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October 1, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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TribLive Radio ep. 9: PSU recruiting, the pending Jordan Whitehead announcement

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I’m off from my day job this week — being Penn State’s bye week and all, it’s a good a chance as any to take some time away.

 

But the Nittany Nation show knows no weeks off. It’ll broadcast 52 Wednesdays a year from 9-10 a.m., with the podcast, of course, available for download any time (see below).

 

The bye week spares us from having to talk about the Nittany Lions’ humiliating 29-6 loss to Northwestern this past Saturday. And with no opponent this Saturday, what better time than to talk Penn State recruiting?

 

To do so, we had a couple guests able to break it all down better than anyone — Greg Pickel of PennLive.com and FightOnState.com and Mike Farrell, the national recruiting director for Rivals.com.

 

Pickel broke down the pending announcement Friday of Central Valley senior Jordan Whitehead, who is one of the state’s top 2015 prospects. He also shed some light on James Franklin & Co.’s intentions in regards to getting to a full 25-man 2015 incoming class (or not), the remaining targets to fill those spots as well as 2016 beyond in Penn State recruiting.

 

Farrell illuminated us not only on some national and Big Ten big-picture recruiting storylines to watch, but also on Penn State’s longterm recruiting prospects and, of most immediate concern, a prediction for Whitehead.

 

According to Farrell, among Whitehead’s four finalists, he’s heard that Ohio State has been eliminated. That, in itself, is a victory for Penn State — keeping him away from the only other conference rival. Farrell is under the impression that although Whitehead’s visit to Pitt went well, Whitehead will choose either West Virginia or Penn State.

 

Whitehead is a player who is very important to Penn State’s coaching staff — not only because of his talent and ability, but because his locale (in-state and, more tellingly, from the WPIAL), the fact he plays a valuable position and the fact PSU would be winning a “battle” with regional rivals Pitt and WVU and a conference (and regional) rival in Ohio State. To get where they want to go, Penn State/James Franklin will need to beat Ohio State/Urban Meyer for prospects.

 

In my mind, Whitehead is one of the most intriguing and anticipated announcements in the WPIAL in recent years — perhaps since Terrelle Pryor of Jeannette was the No. 1 recruit in the country in 2008. Rushel Shell captured the imagination of the region with his gaudy rushing totals. Players such as Dorian Johnson, Alex Bookser, Montae Nicholson, Robert Foster, Paul Jones, Todd Thomas, Dorian Bell, Sterling Jenkins and many others over the past half-decade or so had very high consensus ratings from the recruiting services.

 

But what makes Whitehead so interesting are a couple things: First, his finalists are the three so-called “local” schools (Pitt, PSU, WVU) and the closest “national power”-like school to Pittsburgh (Ohio State). Not only is Whitehead a local product — where he ends up will likely be a local D-I school. Secondly, Whitehead, a 5-10, 165-pound cornerback, has kept his intentions extremely close to the vest. I’ve been in semi-regular contact with him and his coach (just the occasional check-in) over the past few months, but generally he’s just polite and short. He doesn’t give any hints (and neither does his affable and helpful coach at Central Valley, Mark Lyons, give anything away). I’m far from the biggest recruiting guru around, but other outlets seem just as in the dark. I’ll say this, too: Those in the Penn State program don’t know much more than the media does. They are optimistic and they believe they have a good shot Whitehead picks Blue and White — but it’s far, far from certain.

 

Whitehead has been a target of the Penn State staff since they took over in January. Franklin & Co. have won their share of recruiting battles — and accolades — to this point on the job. Securing Whitehead (because of the circumstances) would represent as big a win as any they’ve gotten so far. No matter what Whitehead decides, it’ll impact area college football. Throw in the whole Tom Bradley-vs.-Penn State storyline, and it all makes for a captivating announcement being made Friday (At least inasumch as any recruiting announcement can be, if you happen to be into that sort of thing and all…).

 

Anyway, to the TribLive Radio show

 

Download the podcast link here:

http://filesource.abacast.com/tribtotal/1001PSU14.mp3

 

Or listen live right here:

 

 

Now, back to my paternity leave. Talk to you next Wednesday with a preview of Penn State-Michigan. Until then, have a lovely week.

