PSU Notebook: CB King takes heat over pass coverage

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The subject was a touchy one for Penn State cornerback Justin King.

He got defensive yesterday when asked how he planned to bounce back from Saturday's so-so performance against Indiana receiver James Hardy.

Hardy, who had a 7-inch advantage over the 6-foot King, finished with 14 catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns.

"Everyone's trying to say I had such a bad game and that's not the truth at all," King said in a conference call. "It's just like it's all pointed toward me, and there were holes in our zone. Of the 14 passes James Hardy caught ... he caught maybe 10 balls under 8 yards."

After Penn State's 36-31 win at Indiana, King conceded it might have been "the longest day of my career." Even coach Joe Paterno admitted, "King had a tough day."

But Paterno, like King, backtracked yesterday.

"I think Justin King's played very, very well," Paterno said. "You've got to realize he takes on the best guy the other guy's got. He had a tough assignment [against Hardy]. He's out there all alone. We didn't give him a lot of help. Later on in the game, we gave him some help."

King, from Gateway High School, was rated the top junior cornerback by entering the Indiana game but has slipped to No. 3 behind Oklahoma's Reggie Smith and Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins.

"King relies too much on his athleticism in coverage," said Rob Rang, senior analyst for "He doesn't consistently locate the ball quickly enough. He also isn't aggressive or physical enough as an open-field tackler.

"Of course, these are coachable elements. What is not coachable is King's size and athleticism -- and it is that combination that will likely make him a first-round pick."

New faces

Dan Lawlor will replace Matt Hahn as the first-team fullback, and Chris Baker will take over for Jared Odrick as the starting left defensive tackle after Hahn (torn knee ligament) and Odrick (broken ankle) suffered season-ending injuries.

Paterno said he doesn't expect former starting right guard Mike Lucian to play Saturday. Lucian did not make the trip to Indiana because of a concussion. Freshman Stefen Wisniewski from Central Catholic High School made his first career start, substituting for Lucian, but John Shaw replaced him in the second quarter and played the rest of the way.


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