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January 28, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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TribLive show No. 25: Recruiting talk with Scout’s Brian Dohn, plus 7-time national champion volleyball coach Russ Rose

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For this week’s TribLive Radio show, we had Scout.com national recruiting analyst Brian Dohn and legendary Penn State women’s volleyball coach Russ Rose on as guests.

 

 

A week before signing day, Dohn discussed the theory that Penn State was something of a sleeping giant during the final years of the Joe Paterno tenure, the propensity for schools to recruit players of younger and younger ages, the ways in which the Nittany Lions plan on wrapping up their class and who PSU’s recruiting rivals truly are.

 

 

Ross, a winner of more than 1,000 career matches and seven national championships, addresses the pressures associated with guiding a team that has won six of the past eight national titles, of where today’s top volleyball athletes tend to come from (western PA isn’t as far down the list as you might think) and what it takes to be as successful as his program has been over the past two decades.

 

 

 

 

Listen live with one click here:


 

 

And the link to download the podcast here:

http://sportstalk.triblive.com/download/128PSU15.mp3

 

 

Next week the show will broadcast live on a THURSDAY because Signing Day is Wednesday and not only would “news” be “breaking” as players send in their faxes during the 9-10 a.m. hour, it also would likely be out of date by the time the podcast was listened to by many. So, again, that means Nittany Nation episode 26 will be THURSDAY, February 5 at 9 a.m.

 

Enjoy your week.

 

 

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January 27, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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Penn State’s 2015 recruiting class nears its completion with Nick Bowers verbal commitment

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Not long after taking over as coach at Penn State, James Franklin invoked a dating/engagement/marriage analogy to describe the recruiting process.

 

“Once you stand up and shake my hand and look me in the eye and say this is where you want to go, we’re engaged,” Franklin said at a news conference that kicked off 2014 spring practice.  “There is no more dating and there is no more flirting. Come signing day, we get married, and there is no divorce.”

 

For more than six months, Nick Bowers and Penn State seemed to be like a pair that made goo-goo eyes at each other from across the room but were too shy to come together.

 

Monday, that mating dance at last came to an end when Bowers verbally committed to be the 23rd member of the Nittany Lions’ incoming 2015 recruiting class. He previously was verbally committed to Pitt but had made an official visit to Penn State this past weekend.

 

Bowers’ commitment was the third to Penn State over a 30-hour span, and when the dust settled the Nittany Lions were ranked No. 11 in the Rivals.com national class rankings. Bowers is the ninth member of PSU’s class from a Pennsylvania high school – only the second of which who is not among the Rivals.com top 10-rated prospects in the state.

 

Bowers committed to Pitt almost a year ago to the day (Jan. 27, 2014 – also on a Monday. But he had previously been offered a scholarship by then-Temple assistant Terry Smith. Smith is now Penn State’s defensive recruiting coordinator (and cornerbacks coach), and one of his primary responsibilities is recruiting in the WPIAL. On the day he was introduced in University Park, Smith told the Trib’s Kevin Gorman “My role is to secure Pittsburgh and Western Pa.,” Smith said. “Any top talent there, I’ve got to get it. That’s my responsibility.”

 

He keeps making good on that pledge. Smith, Franklin, PSU offensive coordinator/tight ends coach John Donovan and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop (an Oakmont native) were at Bowers’ home today.

 

 

Bowers, who calls himself an “outdoors guy” rather than a city dweller and is said to have long admired Penn State, initially impressed Nittany Lions coaches at an on-campus 7-on-7 camp last summer. But be it the fact Bowers was already committed and was loathe to back out of it, or that Penn State was short on scholarships because they still had a year of NCAA sanctions to wade through – or both – the two sides couldn’t come together.

 

That changed beginning in September when the NCAA pulled back its remaining scholarship sanctions on Penn State (its consent decree has since been entirely declared void). Armed with unexpected additional 2015 scholarships, Penn State’s coaches’ first offer was to Bowers.

 

The 6-foot-4, 244-pounder never publicly backed out of his Pitt commitment, but he told the Trib’s Matt Grubba on Monday that when the Panthers lost coach Paul Chryst to Wisconsin, that changed things.