 

 

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September 24, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Nittany Nation TribLive Radio episode No. 8: Northwestern preview, How good is PSU?

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A full hour Wednesday morning for the Nittany Nation Show on TribLive Radio.

 

Per the subject of the printed product in Wednesday’s Trib, we discuss just how good Penn State really is. A third of the way through the season, the Nittany Lions are undefeated – but considering who they’ve played and how they’ve looked, do we know what that means?

 

Our first guest was Frank Bodani, who’s been covering PSU football since 1994 for the York Daily Record.

 

Also on was Seth Gruen, who covers Big Ten football in general and the Northwestern Wildcats in particular for the Chicago Sun-Times.

 

 

Listen with one click right here:

 

 

Or download the link for podcasting use later by clicking here.

 

 

As always, thanks for listening.

 

 

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September 24, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Della Valle on getting a feel for, fielding and fair-catching punts

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In a trademark surprise unannounced move by Penn State, Jesse Della Valle was brought out to the dais in the Beaver Stadium media room following the conclusion of James Franklin’s weekly news conference Tuesday. (Cornerback Trevor Williams had previously been announced as a player available for comment).

 

No matter, it’s always a pleasure to hear from Della Valle, a gregarious Shaler native, former walk-on and fifth-year senior. The major topic of conversation was Della Valle’s punt returning, for which he’s developed a reputation for fair catches. Lots and lots of fair catches. He addressed that multiple times:

 

 

“I haven’t been able to return quite as many punts as I would have liked, but at the same time I don’t want to put the team in a position where I’m fielding punts that I shouldn’t be or I’m trying to return punts that I shouldn’t be, so I’ve been fair catching a lot of balls, which like I said, I’d like to return more.  But that’s something that I’ve got to work on, too.”

 

“Mainly, all my punt returns come from just making smart decisions. And that’s what I have to do is decide if a fair catch is the best decision or if a return is the best decision. For me to catch every ball and try to return every ball is not a smart decision for the football team, so that’s why I’ve made fair caught so many balls that I have is because I’ve felt personally that it would be best for the team that I retain that field position and just fair catch the ball and get it to our offense, get it to (QB Christian Hackenberg) and those guys.”

 

“There is a timetable (to the decision of a fair catch or not). If I feel like it’s hanging up there a lot, I know if it’s shorter I’m probably going to have to fair catch it… You kind of get a feel for where your pressure is coming from or if it’s a low kick, if it’s a high kick. Definitely something I’ll be working on and trying to keep returning more punts.”

 

 

In four games, Della Valle has returned four punts. He has nine fair catches.

 

 

Coach James Franklin said he’d like to see more of the former than the latter – but not so much so that he’s looking to replace Della Valle with someone he can’t trust as much to be both surehanded and smart:

 

“He’s been really successful in catching the ball and making great decisions, but we would like a little bit more play making.

 

“If that comes from him, great.  But we have some other guys that we’re working back there at practice every single day and they may be catching it consistently, but their fundamentals and techniques aren’t great or their fundamentals and techniques aren’t great, but they’re not catching the ball as consistently as they need to and things like that.  So, No. 1, they’ve got to catch the ball.  And then No. 2, if you can find somebody that has the ability to be electric with the ball in their hands and make some plays, then you’ve got the whole package and you’ve got something special. But I’m not going to give up the consistency of catching the ball for the play making at this point.”

 

 

Della Valle indicated he’s still working on mastering the change in strategy from having two punt return men deep – as former coach Bill O’Brien did last season – to him being the only guy back this season:

 

“For me. it’s just kind of an adjustment of detecting where that first pressure is going to come from, knowing that I don’t have that off returner to pick up the first guy.”

 

 

Though Della Valle has been the Lions’ primary punt returner over the past three games, he was finally placed atop the depth chart at the position in the weekly list that was released Tuesday. For the time being, Della Valle and former Quad North conference rival Gregg Garrity of North Allegheny appear to be the Nittany Lions’ top two punt return options.

 

 

 

Enjoy your week leading up to Penn State’s Homecoming game against Northwestern noon Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

 

 

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September 19, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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James Franklin & Co.’s busy Friday recruiting in Pittsburgh

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Penn State coach James Franklin is spending much of his Friday in the Pittsburgh area as part of his weekly recruiting tours, Nittany Lions cornerbacks coach/defensive recruiting coordinator Terry Smith said Thursday. More details of the planned itinerary have emerged.

 

Smith and Franklin plan on visiting Woodland Hills, Baldwin, Central Catholic and Central Valley high schools early in the day, it was confirmed by a coach and/or player at each school. It doesn’t take too much digging to understand why those schools are of interest:

 

Woody High junior Miles Sanders was Penn State’s first 2016 verbal commitment, offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins is a 6-foot-8 four-star recruit from Baldwin, there are multiple Central Catholic players who will be Division I recruits (including defensive back Damar Hamlin, who is one of the top Class of 2016 prospects in Pennsylvania) and Central Valley defensive back Jordan Whitehead is the consensus top-rated uncommitted 2015 prospect in the state.

 

The plan for Franklin and Smith is to attend parts of both the Baldwin-Woodland Hills game and the Central Valley-Moon games.

 

“It’s an active day,” Smith said during a conference call with media Thursday. “Coach Franklin will go back and forth for the morning and come back (to State College) to handle our team for practice and then come back (to Pittsburgh) so he can see a couple games there as well. Then we’ll fly back late at night, get up with the team and get things done. Each week a different guy on staff does that.”

 

In addition, wide receivers coach and offensive recruiting coordinator Josh Gattis will be in town, expected to visit Clairton to touch base with Aaron Matthews and Lamont Wade. Mathews is a junior receiver and Wade a sophomore running back prospect. The Bears, 3-0 and outscoring opponents 130-0 this season, plays at Springdale on Friday.

 

Though Franklin has been to Pittsburgh for speaking engagements and other reasons, this is believed to be no more than his third visit to the area for purely recruiting purposes since being hired as Penn State coach in January.

 

Franklin’s WPIAL recruiting exploits already include wrapping up Mt. Lebanon receiver (now safety) Troy Apke (a Bill O’Brien recruit who’s on the current roster), getting Jenkins and Sanders verbally committed to future classes and making scholarship offers out to now-seniors Whitehead and Kittanning tight end Nick Bowers (who made a verbal commitment to Pitt in January).

 

Any time a head coach visits a high school, it creates a buzz. As Central Catholic coach Terry Totten put it, “It’s a red-letter day around here, you know?”

 

It’s also a big day for Smith, the longtime successful coach at WPIAL Class AAAA power Gateway, to strut his recruiting stuff. As Smith told the Trib’s Kevin Gorman upon being hired in January: “My role is to secure Pittsburgh and Western PA. Any top talent there, I’ve got to get it. That’s my responsibility. I’m a diligent worker, and I’m going to work hard to establish the boundaries of Western Pa. so that Penn State gets the chosen ones.

 

Bringing one of the country’s hottest young head coaches with him is one way to aid in that cause.

 

 

 

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September 17, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Penn State football TribLive Radio podcast: UMass week

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In this week’s abbreviated “Nittany Nation” episode on Trib Live Radio, we talk with Jeff Rice of Lions247.com.

 

Jeff has covered Penn State football for 13 seasons, so safe to say he knows what he’s talking about and can bring a unique perspective.

 

We discuss the Penn State defense’s strong start to the season, new defensive coordinator Bob Shoop’s role in that, the remarkable three games the PSU defensive line has turned in – and the seeming star turn that Lions junior Anthony Zettel has made in moving from defensive end to tackle. Jeff also gives some insight on the wringer the Penn State program has been through and emerged from over the past three years.

 

 

Listen here:

 

 

Download the podcast here:

http://filesource.abacast.com/tribtotal/917PSU14.mp3

 

 

 

Look for stories on Zettel, Penn State’s run defense and the Whipple family’s ties to Pittsburgh and Penn State in the coming days in the Trib.

 

Enjoy the rest of your week.

 

 

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September 16, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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‘We-fense’ worries for Penn State?

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During Tuesday’s weekly news conference, Penn State coach James Franklin termed the special teams “not really a positive or a negative” and added, “We must start providing more value.”

