Penn State's defensive line, expected to be one of the team's strengths, got much thinner yesterday.
Junior defensive tackles Chris Baker and Phil Taylor, who each had been disciplined for off-the-field incidents in the past year, were kicked off the team, according to a team spokesman. Baker, 6 feet 2 and 300 pounds, started seven games last season. Taylor, 6-4, 330, started five.
Baker and Taylor were suspended from spring drills as were wide receiver Chris Bell (booted from the team in April), linebacker Navorro Bowman, tight end Andrew Quarless and defensive back Knowledge Timmons.
At the Big Ten Conference meetings in Chicago last week, coach Joe Paterno said he was waiting for the suspended players' grades to determine their status for the upcoming season, which begins Monday with the official start of practice.
"Most of those guys, I think, will be fine," Paterno said. "Some I may just let come out and run around a little bit, depending on the status of their grades. I haven't gotten rid of anybody yet until I get the grades."
Penn State officials did not provide a reason for the sudden departures of Baker and Taylor.
They were dismissed from the team three days after ESPN aired an "Outside the Lines" feature highlighting the team's off-the-field problems.
Baker had been cited earlier this month for harboring a dangerous dog. A source said Baker and Taylor's dismissals could be tied to an incident that occurred during a recent pool party in State College.
Patton Twp. police say three or four football players were at an apartment complex during the Arts Festival when a woman was pushed into a pool. After more pushing and shoving, the woman filed a report.
Police officials say that at least two players still are being questioned as part of their investigation. As of yesterday, no charges had been filed and the players have not been identified.
Two months ago, Baker was sentenced to two years' probation for his role in two separate fights. He had been working out with the team.
He pleaded guilty to simple assault and criminal trespass in connection with an off-campus fight at the Meridian II apartments in April 2007. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor simple assault for another fight at the student union building in October.
All other charges against Baker were dismissed. He had to pay $2,500 in restitution.
Taylor received one year's probation for his role in the October fight. The university's Office of Judicial Affairs suspended him from campus, including team activities, through mid-August. Penn State police charged him with simple assault.
With Baker and Taylor gone, sophomore Abe Koroma is expected to be the starting left tackle and sophomore Ollie Ogbu the right tackle.
Ron Musselman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .