), who generally sees time on special teams, is out.

At his weekly news conference on Tuesday, coach Bill O'Brien said both Hill and Carter are day-to-day.

"They come in every day for treatment and we take a look at them in the training room, weight room, out on the field," O'Brien said. "Really, that'll be a later-in-the-week decision."

Carter was held out of last week's dismantling of 3-6 Purdue, but his absence wasn't felt too strongly in a 34-9 road win.

This week, the Lions are a touchdown underdog to the No. 18 Huskers.

Carter is second on the team in receptions (35) and receiving yards (441), and Hill has the most tackles on the defensive line (45). Carter's replacements are Jesse James, Matt Lehman or Garry Gilliam. Hill usually is spelled by James Terry.

Sizing up the run game

Though running back Zach Zwinak has had three 100-yard rushing games this season and Bill Belton has only had one, Bill O'Brien wouldn't commit to either as the starter.

"That'll be a competition every week," O'Brien said.

Belton started the season opener against Ohio, but then dealt with an ankle injury for several weeks, opening the door for Zwinak, Derek Day and even fullback Michael Zordich to get carries at different points in the season. Belton had a strong game a few weeks ago at Iowa, rushing for three touchdowns, but Zwinak was the primary option against Purdue.

O'Brien said his players have to earn everything they get in practice and that's the way it's been ever since he got to Penn State.

"That's really what we try to do at every position," O'Brien said. "Is it easy to beat out Matt Stankiewitch at center? No, of course not. He's probably going to be our center. But he knows every week he's got to go out there and perform well in practice. Is Jordan Hill going to be our starting defensive tackle? Probably, but he knows he has to go out there and practice."

Tight End U?

Though Penn State has historically been nicknamed "Linebacker U," a popular version going around now is "Tight End U" because of O'Brien's reliance on the position.

When Carter was out against Purdue, O'Brien had a fairly easy time replacing him with James, a true freshman who caught three passes for 49 yards and a touchdown.

"He has unlimited potential," O'Brien said of James. "He's learned the offense, become stronger in the weight room, and we're really expecting big things from Jesse over the next few years, no question about it, and the next few games."

O'Brien's tight ends have accounted for a combined 67 catches, 827 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

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