 

Indeed, for all the talk of “Nektons” and “great white sharks” and “Prefontaine pace” and Eight or nine yards is not our goal… We want touchdowns (and) blocked kicks… so far, Penn State’s special teams haven’t delivered.

 

The special teams (or “we-fense,” as Franklin likes to call them) have been a mostly average bunch (at best) so far. Among the 14 teams in the Big Ten, here is where the Nittany Lions stand through three weeks:

 

  • 13th in punt returns (3.5 yards average)
  • 10th in punting (33.2 average net yardage)
  • 12th in kickoff coverage (38.5 yard average)
  • 4th in kickoff returns (24.2 yard average)

 

Franklin was asked in what ways he was looking the special te — er, we-fense – to provide more value. Here was his answer:

 

“I think when you’re talking about punting and the kickoff, it’s the consistency. I think (punter Chris) Gulla has done a nice job for us so far with his kick location and eliminating the returner.  We talked about that before the season started. We don’t believe in kicking the ball down the middle of the field, so now the returner has got 53 yards to work with. We want to pin them to a sideline and I think we have done a good job of that. But I still think we can be a little more consistent with our hang time, with our location, with our distance, and also just the rhythm and the timing of how quickly we are getting those things off.

Kickoff, same thing. We almost had a kick there at the end of the game that cost us. (Freshman) Christian Campbell, who played his first game, had a huge play because he made a tackle in the open field against a dangerous returner, which could have been dramatic.  So our kickoff and our kickoff location is important. 

In the return game, just being able to give our offense better field position, giving them some momentum with a big return; whether it’s a return for a touchdown or whether it’s just a chunk of field position. That’s what we’d like to do.

So I think we’ve done some nice things, I really do. There’s still a lot of areas for improvement.”

 

 

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September 11, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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“We’re not going to let it bring down the program the way it is intended to” — Nittany Nation podcast 9/10/14

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Had quite a packed weekly show on Trib Live Radio Wednesday morning. We had three guests – Penn State beat writer Ben Jones of StateCollege.com, Rutgers beat writer Ryan Dunleavy of the Asbury Park Press and MyCentralJersey.com and former Penn State offensive tackle  and West Mifflin native Adam Gress.

 

 

Highlights from Dunleavy – as a native New Jerseyan and a Rutgers alum who has covered the Scarlet Knights for about 10 seasons now – include perspective on just how big a game this is for the Rutgers program and community:

 

  • “For the Rutgers fan, it’s their Super Bowl. For the Rutgers player, this is certainly more than just one game.”
  • “Interest is at an all-time high in Rutgers football.”
  • “I’d love to see this become a rivalry… but we all know, Rutgers has to win a game for this to become a rivalry.”
  • Relating the story of a player who, responding to NJ native Bill Belton’s comments that suggest that he believes Rutgers is not “big time”, said, “I’m so glad we get to play Penn State. What an opportunity to play big-time football.”

 

 

Jones, whose work covering Penn State predates the Jerry Sandusky scandal, offered some perspectives about what emerging from the sanctions means, and also what Saturday’s game might mean for Penn State:

 

  • “To go into Rutgers’ stadium and beat them…especially coming out of the sanctions in the first game is def big for the program, not only on the recruiting front but on the getting-things-started-on-the-right-foot getting out of the sanctions.”
  • “I don’t think anyone, myself included, expected (the sanctions-saddled seasons) to go this well… They came away with victories that would have been big wins during any season – and to be able to do that in the circumstances they were in, I don’t think anyone could have expected to go as well as it has.”

 

 

To me, the most fascinating part of the show was Gress, who was about to begin preseason camp for his redshirt junior season when the NCAA dropped its hammer in the form of historic sanctions. Gress told the story of the Penn State players watching television, en masse in the Lasch Building, when the NCAA sanctions were announced. And he gave his point of view of not only why he stayed but why the vast majority of his teammates stayed at Penn State.

