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December 18, 2013
by Chris Adamski


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PSU’s Frazier, Newbill form quite the backcourt duo

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Some are calling them one of the best backcourts in the country. Certainly, they’re among the most experienced. But this is the first year Penn State’s Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill are playing together.

 

It’s also their first year as full-time roommates.

 

“We care about certain things like the same music,” said Frazier, the all-Big Ten point guard. “Having so much in common makes it so much easier.

 

“It’s mostly R&B and hip-hop, but I try to throw a little country on him from time to time.”

 

Newbill is a redshirt junior who sat out the 2011-12 season upon transferring from Southern Mississippi. Frazier is a senior who missed almost all of last season because of an Achilles injury. Together, they average 37.4 points (best in the nation among guard duos), 10.0 assists, 10.0 rebounds and 2.9 steals per game.

 

Together, they’ve grown as friends after being hotel roommates on the road last season. Together, they’re a feared backcourt combination for upcoming Big Ten opponents.

 

“They’re doing a pretty good job, don’t you think?” Penn State coach Pat Chambers said last week. “Tim… looks for D.J., which is good. I think they have a good understanding of where each other’s going to be on the floor and how to help each other on the defensive end.

 

“I think because of them rooming together last year, because they’re roommates now on campus and they’re spending a lot of time together, I think you’re seeing that on the floor. I think you’re seeing two guys who just want to win basketball games. They don’t care who the leading scorer is, as long as we compete at a high level and give ourselves a chance to win. They’re a cohesive duo.”

 

Last season, Newbill – a Philadelphia native – was somewhat miscast as a point guard after Fraizer was injured during the fourth game of the season.

 

This season, Frazier has been Penn State’s leading scorer five times, Newbill three and they tied for the designation once. In two of the three occasions in which another member of the team was the top scorer, Newbill had more points (they tied the other time).

 

Although they combine for nine seasons of experience being on major college basketball rosters, Newbill and Frazier continue to learn tendencies about each other as the season progresses.

 

“You learn something new every game,” Frazier said. “A move he made (against Duquesne on Dec. 11), I was like, ‘Damn, I didn’t even know he had that in his repertoire!’ You learn something new every time, and I think we will just keep gelling together throughout the season.”

 

Penn State will need them to if it hopes to make a postseason tournament.

 

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December 16, 2013
by Chris Adamski


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O’Brien at Penn State football banquet: ‘We feel good about the future’

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BILL OBRIEN

 

Hours after a CBSsports.com report cited anonymous sources in terming Bill O’Brien as “ready to return to professional football,” the Penn State coach presided over the postseason team awards banquet.

 

It’d be silly to read too much into the school’s official release about the banquet, which was held Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel and staged by the State College Quarterback Club on Sunday. Almost 750 people attended the event, and reports have come out that O’Brien ended his remarks with “see you next year.” He also, for what it’s worth, definitely said, “We feel good about the future.” O’Brien also was in Hershey watching a PIAA championship game Sunday as part of his recruiting duties.

 

O’Brien has never been shy about saying that the NFL is the highest level of his given profession and in indicating that anyone would aspire to coach in it someday. He’s also been a man who’s not only preached but has been credited with being extremely honest and upfront. Being so careful with his words perhaps only indicates that – somewhere down the road (whether it is in the near or not-so-near future) – he doesn’t want to close that NFL door.

 

I reached out to O’Brien’s agent. If/when I hear back, I’ll pass it along.

 

In the meantime, here were the awards given out Sunday, the day before eight Penn State players were honored by the Big Ten Network and/or ESPN for being all-Big Ten:

 

  • Lions’ Pride Outstanding Senior Player Award (MVP): DT DaQuan Jones.

 

  • Richard Maginnis Memorial Award (outstanding offensive lineman): C Ty Howle and G John Urschel.

 

  • John Bruno, Jr. Memorial Award (outstanding member of special teams): FB Pat Zerbe.

