Before he could answer his first question at media day, Barkley Miller paused with an expression of disbelief.
Apparently no one had told him that just three years removed from winning the Big Ten title, the Penn State men's soccer team was picked to finish last in the conference's coaches poll.
After a few seconds the stunned forward answered the question by telling the reporter that he had no idea.
"It's just a number," Miller said. "We don't really look at rankings or things like that."
Miller is one of three Nittany Lion seniors looking to recapture the magic from 2005, when the team advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament.
He sees no reason that 2008 can't be similar, saying he still likes Penn State's chances of winning the Big Ten.
"We need to go back to the success we had when I was a freshman -- playing big games, producing and scoring goals, and maybe having a little bit of luck," he said.
However, luck has not been on the Lions' side lately.
Defender Andy Parr, midfielder Ryan Badaracco and forward Jason Yeisley missed all or parts of last season with knee injuries. Badaracco will be back, but Parr and Yeisley will both likely miss the entire 2008 campaign while rehabbing.
Coach Barry Gorman pointed to the absence of Yeisley, the team's leading scorer in 2007, as a major reason why his team was voted last.
Still, the veteran coach sees the positives of being picked last.
"It's big time motivation because I like being the underdog," he said. "If people are voting us number seven out of seven, we'll take it and we'll surprise those people."
Gorman saw the ranking as a way to take the pressure off a squad filled with talented newcomers. The team features junior Matheus Braga, who is playing in his first season at Penn State since arriving from Brazil and forward Corey Hertzog, who was named one of College Soccer News' '100 Freshmen to Keep an Eye on.'
The Lions will also welcome newcomers at the goalkeeper position, where the race is on to fill the void left by Conrad Taylor, who graduated last season after starting 83 straight games. Redshirt freshman Warren Gross and redshirt sophomore Liam Fitzwater split action in the team's two exhibition contests. The team has yet to name a starter.
Despite the injuries and inexperience, the Lions are still planning on using an attack-minded offense, with Badaracco as the only defensive midfielder. In each of the two exhibition games, Gorman used five offensive players, something he plans to continue once the Lions kick off their season against Central Florida on Friday.
"We've divided it up into responsibilities, but we have five guys whose job it is to attack and score goals," Gorman said. "We think we have the guys in place to do a good job this year."