 

  • “At first, right after they announced the sanctions, everyone just kind of stood there, not sure what to say. We all just kind of looked around the room, and you could some guys… everyone was starting to think, ‘Oh man, is this it? Are we screwed?’
  • But it wasn’t long after that, I remember I was sitting in my locker stall and (Michael) Mauti came walking up, and he was like, ‘Hey, Gress, let’s go,’ and I was like, ‘What are we—‘ and he was like, ‘Let’s go, come on. We’re all going.’ So I just kinda got up and rolled with those guys. And that was when we went out and we made the (public commitment) video. And everybody there that day decided, ‘We’re not going to let what happened tear us apart. We’re not going to let it bring down  the program the way it is intended to”
  • “When that (NCAA sanctions announcement) did happen, it was a punch to the gut. And we had training camp coming up very shortly, and I almost feel like it was released at that time intentionally to kind of throw us all of. But at the end of the day, I think instead of knocking us down, it make is all stronger.”
  • (On his time at Penn State) “At the time we were so caught with everything that was going on and the emotions of it all that you didn’t really think of it –you just kind of rolled with the punches. But now that I’ve looked back, it really is incredible what we went through, and it’s more incredible how we fought back and how we came together as a team and how we stuck together and just persevered and we went out and… didn’t miss a beat because of the sanctions.”

 

 

 

To download the file, click here:

http://files.triblive.com/podcasts/sportstalk/910PSU14.mp3

 

 

For the full show, listen here:

 

 

Enjoy the show. And your week.

 

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September 9, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Reaction from the Penn State community on the day the sanctions were rolled back

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In the hours after the NCAA’s announcement it was, essentially, wiping out its remaining penalties affecting the current and future Penn State football teams, I talked to several people connected to the program. I also, like everyone else associated with the university, saw social-media from ex- and current players and media reports citing others. Here is a compilation of what people said about the Nittany Lions being immediately postseason eligible and getting the final five scholarships back for next year:

 

 

 

 

“Obviously, it’s a great day for Penn State. We’re all just thrilled. I’m just really happy for the kids — going to a bowl is a reward for their hard work all season.

“It’s got to be a great feeling for coach Franklin to be at full scholarship strength next year. With the way he’s been recruiting he’s just got to to be overwhelmed. That had to come as a complete surprise.

“It very much so (bothers him the wins from 1998-2011 remain vacated). Hopefully they’ll be addressing that next. It’s not just Joe (Paterno) who this is about; it’s about all those kids that played there that never won a game.

–Shane Conlan, college football Hall of Famer and member of PSU’s 1986 national title team, by phone

 

 

“All the guys who stayed and some of the guys who committed to Penn State when it wasn’t looking bright for the program, for them to go to any bowl game at all, that’s big. And that’s a good reward for them.”

–Steelers WR Derek Moye from Rochester HS, who played at Penn State 2008-11, so every game he won has been vacated. I asked Moye in our phone interview if restoring those wins would mean anything.

“That would be all good, I guess, for coach Paterno’s legacy and everything, but I would really care less about it because we played in those games. We know who we beat and know who we lost to. I still have my Big Ten championship ring and still have all the memories. They can take away statistical things but they won’t be able to take away of that away from us as players.”

 

 

 

“Today’s announcement should come as no surprise to Penn Staters. Penn State has always been the model for Athletics Integrity. We don’t need to pay George Mitchell to tell us that. However, I have mixed emotions about the announcement. On the one hand, I am happy for our student-athletes who were unjustly penalized by the heavy-handedness of the NCAA. On the other hand, I am saddened by the fact that the NCAA has returned only a portion of the penalties they had no legal authority to impose in the first place.”

–Anthony Lubrano, outspoken, alumni-elected board of trustees member, in a phone interview

 

 

 

“Long time coming! Now we need Paterno’s wins restored. He did exactly what NCAA protocol calls for.”

–text from Tom Hull, linebacker for Penn State 1971-73 and father of current PSU LB Mike Hull

 

 

 

“Overall, I’d have to say simply, ‘It’s about time.’ Everybody knows very well who is responsible for the terrible things that happened years back, and they have been punished accordingly. From the beginning, there was no reason to punish hard-working athletes that had nothing to do with it.”

–text from West Mifflin native Adam Gress, Penn State offensive tackle 2010-13 who spent training camp with the New York Giants

 

 

 

“I’m so stoked about it! Such a great day for PSU. We get to recruit more players. And we get to go to bowls.”