 

  • Ridge Riley Award (senior for “sportsmanship, scholarship, leadership and friendship”): OT Garry Gilliam, S/LB Stephen Obeng-Agyapong.

 

  • Robert B. Mitinger, Jr. Award (senior who exhibits courage, character and social responsibility): LB Glenn Carson, OT Eric Shrive and S Malcolm Willis.

 

  • Outstanding Run-on Award (walk-on player who exemplifies total commitment, loyalty, hard work and courage): TE Matt Lehman.

 

  • Reid-Robinson Award (outstanding defensive lineman): Jones.

 

  • Football Letterman’s Club Joe and Sue Paterno Post-Graduate Scholarship ($5,000 Scholarship to a senior to provide recognition and financial assistance for graduate school): DT Kyle Baublitz.

 

  • The Nittany Lion Club Academic Achievement Award (senior with highest GPA): Urschel.

 

  • Quarterback Club Special Award:  OT Adam Gress (a West Mifflin alumnus).

 

  • The Iron Lion Award (to the senior who demonstrates the cornerstone of the Penn State Football strength and conditioning program — intensity and consistency): Urschel.

 

  • Alumni Athlete Award: Former WR Rich Mauti (father of former LB Mike, now with the Minnesota Vikings).

 

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December 11, 2013
by Chris Adamski


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John Amaechi on Penn St football, PSU basketball, PSU life

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Before there was All-Big Ten guard, academic all-world and certified Mathlete John Urschel, Penn State had John Amaechi. He was not only arguably the one of the top five Nittany Lions basketball players of the past 30 years (OK, not exactly a storied history there to contend with — but still), he also was given a national academic award for men’s basketball players. Now a psychologist in London, Amaechi remains a very proud public Penn Stater.

 

I spoke to him this week in preparation for a story I’m doing on The Return to Rec game this Saturday. As the centerpiece of the final teams to play at Rec Hall, I figured he was as good as any to talk about the old barn. Look for that story to run Saturday in The Trib.

 

While I had him on the phone from across the proverbial pond, I figured I’d also kind of catch up with him. Amaechi loves Penn State enough that he says he rarely misses an annual trip back to State College — even from London. This past Homecoming in October, Amaechi was the Grand Marshall of the parade.

 

Amaechi keeps up with the Nittany Lions’ football and men’s basketball teams (the former mostly via Twitter; the latter enough so that he has developed a relationship with coach Pat Chambers). He is staging a “Big Man” camp at his youth/sports charitable center in Great Brittan, and Amaechi said he is inviting all of the PSU forwards/centers to attend.

 

An occupational psychologist by trade (Amaechi also frequently does public speaking, is an author and runs his foundation), Amaechi keeps in touch with the Penn State psychology department, particularly “frequently”speaking with Dr. Rick Jacobs.

 

 

“I think I always have thought that Penn State was the place that gave me my opportunity, it was the place that despite all we have heard negatively about the Second Mile and… Penn State was the place that told me I had a responsibility as an athlete to be a role model. And that has stuck with me.”

 

 

It’s obvious Amaechi has an affinity for Chambers, whom he likens to his former coach at Penn State, Bruce Parkhill:

 

 

“He’s one of those type of people who’s a taskmaster, who demanded that you brought your ‘A’ game every moment: In the gym, in the classroom and at all times. And I just lament, why aren’t there young people who want that challenge? Why don’t they, instead of wanting to sit in the program where they can mature gently over four years and take the easy road, instead have to step up and contribute that first year. Because that’s the opportunity that’s available at Penn State. To come in, step up and contribute. The young people that have stepped in right now, that is the effort they are making.”