 

“I’m from a small town, and this whole process has been hard,” Bowers said. “A little bit of attention is nice, but you know I don’t like to talk to people all the time.”

 

After Bowers’ flip, Penn State has secured 15 of the 16 senior prospects who held offers from both Pitt and Penn State and chose one of them.

 

Bowers is the second tight end for the PSU 2015 class, joining Jonathan Holland of Potomac, Md. The Nittany Lions have four scholarship tight ends on the roster – rising senior Kyle Carter, rising junior Brent Wilkerson and Mike Gesicki and Adam Breneman, each of whom will be a sophomore by eligibility in 2015.

 

Bowers joins Baldwin tackle Sterling Jenkins – who enrolled in classes at University Park earlier this month – as WPIAL seniors who committed to Penn State. Counting Jenkins and two other early enrollees, the Nittany Lions’ class stands at 23. They are expected to add two more prospects to it.

 

One of PSU’s outstanding offers is to Central Catholic safety John Petrishen, who is choosing between Penn State, Pitt and Virginia. Petrishen confirmed to the Trib’s Jerry DiPaola that Smith, Shoop and Franklin made an in-home visit to him Monday afternoon. He reiterated — again — that he will not be making any decisions until after this visit to Virginia this weekend.

 

Since Franklin took over, Penn State has extended scholarship offers to 10 WPIAL prospects (four in the 2015 class and three each in 2016 and ’17). Of that group, four have verbally committed to a college – three picking Penn State. Petrishen could make four, if he does.

 

The highest-rated prospect of that WPIAL 10 by Rivals.com is Woodland Hills junior running back Miles Sanders (a “6.0,” whatever that means), who committed to Penn State. However not far behind that  the WPIAL prize of the class of 2015, Central Valley defensive back Jordan Whitehead (a “5.9” by Rivals, again, whatever that means), shunned and stung PSU by choosing Pitt.

 

 

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January 23, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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Penn State on TribLive Radio this week: Donovan Smith, Deion Barnes, Guy Gadowsky, Jeff Rice

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A busy week of Penn State coverage on TribLive Radio. During the weekly Nittany Nation show that broadcasts live on Wednesday, we had Jeff Rice of Lions247.com talking last Friday’s ripping up of the NCAA-PSU consent decree, Nittany Lions recruiting storylines and where the program stands. Jeff’s been covering Penn State in some capacity for 15 years now, so we appreciate his insights.

 

Also on the show was Lions hockey coach Guy Gadowsky. In only its third year of existence, Penn State, now past the midway point of the season, leads the Big Ten and has the nation’s second-leading goal-scorer in the nation in Casey Bailey. Gadowsky also addresses the “409” decal situation that became so controversial.

 

 

For Nittany Nation Episode No. 24, listen directly here with one click:

 

 

Or to download the podcast, use this:

http://sportstalk.triblive.com/download/121PSU15.mp3

 

 

 

Then on Thursday, former Penn State players Donovan Smith and Deion Barnes joined Ken Laird and Josh Taylor on the air live from Mobile, Ala., during practices for the Senior Bowl. Smith, the Lions’ left tackle, and Barnes, its pass-rushing defensive end, each declared for the NFL draft a year early following their redshirt junior seasons. They talk about what the week is like and who has impressed them the most in practice, as well as what went into their decisions to leave school early.

 

 

Listen to the interviews directly here with one click:

 

 

Or to download the podcast, use this:

http://sportstalk.triblive.com/download/122PSU15.mp3

 

 

 

As always, thank for reading and listening. Check out Friday’s other Penn State blog posts.

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January 23, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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Are Penn State and Pitt really recruiting rivals? More on the Pennsylvania recruiting battle

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By now, I hope you’ve read the story that ran in Friday’s Trib discussing the ramifications of Pat Narduzzi’s hiring as Pitt’s head coach on Penn State recruiting and on the recent social media banter between coaches of the two schools. Colleague Jerry DiPaola did the lion’s share of the writing, so I am comfortable in promoting it as a well-written piece (unlike most of the stuff I provide!).