–text from Steven Gonzalez, a four-star offensive lineman from New Jersey who made a verbal commitment to Penn State and plans on signing a national letter of intent in February

 

 

 

“Senator Mitchell’s report and recommendations, along with the actions taken by the NCAA today, are a recognition of the hard work of many over the past two years to make Penn State a stronger institution. This is welcome news for the University community, particularly for our current and future student-athletes.

“Our student-athletes and our entire student-body are to be commended for their resiliency and spirit during a challenging time. We also are grateful for the dedication and commitment to success on and off the field of our football student-athletes, and the leadership of Coach James Franklin and Coach Bill O’Brien before him.”

–Penn State President Eric Barron, in a statement released by the university

 

 

 

“This report is a welcome acknowledgement of the University’s efforts. Such a massive undertaking has made Penn State a national model in an array of university functions – including compliance, safety and security. I commend President Barron and his predecessor, Rodney Erickson, for their tremendous leadership throughout this process. The Board of Trustees is committed to the continued monitoring and improvement of university policies, procedures and actions.”

–Board of Trustees Chair Keith Masser, in a statement released by the university

 

 

 

“I am very happy for Coach Franklin, the coaches and staff and most importantly, our outstanding football student-athletes. I am gratified for the student-athletes who have remained resilient, committed and dedicated to Penn State during the past three years. We will continue to work hard and strive for integrity and academic and athletic excellence every day and to provide our student-athletes with the best experience possible.”

–Athletic director Sandy Barbour, in a statement released by the university

 

 

“I think that’s great news for Penn State. It’s a fantastic place. Great education. Great football program. Lot of great people.

“Penn State is a special place. I’m happy for the players and for the coaching staff that’s there now.”

 –Former Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, at a press conference for the Houston Texans, whom he now coaches

 

 

 

“Following our briefing with Senator Mitchell, the (Big Ten’s council of presidents) reached consensus agreement to support his latest recommendation and also agreed to restore the school’s eligibility for the Big Ten Football Championship Game, which ran concurrently with the NCAA postseason bowl ban.  “We support the NCAA announcement acting on that recommendation, thank Senator Mitchell for his dedicated service and appreciate Penn State’s ongoing commitment to improvement.”

–Big Ten COPC Chair and Iowa President Sally Mason.

 

 

 

 

Now, some tweets…

 

–Former standout linebacker

 

 

 

 

–Sophomore LB Nyeem Wartman

 

 

 

 

–Graduate assistant coach

 

 

 

 

–Freshman defensive lineman

 

 

 

 

–Junior wide receiver

 

 

 

 

–Freshman tight end

 

 

 

 

–Sophomore running back from Blackhawk

 

 

 

 

–Freshman linebacker

 

 

 

 

–Sophomore guard

 

 

 

 

–Fifth-year senior guard from Fox Chapel

–Freshman tight end Mike Gesicki

 

 

 

 

September 7, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: More thoughts on Penn State through 2 weeks

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STATE COLLEGE – (I use that dateline on my blog because, well, it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want… and I have a pet peeve about “University Park” because it’s the campus address and I don’t think a campus should have its own address…)

 

Now that that’s out of the way, I present a random collection of leftover thoughts on Saturday’s 21-3 Penn State win against Akron:

 

–Listen, the Zips are a MAC team – and Big Ten teams are supposed to beat MAC teams. That said, they don’t always do so (witness Northwestern and Purdue’s losses Saturday). And there is a BIG difference between the top of the MAC and the bottom of the MAC. Akron is one of the conference’s better teams. It has an experienced roster. If the Nittany Lions are only up by four late against UMass in two weeks, that’s bad. This year’s Akron team, not so much.

 

Bottom line on being 2-0: Yes, it’s not like PSU played Oregon or Virginia Tech or Notre Dame or LSU like some of its conference rivals did over these first two weeks. But the Lions did play two teams that are capable of beating them. In one of the games (against a team coming off a 12-1 season), they trailed with 3 seconds left. In the other, they clung to a four-point lead until late in the third quarter. Yet, they won both. Give them some props. They’d only been 2-0 once over the prior five years.