 

 

Like any other Penn State alumnus, Amaechi has his thoughts on the Nittany Lions’ football program. In the past, he has not been shy in saying things that have gotten him into some hot water with alumni concerning the Jerry Sandusky scandal. He had nothing but good things to say about second-year football coach Bill O’Brien, with whom he recently appeared on a radio show with:

 

 

“I think to my mind Bill seems to be a very principled guy and very focused on getting the program not back to where it was – rather reasserting some values that he holds very closely in discipline and teamwork and representing yourselves as individuals. It seems to me that’s what he’s trying to get back to. Instead of looking back, he’s looking to what Penn State can be in the next 10 years.”

 

 

Amaechi says he regularly attends Penn State Alumni Association events in London — many of which involve watching the football team. He intends on attending next season’s opener against Central Florida in Dublin, Ireland.

 

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December 4, 2013
by Chris Adamski


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PSU coach Pat Chambers: ‘We’re a good team… get used to it’

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Penn State basketball coach Patrick Chambers is fighting for respect for his team – that much was apparent after the Nittany Lions lost to Pitt on Tuesday.

 

Asked a question of whether “proving you could play with (Pitt)” instead of losing by 37 like they did last time, Chambers politely answered it. And then he seemed to turn his annoyance level up a notch. Below is a transcript of the full exchange between Chambers and the media:

 

 

“Whether it’s Pitt or whoever in the Big Ten, I feel like we have a good solid team.

 

“And I hope people start taking us seriously. Because I feel like, and I know (the PSU players) were tired of everybody talking about us like we’re not a good team. ‘Aren’t you proud to be on the same floor?’ What does that mean? What does that really mean? We’re a good team, we’re a good basketball team, get used to it. How’s that sound?”

 

You don’t think people take you seriously?

 

“No. No, not at all.”

 

Why? I’m curious.

 

“I’m sure because of history.

 

“Our attitude has changed, our mindset has changed. We’re competing at a high level. We’re just not seeing great results the last two games, but we’re getting there.”

 

Does this game help along those lines?

 

“If you win it, yeah.”

 

Don’t you think beating Bucknell would help that?

 

“Yeah I agree.

 

“Nice low blow, but yeah I agree, you’re right.”

 

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December 4, 2013
by Chris Adamski


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Chambers, Dixon differ on continuing Pitt-PSU hoops series

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The western side of this great Commonwealth loves Pitt-vs.-Penn State. Mostly in football, but we saw a pretty dang good basketball meeting Tuesday night. The atmosphere at a packed Petersen Events Center was by far the best it’s been for a non-conference game in recent memory.

 

Afterward, both coaches were asked about the idea of making the matchup an annual series. Tuesday’s meeting was part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, which is set by the conferences and the television networks.

 

The answers of Penn State’s Patrick Chambers and Pitt’s Jamie Dixon showed just how not on the same page the two are.

 

Chambers:

 

“Coach Dixon and I have talked about it; we’re going to try to work it out.

“This was a Big Ten/ACC (Challenge) game, obviously, but we’re going to try to do something to keep the series going.”

 

 

Later, Dixon did not sound nearly as enthusiastic.

 

 

Dixon:

 

“It’d be great, but there’s like 50 games I’d like to see continued; they just don’t allow us to play that many games. You can’t do everything.

 

“It’s good for everybody, but now we’re in the ACC so you don’t know when you’re gonna play them or if you’re gonna play them (in the Big Ten /ACC Challenge) so it does bring some challenges, obviously.

 

“It’s good, but we play a lot of good teams, and whoever we don’t play, they talk about, ‘Why don’t we play them?’ And it’s the usual.”

 

 

In short, don’t hold your breath for a Panthers-Nittany Lions matchup next December.

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December 1, 2013
by Chris Adamski


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More on WHY Penn State was such a huge underdog

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Can’t sleep in the Dairy State…

 

I wrote about Penn State’s historic underdog status as the preview for Saturday’s game. It became the major storyline afterwards when the 24 1/2-point Nittany Lions stunned Wisconsin, 31-24, Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium. Figured I’d go a little more in-depth as to the why Penn State was such a big underdog…

 

It had nothing to do with, as Bill O’Brien tried to insinuate, what the media thought. (Although I’m sure many publications’ beat writers and columnists do indeed publish predictions, I haven’t done it — not that there is necessarily anything wrong with doing so). Lines are set by professional oddsmakers who at first use a formula. After that, the betting public sets the line based on where they are putting their money.