 

In preparing for it, I went trying to see if any trends could be identified in who’s recruiting against whom – are Penn State and Pitt truly recruiting rivals? After all, these are two schools in differing conferences, from two completely different campus/town settings who haven’t played each other on the field in 15 years. Yes, we in Pittsburgh take a provincial look at this – we’re all about Pitt and Penn State, Pitt and Penn State. (With a side of WVU). But what is the view from the outside on this?

 

Indeed, the two national recruiting analysts we interviewed for the story – one each from each of the two services that are generally regarded as the premier sites in the industry – all but laugh off the talk of a Pitt-PSU (recruiting) cold war. Rivals’ Mike Farrell said, ‘Penn State is the alpha dog in-state,” Rivals.com recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. “Pitt fans can yell and scream about that all they want, but that’s the way it is.” Scout’s Brian Dohn’s take: “You want that rivalry to take place, but it can’t be a rivalry until both sides win… When you go to Penn State, you have 100,000 people there. When you go to a Pitt game, you have a lot of yellow seats.”

 

The point of this post is not to pile on Pitt (nor was the story). I know many Panthers partisans won’t believe that. Just relaying messages. That said, in researching for this story, I wanted to see how often, in fact, Pitt and Penn State go head-to-head in attempting to attract a prospect. Is it regularly? More often than their respective conference rivals? More often than other schools in the state? More often than schools that are also known for recruiting the Pennsylvania footprint?

 

So what I did was examine all of the 2015 verbal commitments for Pitt, Penn State and a handful of other relevant schools (nearby West Virginia, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, plus recruiting dynamo Alabama for comparison’s sake). I used Rivals.com to see what schools had offered scholarships to each. To compare, I made a chart (that I hope will show up well in blog format) of each school’s “record” in recruiting against each school (in other words, among prospects who had offers from, say, Ohio State and Penn State and made a verbal commitment to one or the other, eight chose PSU and six OSU. Thus, that is reflected by an “8-6” under Penn State and “6-8” under Ohio State).

 

I hope that makes sense. I also want to emphasize that this is FAR from a perfect measure. For one thing, we are relying completely on Rivals.com for our info. They do a fabulous job in covering recruiting and I have no reason to doubt them, but it’s always unsettling to depend on someone else’s information. Secondly, the term “offer” can be, at times, subjective. Thirdly, there’s a theory that some schools will not offer a kid they know they aren’t going to get — while the philosophies of others is one of, in effect, “it can’t hurt to try.” Finally, the timing of this makes it particularly unfair to Pitt (and Michigan) because they have just gone through coaching changes and, as a result, have much smaller classes at the moment.

 

One final note: I compiled this on Tuesday, and all I have updated since are the Pitt recruits (PSU hasn’t  had any additional ones as I post this late Friday morning). But if by chance Alabama or Ohio State, etc., added anyone, it won’t be reflected here.

 

Capiche? (I don’t even know if that’s how you say that word). Anyway, here is what I found:

 

 

PENN STATE (20 recruits, ranked No. 12 nationally)

13-2 vs. Pitt     8-0 vs. WVU    8-6 vs. OSU      4-1 vs. Mich    8-2 vs. MSU     4-4 vs. Bama

 

PITT (13 recruits, ranked No. 61 nationally)

2-13 vs. PSU    6-4 vs. WVU    1-3 vs. OSU      1-2 vs. Mich    4-3 vs. MSU     0-1 vs. Bama

 

WEST VIRGINIA (21 recruits, ranked No. 27 nationally)

0-8 vs. PSU      4-6 vs. Pitt       2-8 vs. OSU      1-2 vs. Mich    1-3 vs. MSU     3-5 vs. Bama

 

OHIO STATE (24 recruits, ranked No. 7 nationally)

6-8 vs. PSU      3-1 vs. Pitt       8-2 vs. WVU    8-2 vs. Mich    11-2 vs. MSU   6-11 vs. Bama

 

MICHIGAN (6 recruits, ranked No. 101 nationally)

1-4 vs. PSU      2-1 vs. Pitt       2-1 vs. WVU    2-8 vs. OSU      2-1 vs. MSU     2-3 vs. Bama

 

MICHIGAN STATE (15 recruits, ranked No. 34 nationally)

