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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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December 18, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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TribLive ep. 20: How much meaning does Pinstripe Bowl game have to program?

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This week’s episode will have to last two weeks, what with Christmas Eve falling on a Wednesday meaning no show on 12/24. So we tried to squeeze in as much talk as we could this week. Guests were the Trib’s own Bill West – who’s handling much of the Penn State coverage this month – and Donnie Collins of the Scranton Times Leader. Scranton being Ground Zero for the melding of Penn State fans and New York City partisans.

 

We talk PSU’s outstanding ticket-buying support for the game, how much a win or loss in it could mean to the Nittany Lions in 2015 and beyond and also touch on newest Lion Paris Palmer and other recruiting news…

 

 

 

Listen directly from here:

 

 

Download the podcast here:

http://filesource.abacast.com/tribtotal/1217PSU14.mp3

 

 

 

Have a merry Christmas.

 

 

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December 3, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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TribLive ep. 18: Penn State recruiting notes, regular-season wrapup, bowl lookahead

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The first post-regular season episode of the Nittany Nation show on TribLive Radio is heavy on recruiting talk, with looks back at the regular season and lessons on expectations.

 

Sean Fitz, the editor of Lions247.com, is on top of Penn State recruiting as much as anybody. We discussed the recent verbal commitments of four-star cornerback Garrett Taylor and four-star junior quarterback Jake Zembiec. He also touched on PSU WPIAL targets John Petrishen and Nick Bowers  and on other possible incoming recruits such as Paris Palmer and Christian Wilkins.

 

Frank Bodani of the York Daily Record provided his insights on Penn State’s possible bowl destination, on how to view this 6-6 regular season and on what the future holds for the Nittany Lions in the coming few years as the James Franklin Era takes off.

 

 

 

Click here to listen live:

 

 

And here is a link to download the podcast:

http://sportstalk.triblive.com/download/1203PSU14.mp3

 

 

Enjoy the rest of your week and the conference championship weekend.

 

 

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December 1, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Franco Harris on request for Freeh Report documents: ‘We’re not on defense anymore’

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I ran into former Penn State great Franco Harris on Sunday while at Heinz Field covering the reunion for the 1974 Super Bowl champion Steelers that Harris was such a big part of.

 

He was gregarious and happy to be around his former teammates. I asked him a few questions about those Super Steelers (as can be seen in the article I link to above), and I listened to him answer a few others’ questions having to do with the current Steelers.

 

But as much as Harris enjoys talking about those dynastic Steelers, his face lit up most when I told him I covered Penn State. I wanted to get his opinion on the request by nine alumni-elected Board of Trustees members for access to documents related to the Freeh Report. If you’re reading this, by now you probably know what the Freeh Report is, why it was commissioned, what it said, what it resulted in and why so many people have a problem with it.

 

Anyway, here is Harris’ answer in its entirety:

 

 

“First of all, they [the at-large trustees] have a right to access that information. They have a fiduciary duty to do what is in the best interests of Penn State. They have to respect that, and sending something to the chairman [Keith Masser], he should respect other board of trustees members doing their jobs. And if Louis Freeh said he had 3 million documents, well, we want to see 3 million documents. Do you think he had 3 million documents? And he read all of them?

 

“So, I’m just saying that when you look at that, put up or shut up. And that’s exactly the way it is – we were told one thing and they [Freeh and his subordinates] said certain things happened, they said we have a cultural problem at Penn State, they said this and that. Well, come on with it. You know what I mean? People [at Penn State] are done backing up. We talk about defense and offense – we’re not on defense anymore. And so we’re moving forward. And they [alumni-elected trustees] are asking the right questions and demanding the right stuff, and the important thing is they have a right to do it. That, to me, makes a big difference.”

 

 

 

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November 26, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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TribLive show ep. 17: The PSU defense’s toughest challenge yet; Senior Day preview; recruiting notes

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While you’re enjoying turkey or cranberry sauce — or even a pre-holiday (or pregame tailgate) libation — why not add the best fixin’ of them all: The Nittany Nation show podcast!

 

In previewing the Senior Day game against Michigan State (Land Grant Trophy on the line!), we talk to Greg Pickel, who covers Penn State and recruiting, and Graham Couch, a columnist in Lansing, Mich., who covers Michigan State.

 

Pickel, of PennLive.com and FightOnState.com, discussed the recent scholarship offer to Central Catholic defensive back John Petrishen from Penn State, and he also delved into other Lions recruiting storylines for heading into Signing Day in February. Pickel views Petrishen’s decision of one between Pitt and Penn State and calls it “a coin flip.” And in terms of the James Franklin recruiting machine losing its luster over the past few months, Pickel says, “There’s no way that momentum (from the spring and summer) was going to sustain itself. It wasn’t going to be possible.”

 

Couch, who co-hosts a talk show in Michigan and writes for the Lansing State Journal, provided some insights on where the Michigan State program sits after being on the verge of four 10-win seasons in five years. Couch calls the Spartans’ current offense “the best they’ve ever had,” and gushes over the athleticism of Gateway High School graduate Montae Nicholson, who is making an impact for MSU as a true freshman defensive back.

 

 

 

Give it a listen with one click here:

 

 

 

And download the podcast here:

http://filesource.abacast.com/tribtotal/1126PSU14.mp3

 

 

 

A heartfelt wish for everyone to enjoy the holiday with his or her families…

 

 

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