 

Here is how covers.com’s Steve Merrill explained the PSU-Wisky line in an email to me:

 

“The early money has actually come in on Wisconsin this week, pushing the line from -23 to -24 and now -24.5 in some spots.  4 is a very key number, that recent move is significant.  I use several different sets of power ratings and most make Wisconsin about a -24 point favorite, so the line looks accurate.

Oddsmakers are also forced to set a high line because Wisconsin has been a pointspread covering machine this season.  They failed to cover the line for the first time all season last week, but are still 9-1-1 ATS (against the spread) this season.  More importantly, head coach Gary Anderson was an incredible 11-1-1 ATS last season as Utah State’s head coach with his only pointspread loss coming by 1 point as a 37-point favorite.  This year his only ATS loss was last week by just 2.5 points as a 13-point favorite.

Overall, Anderson is an amazing 20-2-2 ATS (against the spread) that pasttwo seasons as a head coach, so it appears he makes an effort to cover the pointspread.

I remember a similar situation back in the 1990′s with Bill Snyder at Kansas State as he always found a way to cover big numbers as well. Different theories on why this happens. Maybe he wants to help the alumni win their bets or maybe he feels winning by more than the pointspread is seen as a better victory (above average) by the computer systems that do the BCS rankings.  Either way, Gary Anderson’s current pointspread record the past two years (with 2 different schools) is amazing and it makes it risky to go against him as a favorite.”

 

Here is Merril explaining the “power ratings” as well as a more general peek at how lines are set:

 

Power ratings are a numerical ranking for each team, then you factor in approximately 3 points for home field advantage, so this would get you a pointspread for the game.  For example, if PSU is rated 10 and Wisconsin is 31 in a set of power ratings, then Wisconsin would be a 21-point favorite on a neutral field, 24 at home, or 18 on the road.

I use several different sets of data for my different power ratings such as statistics, scoring margins, strength of schedule, etc. to come with a numerical rating for each individual team.

Power ratings are the main way oddsmakers set the pointspread, and then they factor in home field, injuries, weather, matchups edges, etc. to fine tune the final pointspread number.“

 

 

More on Wisconsin’s propensity to “cover” from David Pemberton, the director of specialty games at the Rio Hotel:

 

“Wisconsin, I hate to say, but I think they like to run the scores up and they really try to pile it on whereas some other teams, once they get a big lead, they kind of stop and take it easy in the third and fourth quarter when the game is out of hand. But it’s like Wisconsin j’ust keeps going.  We had two games earlier this year when they were a (44 ½)-point favorite and they won by 45 and another 48. They just never really like turn it off and stick into ‘coast’ and say, ‘OK, we got the game in hand.’ They just keep on going.”

 

 

One last voice from Vegas, that of Jay Kornegay of the Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook:

 

“For us, it’s just a number. We look at a game and say, ‘Hey, that’s what power ratings rate.’ And we have it at 24 1/2 right now on it. But the teams don’t matter, it’s all objective — it could be Arkansas State and Western Kentucky. I know it’s a big-time news out there.”

 

 

Finally, what O’Brien said about the betting line on Tuesday during his weekly press conference. At that point, as you’ll see below, he said he both didn’t know about the pointspread and wasn’t going to use it as motivation for his team.

 

He either was lying — or he had a dramatic change of heart in the ensuing 72 hours.

