Running back Bill Belton and cornerback Stephon Morris, who both suffered ankle injuries against Ohio Saturday, were listed as “possible” Tuesday for Penn State’s upcoming contest at Virginia.
At his weekly press conference, coach Bill O’Brien said neither of the two injuries are serious, but he couldn’t rule either player in or out for the Nittany Lions’ next game. Belton and Morris were both still listed as starters at their respective positions on the team’s depth chart this week.
“If they don’t practice by Thursday or Friday, then they’ll probably be out of the game,” O’Brien said. “But right now, I’d say it’s day-to-day. It’s probably, but we won’t really know until Thursday.”
Belton’s 13th carry of the season opener resulted in a loss of one, which had a double meaning on a play late in the third quarter. The sophomore — who wears No. 1 — required the attention of trainers on the field after being tackled and never returned.
Formerly a wide receiver, Belton showed some good and bad in his first career start at tailback.
He totaled 54 yards on the ground and also caught three passes for 16 yards and a touchdown — the first of the O’Brien era at Penn State. The bad came when Belton fumbled at Ohio’s 21-yard line on Penn State’s opening drive.
If Belton is unable to play against Virginia this Saturday, O’Brien said senior Derek Day would probably get the start. Day ran for 36 yards on eight attempts against Ohio.
O’Brien added there are plenty of players that could get carries if Belton is sidelined including Zach Zwinak, Curtis Dukes, Michael Zordich and true freshman Akeel Lynch.
“We’ve got good depth at running back,” O’Brien said. “Billy, obviously the ankle injury, you never like to lose a player like Billy…we think he’s a really good player. But if he can’t go, we’ve got plenty of guys who can go.”
While O’Brien seemed pleased with the numbers he has at running back, one spot where Penn State doesn’t have much depth is the secondary. So if Morris can’t play against Virginia, the team’s secondary will be skating on thin ice on the personnel front.
Morris, a senior, made five tackles against Ohio before exiting for good in the second half. True freshman Da’Quan Davis filled in for Morris and had one pass breakup.
Senior safety Malcolm Willis said Morris was limited in practice on Monday, but noted the cornerback was doing “well.”
“He’s getting a lot better,” Willis said. “I’m still not completely sure what happened. I haven’t talked to him. I saw him in the training room yesterday. He’s getting his treatment, and I’m expecting him to be back to 100 percent soon.”