2-8 vs. PSU      3-4 vs. Pitt       2-1 vs. WVU    2-11 vs. OSU    1-2 vs. Mich    1-3 vs. Bama

 

ALABAMA (26 recruits, ranked No. 1 nationally)

4-4 vs. PSU      1-0 vs. Pitt       5-3 vs. WVU    11-6 vs. OSU    3-2 vs. Mich    3-1 vs. MSU

 

 

One last note on the “Commonwealth Cold War” between Pitt and Penn State. When looking at in-state schools Pitt is recruiting against, among Panthers’ 2015 verbal commitments, as many have offers from Duquesne as do from Penn State (two). And that group features three times as many players with Temple offers (six) than Penn State.

 

 

Enjoy your weekend. Check out my other two blog posts from Friday.

 

 

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January 15, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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Penn State comes to Pittsburgh: WPIAL recruits with PSU offers expect visits Friday

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The “dead period” for football recruiting ended Thursday, when coaches from around the country were free to take off to various outposts to visit prospects as the Class of 2015 recruiting calendar nears its end.

 

For Penn State, that meant some were in Wisconsin.

 

Some were in Philadelphia.

 

Some, it appears, could have been in Michigan (judging by what Northville, Mich., lineman and Wisconsin verbal commitment David Moorman said).

 

By Friday, at least three of them are expected in Pittsburgh.

 

Head coach James Franklin, defensive coordinator (and safeties coach) Bob Shoop and defensive recruiting coordinator (and cornerbacks coach) Terry Smith are going to be in the area, according to several Nittany Lions verbal commitments and/or their high school coaches.

 

It is expected that the Blue-and-White traveling contingent – Shoop (Riverview) and Smith (Gateway) are WPIAL high school alums – are going to touch base with all of the local prospects who have outstanding offers from Penn State (except for Jordan Whitehead, who made a verbal commitment to Pitt and has gone on the record reaffirming that commitment).

 

With National Signing Day less than three weeks away, of course the 2015 prospects are the most pressing. Penn State is known to have offered four WPIAL players, but in effect, that number is down to two – with arguably the entire state’s top player, Whitehead is seemingly off the board, and Baldwin offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins enrolled at PSU this past week and is already living in University Park and taking classes.

 

That leaves Kittanning tight end Nick Bowers and Central Catholic safety Johnny Petrishen. Bowers verbally committed to Pitt almost a year ago – but that was under a different Panthers’ coaching staff, it was just days after Penn State’s new coaching staff was introduced and eight months before PSU extended a scholarship offer. When it was announced coach Paul Chryst was leaving Pitt for Wisconsin last month, Bowers’ mother characterized Nick’s situation as “wait and see” in an email to the Trib’s Matt Grubba.

 

Central Catholic safety Johnny Petrishen has a long list of scholarship offers, hasn’t done much in terms of tipping his hand and insists he hasn’t made any decisions. He told the Trib’s Chris Harlan he plans on making an official visit to Pitt this weekend and one to Penn State next weekend.

 

The 2016 prospects don’t carry with them the sense of urgency, of course, but it’s never too early to look ahead. Penn State already has Pennsylvania’s top-rated 2016 prospect (per Rivals.com),  Woodland Hills running back Miles Sanders, as a verbal commitment. While surely more offers will materialize over the coming 55 weeks until the 2016 Signing Day, the only other WPIAL players in that class who currently are known to have gotten PSU offers are Central Catholic cornerback Damar Hamlin and McKeesport linebacker Khaleke Hudson.

 

Players from 2017 that have a Penn State scholarship offer in hand from the WPIAL include Seton-LaSalle’s Paris Ford, Gateway’s Robert Hainsey and Clairton’s Lamonte Wade.

 

That’s seven WPIAL schools – Central Catholic, Kittanning, Woodland Hills, McKeesport, Seton-LaSalle, Gateway and Clairton – that figure to be getting a visit from a few blue-and-white clad men Friday.

