UNIVERSITY PARK — The second weekend of Penn States season has yielded two personnel mysteries.
Will sophomore tailback Bill Belton and senior cornerback Stephon Morris play Saturday at Virginia?
Judging by Bill OBriens words Tuesday, theres a chance.
Both starters suffered ankle injuries during the third quarter of Saturdays loss to Ohio University. Linebacker Michael Mauti rolled into Morris right ankle while Belton injured his left ankle after being contorted by Ohios Tremayne Scott.
OBrien said neither injury is serious and listed their status for Saturday as probable. A final determination on the duo will be made Thursday or Friday.
I would say its day to day, OBrien said.
Belton, who became Penn States top tailback when Silas Redd transferred to Southern California, led the Nittany Lions with 53 yards on 13 carries. If he cant play against Virginia, senior Derek Day will likely start at tailback. Day had 36 yards on eight carries last week.
True freshman Akeel Lynch, sophomore Zach Zwinak and junior Curtis Dukes are other possibilities. OBrien faces a difficult decision with Lynch, one of the top players in the 2012 recruiting class. OBrien said he doesnt want to burn a redshirt season unless Lynch factors heavily into the offensive plans.
Hes smart, hes instinctive and hes definitely in the depth (chart), OBrien said. Just like any freshman, if youre going to play them, then you better actually play them. Were going to see how practice goes with Akeel, and well make a decision on that later in the week.
True freshman DaQuan Davis, who made his debut against Ohio, might be in line to start if Morris doesnt play. Morris, though, has expressed confidence via Twitter that he will be ready for the game.
Treatment from sun up to sun down, Morris tweeted Monday. Will be back Saturday!!
Neither Belton nor Morris are available to reporters this week.
Oops they forgot it
OBrien divulged multiple new traditions in his spring caravan tour. One of those traditions wasnt unveiled last weekend as the Nittany Lions forgot to sing the Alma Mater with the Blue Band after the loss.
Organizing the team proved difficult as many players sprinted off the field when the clock expired. Senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill said the loss had nothing to do with the team not gathering.
A lot of us forgot about it because it was something we have never done before, Hill said. We overlooked it by accident. It wasnt anything because we lost or we didnt want to do it. I totally forgot about it. I didnt know about it until somebody said something the next day. We are still going to be doing it.
OBrien blamed the gaffe on himself.
Yeah, I messed that up, he said. It was completely my fault. Well do that.
Too much to do
Could Gerald Hodges stint as a kick and punt returner be ending?
OBrien said that asking the senior linebacker to return kicks is putting a lot on his plate.
Hodges returned the opening kickoff for 12 yards and muffed a punt. He didnt return kicks in the second half.
We put him back there and the reason why is that he did an excellent job in practice, OBrien said. Hes an excellent athlete and he caught every one of them in practice.
OBrien said Hodges might or might not return kicks this week. Belton, Alex Kenney and Adrian Amos are the other kick returners listed on this weeks depth chart.
Dont count OBrien among those who will watch tonights NFL opener between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys from start to finish.
OBrien, who ended a five-year stint with the New England Patriots to become Penn States head coach in January, said hes too absorbed with the Nittany Lions to watch much pro football this fall.
Ive got enough problems of my own, so I dont know how closely I will be following the NFL season, he said. But I definitely wish the New England Patriots good luck.
Dont call them walk-ons
Penn State has settled on a name for its non-scholarship players. They are now referred to as run-ons around the Lasch Building.
These guys dont walk, they run off the field, OBrien said. They sprint on the field. They bust their butt on the field. These guys arent walk-ons. They are run-ons. I know that goes against everybodys term for non-scholarship players for 100 years, but thats our term for them.
Follow Guy Cipriano on Twitter@cdtguy.