Senior Morris helps keep Penn State intact

Associated Press Modified: November 21, 2012 at 1:16 pm •  Published: November 21, 2012

Morris still talks with reverence about Joe Paterno, the Hall of Fame coach who was ousted in the aftermath of the arrest last year of Sandusky, a retired Penn State defensive coordinator. It was Paterno, after all, who recruited Morris out of Greenbelt, Md.

O'Brien was hired as coach in January. Two weeks later, Paterno died.

"We never could forget about coach Paterno and what he's done. He's the reason why we were all here," Morris said. "I stayed because of him. I stayed because of the team, the adversity we faced.

"You can't run away from adversity. You've got to look at it eye-to-eye. You can't run away from anything."

O'Brien calls Morris one of the most improved players this season. The defense has had to adjust to the schemes tweaked by O'Brien and defensive coordinator Ted Roof to play more aggressively. That's left Morris more in single coverage this year; he's fourth on the team with 55 tackles.

As successful as this team has been despite the adversity, the future remains uncertain. The NCAA exception to transfer doesn't expire until the start of the 2013 preseason in August, meaning a whole new round of college "free agency" could start again for Penn State players in the offseason.

Robinson, who leads Big Ten receivers with 73 catches, 983 yards and 11 touchdowns, may be one of the most attractive Nittany Lions to other schools. Sophomore Adrian Amos, who has combined with Morris to form a good cornerback duo, could be an enticing prospect, too.

But for now, most key underclassmen haven't given any signal that they're thinking about leaving.

"I believe that everybody will be back that's eligible to be back next year, but, again ... I don't have a crystal ball and I'm not a genie," O'Brien said. "But I think they know that they can achieve a lot of their goals here."

Morris said he expects younger players to stick around, and he constantly speaks with his defensive backfield teammates about the future. According to Morris, Amos has told him he'll be back.

If Amos and junior starting safeties Malcolm Willis and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong return, the secondary should be a position of strength next year.

"Anyone who is leaving, if I was to talk to them," Morris said, "I would tell them to just take a deep breath and think about everything."

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