Morelli OnLion: Jones Benched

The Big Ten held its annual Media Days last week in Chicago and while there wasn’t a ton of Penn State news to come out of the Windy City, there were some developments.

Let’s take a look at some of the news that came out of Chicago.

Jones Benched

Quarterback Paul Jones has been benched for the  entire 2011 season. However, it wasn’t coach Joe Paterno who benched him.

It was academics.

Paterno confirmed the news last week in Chicago. Jones – who redshirted in 2010 – will be forced to sit out 2011 so he can concentrate on getting his grades back in order.

The iconic coach spoke to the media prior to Friday’s kickoff luncheon.

“I think he’s still got a future. I still think he can be good,” Paterno said.

It’s unfortunate, though. In the 2010 Blue-White Game, Jones was the best of the bunch. The Sto-Rox High School product redshirted during his freshman season and was poised to compete for the starting job in 2011. That, however, will not happen. Once again, the battle for the starting job will be between Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden.

Jones came to University Park amid much hype. During an interview prior to Jones arriving on campus, he said that he planned to win a couple of National Championships and Heisman Trophies while at Penn State.

Jones, at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds was, at the very least, going to be the No. 3 QB behind McGloin and Bolden. With Jones on the bench, the battle for the No. 3 spot comes down to either junior Kevin Newsome or former walk-on Shane McGregor.

Penn State quarterback Paul Jones has been benched by academics.

It’s hard to understand Jones’ academic struggles. After all, he graduated from Sto-Rox in December 2009 so he could enroll in spring of 2010 at Penn State. But that extra time on campus apparently did not help Jones, who has struggled academically since his arrival at University Park.

“Paul’s got a problem academically. He’s not had a good run. He needs to get caught up in some things,” Paterno said. “I think he could be eligible (this fall), but he would just barely be eligible. In all fairness to him, he’s young, so we’ll probably sit him down.”

Jones has a couple of options here. He can remain at Penn State, get his academics in order and play in 2012, when he will be a true sophomore. Or, he can transfer out to a smaller school and play immediately.

Paterno is hopeful that Jones will stay at Penn State.

“Everybody’s talking about kids now playing as freshmen and sophomores. In the old days, you didn’t play until you were a junior or senior,” Paterno said.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of Jones. The kid clearly has talent. During his scholastic career at Sto-Rox, he racked up some impressive numbers. During his senior season, he completed 112-of-215 passes for 1,667 yards and 16 TDs. His junior season was even more impressive as he racked up over 2,000 yards passing and 24 TDs.

In the aforementioned Blue-White Game, he completed 5-of-8 passes for 67 yards and a pair of TDs. However, that’s as close as he’s gotten to seeing the field in the blue and white.

The educated guess here is that Jones will stay, get his academics in order and see the field in 2012. The kid has a ton of talent and it’s hard to imagine him playing anywhere but Penn State.

Ricketts Departs

Nittany Lion fans were excited when Tom Ricketts shunned his hometown Pitt Panthers to play at Penn State.

But the worm has turned.

According to several published reports, Ricketts has apparently left the Nittany Lion squad to move closer to home, where he will play for Pitt.

Ricketts is a 6-foot-6 285-pounder from North Allegheny High School on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. Per NCAA transfer rules, he will have to sit out a season before becoming eligible to play for the Panthers. Ricketts came out of NA as a highly-regarded lineman, but did not see the field as a true freshman.

When Ricketts came to Penn State, many questioned the decision. After all, his father, Tom, played at Pitt and was a first round selection of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 1989 NFL Draft.

Morelli OnLion’s Final Thought: During my career as a sports writer, I’ve seen my share of bad calls during athletic events. However, last week’s baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves featured one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen. Home plate umpire Jerry Meals made an obviously incorrect call at home plate, allowing the Braves to win the game, 4-3, in 19 innings. Instead of the base umpires overruling the call and having play continue, the decision was final. Game over. It is this writer’s opinion that the controversial loss drained the Bucs, sending them into their current tailspin. Can one call ruin a season? In this case, the answer is yes.

Chris Morelli is an award-winning writer/editor who lives in Centre County and covers Penn State athletics for gantdaily.com. He’s also a regular on “Sports Central,” which airs on ESPN Radio in Altoona and State College. E-mail him at morellionlion@gmail.com. Also, be sure to check out Morelli OnLion on Facebook!

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