 

First, I asked him a general question about how he finds motivation for his team on a week-to-week or game-to-game basis (I — erroneously, as you’ll see below — figured he’d never get close to being caught answering a direct question about the betting line):

 

“Certainly from a week‑to‑week basis, there are always different things that may come up within your team or outside of your team maybe on the other team or things like that that you may use to talk to your team about.  But, again, it comes down to what the keys to the game are, and being focused on those and making sure everybody understands their role in the gameplan.”

 

Later on, another reporter asked O’Brien specifically about the pointspread. I wrote his answer in my Saturday story, but here it is again. It bares repeating because, after the game, O’Brien (and his players) were rather upfront about how much they talked about the Vegas line and how much they used it as fuel against the Badgers.

 

O’Brien on Tuesday:

No, I wasn’t aware of (the 24-point underdog status).  You know, I’m aware that we’re probably an underdog.  We’re 6‑5, and they’re 9‑2, but I didn’t know it was a 20‑point underdog.  No, that wouldn’t be‑‑ now, if somebody from Wisconsin came out and said we’re going to beat these guys by 24 points, then maybe we’d use that.  But certainly not Vegas.”

 

 

 

Enjoy your win, Penn State fans. Will surely make the looooooooong wait (exactly nine months this year) between games feel that much sweeter.

 

–Chris

 

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November 30, 2013
by Chris Adamski


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Isolate on No. 26 in Blue & White on defense today

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Good morning from Cheese Country. I just can’t spend a weekend in Wisconsin and come home without a Cheesehead, can I?

 

 

Anyway…. Something to watch for during today’s Penn State season finale? How about Brandon Bell? Bell joined the far-more-ballyhooed Christian Hackenberg and Adam Breneman as true freshmen who played the majority of at least one game’s snaps on offense or defense when he got significant playing time at linebacker last week against Nebraska.

 

Bell, a 6-1, 226-pound native of New Jersey, had a career-high six tackles against the Cornhuskers. More importantly, he seemed to pass the “eye test” – and not only with media hacks like me. Players and coach Bill O’Brien also sang his praises. And, although this is just a “feel” I get, they seem to be doing it genuinely. Rarely, if ever, does a player answer a question about a teammate without praise. But when teammates and O’Brien talked about Bell in the hours and days following the Nebraska game, they did so in detail – and effusively.

 

Here is a sample:

 

O’Brien: “Brandon played a really good football game.  He had been playing well on special teams, so we decided to get him more run at linebacker. He really played well. He had a really good tackle near the goal line on the quarterback. At the end of the game when they fumbled the shotgun snap, he almost recovered that – he instinctively took off and went after it and almost got that one, which would have been a huge play, obviously. And there were many plays throughout the game. He does a good job of understanding blocking schemes at a young age. He’s an instinctive player and does a good job.”

 

Junior linebacker Mike Hull: “I think he’s one of the most improved players on the team especially defensively.  Since he’s gotten here he’s just made a lot of strides and he’s made a lot of big plays for us in the past couple weeks, and we needed it.  So everyone’s pretty pleased with the way he’s coming along.”

 

Senior linebacker Glenn Carson: “It’s tough because there’s a lot on your plate (as a freshman) and there is a lot to learn. He’s a smart kid and is really football-savvy. He was able to step up and you saw that he made some really good plays (during last week’s game).”

 

Senior linebacker/safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong: “What I saw from him (against Nebraska) was what I saw for him all season – when he’s been given opportunities, he’s shown up. Bell is a smart guy; people don’t see it but he definitely knows what he’s doing, so that definitely helps as an advantage. Even though he’s a freshman and smaller than the rest of the linebackers, he uses the mental aspect of the game to help him out. That’s the good thing about Bell – and he’s only going to get better as time progresses.”

 

Sophomore cornerback Jordan Lucas: “I think for a young guy, he’s doing a terrific job. In practice he comes out with energy and makes plays. One thing coach tells us is, ‘Go get the ball… Go get the ball during practice.’ He always does that; he’s always at the ball, always at the point of attack. And he’s physical. As a young guy, he’s improved so much. I’m just anxious to see how much more improvement he makes in the offseason and when he comes in competing for a starting job.”

