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Published: Saturday, 7/28/2012

Meyer deflects queries about friend Paterno

BY DAVID BRIGGS AND RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITERS

Urban Meyer held Joe Paterno in the highest esteem, proud to call the late former Penn State coach one of his close friends.

But he will not take sides in the scandal that rocked Penn State. He deflected a question on whether his opinion of Paterno had changed after reading parts of the Freeh Report that detailed the coach's role in an institutional cover-up of child sex abuse.

"I knew this question would come up, and I actually tried to do some research on this," Meyer said. "I can't get past the victims. I read that, and every time I try to get past it, that's where my thoughts are, my prayers are every night. My gosh. I have a hard time getting past that.

"I had an incredible relationship with coach and his family. That was not the Joe Paterno that I knew, what I read. We can just leave it at that."

POSITION CHANGE: Michigan coach Brady Hoke said during Friday's media session that backup quarterback Devin Gardner will see some time at wide receiver this fall, a move that could utilize Gardner's athleticism and could give Russell Bellomy more snaps behind Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson.

Despite having what Hoke termed as an "outstanding spring," Gardner struggled during the course of Michigan's spring game in April, in which he rotated with Bellomy as the No. 2 quarterback.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: Wisconsin launched its "This Fall For Ball" campaign, with the focus on senior running back Montee Ball becoming a contender for the Heisman Trophy. The campaign includes a Web site, a Facebook page, a Twitter feed (@moneyball) and a YouTube video that, as of Friday morning, had already gotten nearly 13,000 hits.

Ball was a first-team All-American and a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011, when he led the country in rushing (1,923 yards) and tied Barry Sanders' NCAA record with 39 touchdowns in 14 games.

"I'm not going to lie to you to say that I'm not thinking about it, but it's in the back of my mind," Ball said. "What I honestly believe is that with team success comes individual accolades. So If I play in my shoes and do what I did last year, or even better, I'll be the one holding the trophy."

But Ball admitted Friday that he had no idea about Wisconsin's Heisman campaign until he arrived in Chicago.

"I'm grateful for it," Ball said.

"I'm blessed that the university is, ah, spending money on me, basically. But if I were to win the Heisman, it's a team trophy. It's a conference trophy, too."

NOT REACHING OUT: Penn State coach Bill O'Brien was asked if there were any other football programs he'd reached out to for guidance, after the NCAA placed the athletic department and the football program on probation in the wake of the sex abuse scandal involving former football assistant Jerry Sandusky.

"I can't," O'Brien said. "Those guys are recruiting our players. But I've looked at different things from other schools."



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