 

 

 

WPIAL football players known to have scholarship offers from Penn State, by class:

 

 

2015-

Sterling Jenkins, OT, Baldwin (NOW ENROLLED AT PENN STATE)

 

Johnny Petrishen, S, Central Catholic

 

Nick Bowers, TE, Kittanning (A LONGTIME VERBAL COMMIT OF PITT’S)

 

Jordan Whitehead, CB, Central Valley (SEEMINGLY STRONGLY COMMITTED TO PITT)

 

 

2016-

Miles Sanders, RB, Woodland Hills (COMMITTED TO PENN STATE)

 

Damar Hamlin, CB, Central Catholic

 

Khaleke Hudson, OLB, McKeesport

 

 

2017-

Paris Ford, ATH, Seton-LaSalle

 

Robert Hainsey, OT, Gateway

 

Lamonte Wade, CB, Clairton

 

 

 

 

Enjoy your weekend.

 

 

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January 14, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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TribLive Radio ep. 23: Wrestling legend Cael Sanderson talks PSU striving for 5th straight national title, Cory Giger discusses Bob Shoop, Big Ten strength

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We made a splash with the first non-football foray on the weekly Penn State show (it took 23 episodes!), having on a man who has won eight NCAA wrestling championships (four as an athlete at Iowa State and four more as the coach of the Nittany Lions), Cael Sanderson.

 

 

With apologies to Bob Shoop, PSU football’s stellar defensive coordinator, Olympic gold medalist Sanderson easily and immediately becomes the most decorated guest we’ve had on the young history of the show. Sanderson talks about a week of practice after a defeat (he’s currently in the middle of only the fifth such week over the past five years), the pressure of winning on a four-time defending national championship team, the decision to redshirt Franklin Regional grad Nico Megaludis, the meat grinder that is the Lions’ schedule, the rich history of wrestling in Pennsylvania and also the challenges he faces as a truly elite former athlete in relating to wrestlers who – while extremely talented in their own rights for the NCAA Division I level – are not quite 159-0 in-their-careers-level of talents (yes, that is Sanderson’s career record!).

 

 

In the second half of the show, Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror and ESPN Radio brings his longtime perspective of covering Penn State. We discuss the importance to PSU of keeping Shoop around, the effect to the Lions program of neighboring Ohio State’s national title and the decisions of Donovan Smith, Deion Barnes and Jesse James to declare for the NFL draft a year early.

 

 

All in all, worth a listen, no?

 

 

Listen here with one click:

 

 

And here is the link to download the podcast:

http://sportstalk.triblive.com/download/114PSU15.mp3 

 

 

National Signing Day is less than three weeks away…

Have a good one.

 

 

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January 7, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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TribLive PSU show ep. 22: Recruiting storylines; Will Bob Shoop leave? Harbaugh hire impact on PSU

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What are the big recruiting storylines with National Signing Day just four weeks away?

 

What will former Big Ten assistant Pat Narduzzi’s hiring at Pitt mean – if anything – to Penn State and PSU recruiting?

 

What will the hire by Michigan of Jim Harbaugh mean over the longterm to the Nittany Lions?

 

How surprising were the early defections to the NFL of Deion Barnes, Donovan Smith and Jesse James, and how will their absences impact Penn State going forward?

 

Will WPIAL standouts Nick Bowers and John Petrishen decide to attend PSU?

 

 

 

We explore all these topics – and oh-so-much more – on this week’s edition of “Nittany Lion Nation” on TribLive Radio (http://sportstalk.triblive.com/).

 

Recruiting expert Ryan Snyder of BlueWhiteIllustrated.com and longtime Penn State beat writer Rich Scarcella of the Reading Eagle discuss with me.

 

Please listen, won’t you?

 

 

With one click here:

 

 

Or download the link to the podcast here:

http://filesource.abacast.com/tribtotal/107PSU14.mp3

 

 

Stay warm this weekend.

 

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January 1, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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TribLive PSU show ep. 21: Pinstripe Bowl recap, does it foretell good things for 2015?

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The weekly Penn State show on TribLive Radio was bumped up to Monday because of New Year’s Eve, but that worked out well to recap the Nittany Lions’ win against Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl that ended roughly 36 hours prior.

 

I was joined by colleague Bill West, who’s been sharing the Penn State beat with me in recent weeks, and Derek Levarse of the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader.