 

 

Pretty effusive and detailed praise from his teammates, no? And with buzzwords you love to hear repeated: “Instinctive.” “Smart.” “Around the ball.” Makes plays.” “Improving.” Not just your garden-variety, “He looked good out there… He’s a good player”-type of gibberish.

 

Building off what Lucas said, you’d have to think that Bell is a frontrunner to earn one of the two starting linebacker spots that are available heading into next season. Hull, if he remains healthy, potentially will be the leader and marquee member of the 2014 linebacking corps, as I wrote about earlier this week.

But after him, it’s a big question mark. Nyeen Wartman has been so-so as a redshirt freshman starting on the opposite side of Hull. For my money, Bell appears to be miles ahead in terms of instinctiveness. Wartman has, though, been part of the program for an extra 12 months.

 

Current redshirt sophomore Ben Kline, who battled injury much of this season, probably will be a default starter heading into spring practice. Other candidates to start at linebacker include current redshirt freshmen Gary Wooten and Adam Cole, although it would seem each has slipped in terms of their standing with the coaching staff as the season has progressed. Incoming freshman Troy Reeder is a darkhorse.

 

Bell was a fairly highly-regarded recruit (3 stars by Rivals), and his pedigree showed in earning a significant amount of playing time already, even as a freshman who enrolled in the summer.

 

At “Linebacker U,” there is plenty of uncertainty at the school’s marquee position heading into next season. Bell seemingly made a strong “first” impression (at least a first impression in terms of having a large quantity of snaps in which to form a sample size). Penn State fans would seemingly go into 2014 feeling markedly more comfortable about the future of their linebackers corps should Bell have another strong performance against Wisconsin today. In my humble opinion, it’s one of the main storylines worth watching today.

 

 

 

Enjoy the game – at least, if that’s possible, judging by what those who are paid to predict these things predict will happen to the Nittany Lions at Camp Randall Stadium today.

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November 29, 2013
by Chris Adamski


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Christian Hackenberg: Game manager?

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Good morning!

 

Minutes after quarterback Christian Hackenberg earlier this week said that a primary focus for his freshman season was on becoming “a game manager,” Penn State coach Bill O’Brien had a predictable response when asked about it.

 

“What’s that mean?” he said in a way that only O’Brien can. “You’ve got to define what a game manager is.”

 

OK, then, Coach, let’s ask your precocious young quarterback:

 

“I think, especially in this offense, you can do so much at the line of scrimmage,” Hackenberg said. “You have to understand not only the passing game but the running game. You have to understand protections. I think with the greater understanding I have of that, it helps put the team in those type of situations where we can be successful. That’s one thing I really focused on, and I’ve looked at is what the team needs to expect out of me is understanding those types of things and getting us into those right places. So that’s sort of how I refer to it as a game manager.”

 

Hackenberg, a five-star recruit, has numbers that suggest he’s been much more than the overused, cliché “game manager” moniker that usually comes with negative connotations. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder is second in the Big Ten in completions (210) and passing yards (237.8 per game) and fourth in total offense.

 

A four-time conference freshman of the week honoree, has eight 200-yard passing efforts in 11 games this season and, barring injury early in Saturday’s game at Wisconsin, will finish the season at No. 3 on the Penn State single-season passing list.

 

“He’s definitely developed,” Badgers coach Gary Andersen said. “Coach O’Brien does a great job… He takes great pride in that… This kid has gotten better and better and better throughout the year, which you would expect. He’s a competitor. He can throw all the balls. I think the offense has grown, as it’s gone through the season, to give him a little bit more as he’s progressed and developed. They’ve just got confidence in each other as a play caller and as a quarterback.

 

“He was very highly recruited for a reason. He’s a very talented young man. Great poise for a freshman. I know he really does. He hangs in there and doesn’t make a bunch of bad decisions. Takes it when it’s there, gets it to them, gives them a chance to move the ball down the field.”

