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Mills name now is quarterback |

Mills name now is quarterback

| Friday, October 5, 2001 12:00 a.m

Last season, Penn State quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno used two self-evident nicknames to set Zac Wasserman apart from fellow freshman Zack Mills.

Wasserman, who throws right-handed, was called ‘Righty’ and southpaw Zack Mills was tabbed ‘Lefty.’

Now that Wasserman has transferred, Mills is simply ‘Zack’ on the practice field. But when Mills walks around campus, hardly anyone can pick him out of a crowd.

‘A lot of guys on the team joke around with me because I’m not the biggest guy in the world,’ said Mills, who is 6-foot-2, 200 pounds with a baby-face look. ‘I look like a normal student.’

Left-handed quarterbacks are a rare commodity. One of the few times it can make a difference is on rollout plays, most of which are designed to go to the right.

Mills and right-hander Matt Senneca use the same plays with no modifications for which side they throw from. Mills rolled out plenty last week against Iowa, which meant he often was throwing across his body.

‘I feel comfortable doing it,’ he said. ‘You have to be able to do that from both sides. It is a little harder rolling to your right, but it’s something you just have to do.’


Defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy returned to practice Wednesday, but his sore lower back is not fully healed. Yesterday, Kennedy did not detail the specific nature of his injury, but said it was not a muscle problem.

‘Something came out of place,’ he said, adding that results of x-rays and a MRI exam showed ‘nothing major.’

Kennedy injured his back on the first series against Iowa, and spent part of the game on the bench. Yet, he still recorded 10 tackles, half of them behind the line of scrimmage.

Tailback Eric McCoo suffered a concussion in the first quarter last week. He was kept out of practice Monday as a precaution, but is expected to play tomorrow. He was the Lions’ leading rusher against Iowa, with 11 carries for 24 yards.

Linebacker Tim Johnson (hamstring) has returned to practice, but is too far behind to get playing time in the next couple of weeks. ‘He is just trying to get back into some kind of football condition,’ coach Joe Paterno said.


The line is the strongest part of Penn State’s defense, yet the team has recorded only five sacks thus far. Opponents have combined for 15 sacks.

Kennedy said inexperience in the secondary and at the linebacker spots is preventing the Lions from putting a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The simplified defensive scheme does not allow for much blitzing.

‘No one is taking the blitz away from us. No (coach) is saying we can’t blitz,’ he said. ‘We’ve got a lot of young guys. The thing is, are they 100 percent sure of their roles and what they’re doing•

‘The coach is starting out with the basic stuff first. Once we get that down, we can move on to more advanced stuff.’


Sean McHugh stands 6-5, which would be a drawback if he was trying to win a spot as the center on Penn State’s basketball team. But as a football player, he might be the tallest fullback in the nation.

‘Yeah, I assume so,’ McHugh said, laughing.

McHugh’s size was one reason Paterno played him at tight end last season. But his running ability – McHugh rushed for more than 2,000 yards as a senior at Ohio’s Chagrin Falls High School – led Paterno to switch him to fullback in July.

The sophomore had a big game last week against Iowa, catching a team-high six passes for 45 yards and rushing four times for 7 yards. McHugh came up with two clutch third-down grabs during the Lions’ 90-yard touchdown drive.

Still, McHugh has a ways to go before he fully is adjusted to his role in the backfield.

‘Blocking is difficult, especially on an (isolation) play or a draw, when I’m against a linebacker who might be 6-1 or 6-2,’ he said. ‘It’s hard to get low. Because I’m so tall, it’s hard for me to get down underneath guys’ heads. Right now, that’s my biggest problem.’


Sam Crenshaw was an obvious choice when the coaching staff was rounding out the special teams units.

‘They were looking for somebody who can jump,’ said Crenshaw, whose vertical leap has been recorded at 39 inches. ‘But it’s been a long time since they tested (his leap), so I really don’t know how high I can go.’

It’s been plenty high so far this season. Crenshaw has blocked two field-goal attempts and one punt.

‘I attribute it all to the line,’ he said. ‘They got a great push. The rest is easy for me.’

Crenshaw’s leaping blocks have drawn comparisons to the airborne acrobatics of former All-America linebacker LaVar Arrington.

‘Me and LaVar always had like a little competition to see who could get up higher, so I guess I’m trying to beat him now,’ Crenshaw said.

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