 

We discuss what the improbable comeback win at Yankee Stadium means to the program, look ahead of the 2015 season and even touch on some recruiting storylines. Give it a listen, won’t you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen here with one click:

 

 

Or click here to download the podcast:

http://filesource.abacast.com/tribtotal/1229PSU14.mp3

 

 

Best wishes for 2015 to you and your family…

 

 

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January 1, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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Penn State’s offense: ‘You know what, we’re tired of (struggling)… We had our swagger back’

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(Note: A database crash erased from servers blog entries that were posted over a period of time last week. I typically type out my posts in a Word file and copy-and-paste them over, so I have the copies from the missing posts. Simply for the record and archival purposes, I am re-posting two lost blog posts here on 1/1/15. The original publish date for this content was 12/28/14. Slight editing might be missing from the original finished product.)

 

 

THIRTY-THOUSAND FEET ABOVE PENNSYLVANIA – My random thoughts, quotes and observations about the Penn State offense following the Nittany Lions’ emotional 31-30 win against Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl on Saturday at Yankee Stadium…

 

 

Break up that PSU offense, no? Let’s not sugarcoat things – if “awful” is too strong a word to describe its performance and production during the Big Ten season, it’s (no pun intended) awfully close to being an accurate adjective. Let’s face it: Its scoring (14.0 points per game) and yardage (267.5 per game) outputs in conference play would have ranked them 124th in each among 125 FBS teams for the season.

 

That said, wow, did Penn State’s offense look like a well-oiled machine Saturday: 453 yards, 31 points, 9-for-17 third-down efficiency, nine of 13 drives traveling at least 30 yards. And that was not a poor Boston College defense (13th nationally), either. Just goes to prove that, when you have a quarterback as talented as Christian Hackenberg, when he’s on, good things will happen.

 

“Christian was the (bowl) MVP for a reason,” running back Akeel Lynch said. “He commanded the huddle and showed what he’s always had – that ability. There’s a reason why he’s our captain and our quarterback. You saw it on the field.

 

On the offense as a whole, Lynch said, “We were just tired of being so close… I think this time we had to win the game; our defense held us up all year. We were in the mindset that we’ve got to score points and we’ve got to win this for our team… We just said, ‘You know what, we’re tired of this. We’re tired of being too short.’ And I think that’s just the mindset switch. We were able to get out with a W.”

 

Added receiver DaeSean Hamilton, succinctly: “We just came out, and we had our swagger back.”

 

With virtually no seniors playing significant roles (guard Miles Dieffenbach played only one quarter before being lost to injury; running back Bill Belton was ineffective and rarely used in lieu of Lynch), could that mean a better 2015 for the Lions offense? Putting aside that, statistically, it has to be better just because it can’t be worse, there is reason to believe that it can be much better next season. The receiving corps figures to be deep. The tight ends, even if Jesse James happens to turn pro, will also be deep (Adam Breneman will be back to join Kyle Carter, Mike Gesicki and, perhaps, James). Lynch has proven he can be no worse than a capable Big Ten-level featured back. Hackenberg, while inconsistent as a sophomore, showed signs of the brilliance that’s been forecasted for him. Having a year under the system of coordinator John Donovan should only help.

 

Which means it all comes down to the offensive line. Again, it has to be better simply because it can’t be worse. Plus, everyone who played (outside of the equivalent of about three games worth of Dieffenbach) is back and figures to be bigger, stronger, smarter. Add in Paris Palmer – arguably the top junior-college lineman in the country – and there’s reason to believe that, just maybe, the line won’t weigh down the offense next season.

 

“I’ve been saying since day one,” coach James Franklin said, “if we can give (Hackenberg) time and give our receivers a little time to work their routes, I think we can be pretty good on offense.”

 

 

A happy and healthy 2015 to everyone.

 

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January 1, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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Penn State in the Big Apple: Franklin’s idea of PSU’s ‘family’ and what it’d mean to win

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(Note: A database crash erased from servers blog entries that were posted over a period of time last week. I typically type out my posts in a Word file and copy-and-paste them over, so I have the copies from the missing posts. Simply for the record and archival purposes, I am re-posting two lost blog posts here on 1/1/15. The original publish date for this content was 12/26/14. Slight editing might be missing from the original finished product.)