 

While doing all he can to limit the pressure on the shoulders of a player who is viewed, in some ways, as The Savior who will lead Penn State out of its NCAA sanctions abyss, O’Brien has simultaneously also praised Hackenberg whenever possible. The two have a close relationship.

 

“I tell you what, I think he’s done a good job,” O’Brien said. “Overall, when you look at being 18 years old and coming in here and playing pretty much every snap of every game, I think he’s gotten better and better at doing that.”

 

Finally, O’Brien gave his interpretation of Hackenberg’s “game manager” self-label.
“Game manager is somebody that understands when to run the ball, that does a good job of using the clock at the end of the half and using the clock at the end of a game, understands coverage reads and when to throw it, when to check to a run, things like that,” O’Brien said. “He, overall, has gotten better and better at that throughout the year.  I think as time goes on, he’ll be even better at it.”

 

Perhaps even “manage” his way into the NFL or “manage” the Nittany Lions into a major bowl before getting there.

 

 

Enjoy your holiday weekend!

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November 27, 2013
by Chris Adamski


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Told it gets cold in Wisconsin in November, PSU players react!

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In my view, there haven’t been any players who signed up to attend Penn State (whether they were going to be playing football for the Nittany Lions or not) who are caught off-guard when, come late November, it is cold outside.

 

According to Accuweather, the historical average for today (Nov. 27) in State College is a low temperature of 31.  The 51 Pennsylvania players I see on the Penn State roster, presumably, have been outside in the cold.

 

From my (very) quick analysis of the Lions’ roster, I judge just nine players to be natives of what I would consider to be warm-weather states (even then, it does snow on occasion in Tennessee and North Carolina). Among those nine, it is likely just two will be in uniform Saturday at Wisconsin – center Ty Howle and backup quarterback Tyler Ferguson, who probably won’t play.

 

Howle, incidentally, is in the midset of his SIXTH winter in Central Pennsylvania. So I think he’s adjusted to it by now — even if the North Carolina native wasn’t when he first arrived (last week, he admitted he wasn’t when he enrolled in January 2009).

 

Most of all, though, whether these players grew up in the Maldives or are natives of Edmonton, they are share a commonality that they chose to play football at a Big Ten school. As college-eligible young men, one would imagine they understood that it might get a little cold against those teams late in the season.

 

Also, of course, Penn State regularly practices outdoors and has been doing so in recent weeks.

 

The point of all this? The weather being cold, in my humble opinion, isn’t much worth discussing and won’t be much of a factor in the game.

 

Still, players and coach Bill O’Brien – at the behesting of media – talked about it at length this week. As such, I deliver their comments to you.

 

FYI: Projected weather for Saturday’s Penn State-Wisconsin game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, WI: 36 degrees and mostly cloudy.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

DE C.J. Olaniyan: “Being cold is a mental thing. Once we get out there for warm-ups and once I let the cold hit me and let the wind hit me, I’m ready to go.”

 

TE Jesse James: “You really don’t do anything different (when it’s cold). You get to practice in the cold, so that helps a lot. You get the feel for it. It won’t be a big adjustment for anyone.”

 

QB Christian Hackenberg: “I just try not to think about it.  I just keep my hands warm and go out there and just throw the football.  At the end of the day, you’ve got to deal with the elements, it’s part of the game.  So the less you think about it, I think the better it helps.”

 

LB Mike Hull: “Your adrenaline’s going so much and you’re just thinking about the game that it doesn’t really faze you at all.”

 

 

In an added twist to the weather, an unscientific straw poll was taken on whether players wear sleeves in cold weather.

 

Hull does during practice – but not during a game: “It’s kind of like a toughness thing that we have going.  (Linebackers Glenn) Carson, myself, Nyeem (Wartman), we don’t really want to show any weakness.  So we kind of go bare skinned.”

