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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Poti adjusting to starting right tackle role

Ako Poti is all business, maybe even a little too much.

As such, it seems Daryll Clark wants to change that a bit when the two are in the huddle.

"He looks at me, and said, 'You know, you're the quietest guy on the offensive line. What's up Ako?' " Poti said about Clark during his Wednesday teleconference. "I kind of laugh it off, say, 'Hey, I'm just trying to get it right.' He's trying to take me under his wing a little bit and lighten up my seriousness a little bit."

The junior college transfer has finally broken in to the starting lineup after redshirting in 2008 and being a reserve player in 2007. Poti, whose full name is Isaako Kilifi Poti III, was previously at City College of San Francisco.

Poti said he heard nothing from Penn State after high school, but that changed late in the junior college recruiting process. Although he said he also looked at Utah, Texas Tech, Kentucky and Brigham Young, the Nittany Lions set themselves apart with their coaching staff and academics.

But Poti, whose grandfather has Samoan roots, said he sometimes watches television and wonders what life would be like if he went with a program like Utah, which has a strong Polynesian presence.

"I think, 'Hey I could've been with them, I could've been around my people,' " Poti said. "At the same time, I played football around Samoans, Polynesians, I kind of wanted to get out and expand a little bit."

After choosing Penn State, Poti has emerged as one of the keys on the improving offensive line after his playing time increased and starting role emerged after Nerraw McCormack's ankle injury. Both linemen arrived at Penn State as JUCO transfers and Poti said it was initially hard to find someone to relate to. But with their origins at junior colleges, Poti said the two clicked.

When it comes to Poti's on-field performance, Clark said Poti has been the guy at right tackle even though coach Joe Paterno said on Tuesday McCormack and Poti would fight for the spot this week.

"They're both fine people and they'll graduate and whether they're good enough to be pro football players, that's up to somebody else to make that decision, but they're going to graduate and that to me is important," Paterno said.

Despite not playing right away, Poti said his family has been the main source of support and admits he wouldn't have gone somewhere else if given a do-over.

What impresses Clark most about Poti is his ability to rebound after having a setback.

"When a mistake is made, he knows he's made a mistake, he would apologize to us in the huddle the very next play," Clark said. "The very next play, he'd go out and put somebody right on their behind."

In fact, when he was going through rough times in terms of not seeing action, Poti said his family told him the main goal is to get an education and graduate from college. Once that gets settled, Poki recalled them saying, it was time to "buckle down" and really go after football.

As a California native, time with family can be hard to come by -- at least until this season.

Poki said his aunt and her family came for the Iowa game and added that his mother is coming up for the next two home games starting next weekend. Because his family has to fly to attend Beaver Stadium games, Poti said money has been an issue.

But that doesn't mean Poti doesn't find time to talk with them, especially when it came to addressing Happy Valley weather.

"Maybe once or twice I was like, 'Wow, this is ridiculous,' " Poti said. "I remember calling my mother, saying, 'Hey Ma, you know what? I think I need a scarf. I never used a scarf before in my life, I never knew what the reason for the scarf is, but you know what, I think I really need a scarf.' "

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