 

–Coach James Franklin made it a point of saying, during the opening statement of his postgame remarks, that “We have to play more guys.” But who? Ten defensive linemen already are playing. Franklin indicated last week that he doesn’t like rotating in any offensive linemen. Outside of special teams (sorry, “WEFENSE”), that leaves the following areas for backups to contribute: Linebacker, the secondary and wide receiver. That means, in order, Jason Cabinda and Troy Reeder, Da’Quan Davis (who barely played on defense vs. Akron) and Marcus Allen, Saeed Blacknall and Matt Zanellato. Of the players I mentioned, all but Davis and Zanellato are true freshmen.

 

–Cornerback Jordan Lucas is one of my favorites to talk to, so I was sad I missed him Saturday (I had other priorities of who to interview in what is a crowded and frenzied postgame media room). I was even more sad when I learned of two tremendous quotes. Both I learned of via colleague Travis Johnson of the Centre Daily Times.

One dealt with a family resemblance within the house of defensive coordinator Bob Shoop.

The other? Well, I ain’t got the words to begin to describe.

 

–The common preseason narrative was that the young Penn State offensive line that includes a couple of converted defensive linemen in Brian Gaia and Derek Dowrey (although only Gaia starts) would be better at run blocking (pushing forward) than pass blocking (holding back those who are pushing forward). Instead, the exact opposite has happened: QB Christian Hackenberg had loads of time to throw most of the time vs. Akron and was only sacked once. The run game, though, was almost nonexistent until the game’s late stages.

 

–Penn State fans have to be encouraged by this: So far, with a mostly-poor running game and with their quarterback not playing his best games, the Lions still manage to rank fourth in the Big Ten in total offense.

 

–I absolutely despise the lazy tendency fans and reporters have for saying, “Looking at the schedule, Team X could be (insert number here)-and-oh heading into its big game against Such-and-Such.”

That said, I’ll do it anyway: If Penn State can somehow get past Rutgers, they could be 5-0 heading into a big game at The Big House on Oct. 11. Massachusetts is 2-24 since joining the FBS in 2012; Northwestern has lost nine of its past 10 games. They’re PSU’s opponents Sept. 20 and Sept. 27.

 

–I’ll emphasize, however, that I believe very strongly that Rutgers can (and very well might) beat Penn State this coming Saturday. Night game. Big Ten debut. “Rivalry. Game.” This is by no means whatsoever anything close to a pushover game. Quite frankly, PSU isn’t good enough to feel that way about anyone.

 

Enjoy the week.

It is “Rutgers Week” after all…

 

 

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September 3, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Newest episode of Nittany Nation show on TribLive Radio available

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This morning was Episode 5 of the Penn State show I host every Wednesday morning – 52 weeks a year – at 9 a.m. Despite the presence of yours truly, I’ll humbly say this week’s was a pretty good show – thanks only, of course, to guests Donnie Collins and George Thomas.

 

Collins has covered Penn State football for more than a decade for the Times Leader in Scranton; Thomas is a veteran journalist at the Akron Beacon Journal who is responsible for covering the Akron Zips.

 

Akron, of course, is the opponent for James Franklin’s Beaver Stadium debut as Penn State’s coach. The Zips were picked to finish second in the MAC East and are far from a pushover. They feature a veteran quarterback, the highest percentage of pass-catchers returning from last season, a dynamic running back and a strong corps of linebackers. Thomas expounds on all this – and more – much better than I ever could.

 

With Collins, we discuss what to make of the Nittany Lions’ 26-24 victory against UCF in Dublin last week. (I wear by new Dublin Gaelic Games “kit” for the show, as a tribute. Go Dubs!).

 

Anyway, how big of a win was it? Was Christian Hackenberg’s game really as good as some are saying? How impressive was the before-unknown wide receivers group? Did the offensive line show it can be an adequate unit this season? Is there reason for concern that if Justin Holman would have started at QB for UCF that PSU would have lost? Can the Lions be ranked in the top 25 soon? And how much of a threat is Akron to Penn State this week? All are eloquently expounded upon on by Collins and myself.

 

Listen here:

 

 

Podcast download:

http://files.triblive.com/podcasts/sportstalk/903PSU14.mp3

 

 

Enjoy.

 

 

Thank you for listening. And for reading. And for being so nice to me on Twitter.

 

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