 

Hackenberg, by that logic, apparently is showing weakness. He wears sleeves during games: “Yeah, Howle jokes with me about it a lot, but it’s just something I do.  They really don’t pay much attention to it.”

 

Olaniyan does not we sleeves.

 

 

One man in the program who surely isn’t affected by the weather is director of strength and conditioning Craig Fitzgerald.

 

Said Hull, “I don’t know if I could do it if I wasn’t playing.  He’s kind of standing there the whole game.  I don’t know how he does it with the short sleeves and shorts.”

 

 

 

So there you have it. The requisite cold-weather update for a pair of Big Ten teams playing a Nov. 30 game. It kind of reminds me of the Pittsburgh local TV news showing the ubiquitous salt trucks and empty supermarket shelves every time we get 1-3 inches.

 

Maybe I’m just too cynical.

 

Enjoy your turkey!

 

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November 27, 2013
by Chris Adamski


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Bill O’Brien opens up on the state of the Penn State program

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It’s rare to get Bill O’Brien to speak on anything beyond the immediate upcoming game. (Incidentally, it’s difficult to get him to look back, either). But as he approaches the end of his second season as a head coach with a tough game at Wisconsin on Saturday, O’Brien was in a good enough mood for his final weekly press conference of the season to offer up a big-picture assessment on the status of the Penn State football program:

 

“I feel really good about where the program’s at. I think that recruiting has gone well. I think if you look at the ’13 class that we brought in here recruiting‑wise, from what I can see right off the bat, I don’t think there are any “busts.” I think there are role players and guys that will continue to have roles for us and I think there are some really good players that nobody’s even seen yet that are redshirting. And then obviously the guys that played this year for us, the Brandon Bells, the (Christian) Hackenbergs, the (Adam) Brenemans and those guys. We feel good about the future.

 

“We feel good about where we’re headed recruiting‑wise. Every single home game here we’ve had a lot of great prospects here. I can’t really get into the details of that because that’s an NCAA violation, but we feel good about the ’14 class, and we feel good about the ’15 class. – because you’re always trying to stay one step ahead. So we’re recruiting hard with the 2015 class.

 

“We’ve got a bunch of guys on this football team that gained a lot of experience this year which I think will really help them. Some guys were playing college football for the first time like Geno Lewis who redshirted last year and was playing in a college football game for the first time. You know, Jordan Lucas didn’t play a lot for us his first year. Now he comes in and he’s one of our better players. We have a lot of veteran players that have played a lot of football for us, that are coming back next year that we feel really, really good about.

 

“Look, I’m not going to get into predictions or anything like that. That’s not what I’m saying.  But I think our program with the two‑year sanctions that we’ve been under and things like that with the limited amount of guys we could offer and guy that’s left the program, I think our program stands on pretty solid ground right now.”

 

 

 

On a related tact, O’Brien also uncharacteristically offered an assessment of the as-yet-completed season:

 

“It hasn’t been a consistent season, but I do think there’s been a lot of positives.  I think the fact that we’ve been able to play a freshman quarterback in every game and he’s stayed healthy, and I believe he’s gotten better and better, I think that is a real positive. I believe that for the most part we’ve run the ball pretty well on offense – I think that’s a positive. We’ve been able to get our younger players a lot of work in practice with the Monday night developmental scrimmages. – that’s a positive.
“I believe our defense has improved every single week, and I think the last three weeks our defense has played well and a lot of younger players or guys that have years left here at Penn State have played a lot of football for us on defense. We’ve got to make improvement on special teams – everybody who watches Penn State knows that special teams has been a struggle at times, and at other times it’s been OK. But it’s been too inconsistent, and that is a big area, especially in the world that we live in right now, that’s where you have to do a better job of special teams. So we’ll look to do that.

 

“Whether I think of the season as a success or not a success, I’m not getting into that. But I think that there’s been a lot of positives from the season so far.”

 

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