• Bill O’Brien apparently will unveil a mystery man in the Penn State backfield Saturday at Beaver Stadium. The first-year coach said on his weekly radio show Thursday that a player who has been in the background will play a significant role out of the backfield against Navy. Running back Bill Belton (ankle) and top backup Derek Day (shoulder) are questionable to play in the 3:30 p.m. game, putting redshirt junior Curtis Dukes in line to make his first career start. O’Brien declined to name the player he said will have a key role. O’Brien said earlier this week that he hopes to redshirt running back Akeel Lynch.
• Penn State lost another player Thursday when reserve kicker/punter Matt Marcincin left the team for personal reasons. Marcincin, a redshirt freshman, had been the backup to kicker Sam Ficken. O’Brien hasn’t wavered in his support of Ficken, who missed four field goals and had an extra point blocked in a 17-16 loss at Virginia last weekend. He praised the sophomore again Thursday. “Sam’s a very mature kid, and someday I’m probably going to be working for him,” O’Brien said.
• Redshirt sophomore Paul Jones (Sto-Rox) and true freshman Jesse James (South Allegheny) will see significant playing time against Navy, O’Brien said. Jones will make his collegiate debut after moving from quarterback to tight end. O’Brien lavished praise on both of those players as well as starting right tackle Mike Farrell (Shady Side Academy). O’Brien said he challenged Farrell to step up his play after spring drills and that the senior has made as much improvement as anyone. “He’s coming in and played very, very well for us,” O’Brien said.
— Scott Brown