 

 

 

A SEVENTH-FLOOR HOTEL ROOM IN QUEENS – Fifteen hours into my day since awakening in my palatial Carnegie estate and heading off to New York City for coverage of Penn State in the Pinstripe Bowl, here are some notes…

 

 

—-Penn State coach James Franklin often talks about “family” in regards to the program. He’s repeatedly discussed how he’ll miss the unity of the current team (rightly mentioning how it will never be together as one again after this weekend), even though he’s only had one season as part of it.

 

During a news conference Friday at Yankee Stadium, Franklin was asked if he felt as if he and his staff have been able to aptly assimilate into that family atmosphere he so speaks of. Franklin said, “I hope we have,” and then went into a longer answer:

 

“Penn State a place where we had the same coach for 100 years, and we have tremendous respect for our history and our past – but I can’t be anybody but James Franklin.

 

“I think I’m probably very different in a lot of ways than the last two coaches who sat in this role. I hope we already have shown respect of the past… If it hasn’t happened already, I hope it’ll happen over time that we’re building and earning everybody’s trust and respect. This is a very, very important position at Penn State and its history, and you’ve got coaches and a coaching staff here that understands that and are just as proud to be here and part of the (university) community as anyone else… It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. And every single day we wake up trying our best.”

 

 
—-Franklin relayed an anecdote from a practice earlier this month. According to Franklin, fifth-year senior guard Miles Dieffenbach told him that when he was a true freshman (in 2010, when he arrived at University Park as a four-star recruit) he was “on the fifth team” and often would “watch” practice and not get any reps.

 

This season, the Nittany Lions opened the season with three true freshmen on the second team – out of necessity. Franklin called the lack of competition (via the lack of depth, a result of NCAA sanctions) his “biggest challenge” in returning the program to its former lofty status.

 

The offensive line is where depth concerns have stung PSU the most this season. That perhaps won’t be more apparent than it will be against Boston College on Saturday. The Eagles’ five starters on their offensive line are all seniors who have already graduated. They combine for 129 career starts – the Lions opened the season with just one player who’d had any career starts.

 

The (sort of) good news? With Dieffenbach back from injury late in the season, Penn State’s five starters on the line had almost a full month to practice together to gain continuity for the first time this year.

 

 

 

—-Yes, these news conferences are glorified publicity machines-slash-pep rallies. The opposing coach is sitting an arm’s length away; do you really think one of the coaches is going to say anything remotely negative about the other team?

 

Under that context, take this for what it’s worth. Still, I took what Boston College coach Steve Addazio said about the Penn State defense as genuine. Asked about the unit, Addazio reminded that the Lions rank first nationally in rushing defense and second in total defense (it also is second in pass efficiency defense and seventh in scoring defense.

 

“You have the stats, and you watch the film,” Addazio said, suggesting that sometimes the former and latter do not match up.

 

“In this case, the film backs up the stats

 

 

 

—-Perhaps (for far different reasons; sanctions vs. a general mediocre malaise) Penn State will treat next season’s bowl experience (if there is one) the way Boston College is treating its this season. The Eagles are in their second consecutive bowl after sitting out the previous two seasons. The NCAA kept the Nittany Lions from participating in the postseason in 2012 and ’13.

“Last year, the goal was to get to a bowl,” Eagles coach Steve Addazio said. “That’s certainly not the goal this year. We did that (last year), but now we’re here to win these. They’re launching pads for the program.”

 

 

 

—I’ll leave you with Franklin’s thoughts on the meaning of Saturday’s game:

 

“The emotion for us isn’t necessarily about the bowl; it’s about our family being together. The 2014 football team will never be together again after this game. We’ve talked about that all week long. To me, that’s what special about bowl games is being able to keep the family together for a few more weeks.

 

All the members of the teams will get bowl rings, but there’s something special about being able to put ‘bowl champions’ on that ring. They’re going to look down and see that ring for the rest of their lives.
For us, there’s probably a little bit more significance in terms of sending these seniors out that have been through so much in their careers and sending them out on a real positive note and laying the foundation for the expectation moving forward.”

 

 

 

Enjoy this lovely week between Christmas and New Year’s…

 

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