March 31, 2010

Spring Football: Joe's first press conference


Joe Paterno met with the press today, his first conference of the spring football season. Originally, the meeting was scheduled for last friday, but moved to this afternoon. Here's the long and the short of what college football's all-time winningest coach had to say, as the Nittany Lions head into one of the most unpredictable pre-season in years, if not decades.

• Brent Carter and Tom McEowen will graduate this spring, and not be a part of the team this fall. Too bad, especially for Carter. But it's all part of big-time college football. Those two guys put a lot of time and hard work into this team, and should be commended for it.

• If you think a starting quarterback will be named anytime soon, you're crazy, and quite stupid.

• Chaz Powell could play defense, as we already pointed out.

• D'Anton Lynn could stay at safety, but nothing is definite.

• Joe couldn't say how many guys will switch position, but most likely, about a dozen or so have the chance to move. He doesn't know yet.

• The reporters should have known better than to ask a question about Joe's impression of freshman Paul Jones, but that's what this presser was about. Joe said he's only seen Jones throw the ball about eight times in three days of practice so far, but obviously wouldn't have recruited him if he didn't see something good in the kid.

• Matt McGloin has a good shot to earn some significant playing time this fall. My bet is for the sophomore to grab the second-team spot behind Newsome. But whatever he does, I hope he plays, because I really want to use this awesome photo of McGloin I took last Blue-White Game.

• Drew Astorino will probably miss all of spring practice. Mike Mauti is working out, but no contact.

• We got the same runaround from Joe about the offensive line, but I never hold it against him. The reporters always ask about the line early in the pre-season, knowing Joe will give them a zinger or two: "You got a big pencil? And a big sheet?" was this year's quip.

• The only new name mentioned at linebacker was Mike Zordich. But Joe only said that he "could be a good football player."

• Brandon Ware is too fat, and doesn't do well enough in class. Until he improves in both areas, we won't see him play much.

• The placekicker situation is fine, with Colin Wagner. But the punter spot... eh...

• Evan Royster won't do too much heavy lifting this spring, while Brandon Beachum is running around a bit. No mention yet of other running backs.

• Joe wants the team to focus more on special teams, particularly the punt team. Gee, wonder why.

• Will freshmen play this year?
"Freshmen? I don't even know they exist. I mean, you can't count on them. You want to go down to Tuscaloosa with freshmen?"
• Shaine Thompson and Derek Day were mentioned in the running back competition. Curtis Dukes "has a shot," but has to improve pass protection and stuff.

• We got the "checkers and chess" story... for the ten-thousandth time.

• Stefen Wisniewski is the center right now. Joe said it could come up whether to move him back to guard. But I personally doubt he'll move. He's a great leader in the middle. Why mess with that right now?

• And finally, about his glasses, or lack-of:
"You know what? Unfortunately, I can still see you. But, the glasses, I don't need the glasses. It's amazing. The people down there at the eye institute down at Penn did a fantastic job. I don't really need the glasses. But, they want me to wear them anytime I'm outside to protect them. But I can read and the whole bit. I can read my notes without any glasses, and it says here, keep your patience with these guys."

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March 30, 2010

Tuesday Basketball Recruitin': NEEDS WORK


Yes, it's the end of March. Yes, I'm still writing about basketball, because it's my blog and I do what I want. Plus, Penn State managed to snag themselves a recruit in 6'3" shooting guard Tre Bowman from St. Thomas More Prep School in Connecticut. No, he's not the post player we've all been desperately awaiting for but he appears to be somebody who can fill in the role left behind by Chris Babb's transfer...Or so the Germans at BWI would have us believe:

Averaging 17 points per game, Bowman was the leading scorer for a St. Thomas More school that advanced to the national semifinal championship, and had games of 39 and 36 points this season...Describing himself as one who likes to shoot, Bowman noted that he can play above the rim, dribble, and pass as well.

But hey, don't take Bowman's word for it. ESPN (who rate Bowman an 86 out of 100) had a slightly different take on Bowman's game, though they more or less tend to agree with his personal self-assessment:
October, 2009: Bowman is a versatile player who does a number of things well but isn't great in any particular area. He's a good shooter with his feet set, shows good athleticism slashing to the basket and finishing, and is solid defensively. He makes good decisions handling and passing in the...That's right, we're cutting your free-loading ass off mid-sentence because we're The Worldwide Leader In Sports and we want you to fork over a non-trivial amount of money, just so you can read a few more words, suckers!
Perhaps ESPN is on to something with their description of Bowman's game, even Bowman himself admits on his MySpace page that his game has room for improvement:
Can you hit the 3?:NEEDS WORK
Do you have handles?:NEEDS WORK
Can you post up?:NEEDS WORK

And if there's any worries about Bowman's motivation, let the record show that this kid slam-dunked his umbilical cord into the trash can the moment he popped out of his mother's womb:
Why do you play basketball?:CUZ I LOVE DA GAME!
How long have you been playing?:ALL MY LIFE!

Really, I don't know what's more refreshing: Bowman's ability to be frank with himself or the fact that Bowman is a non-celebrity/musician who frequently updates his MySpace page. His athleticism and perhaps more importantly, his three-point shooting ability will make him a key player off the bench and perhaps even part of a 3-guard look at times featuring Talor Battle and Taran Buie. Admit it, you're drooling just thinking about the idea of having three slashing threats on the court at once...And on that note, it's time for a YouTube-a-Palooza topped off with a little recruiting-flavored GOO PUNCH.

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March 29, 2010

Spring Football: First Team offense, defense revealed


Quarterback Kevin Newsome (12) will start 2010 spring practice as Penn State's No. 1 signal caller.

Three days ago, Penn State quietly kicked off its first practice of spring football. As you'd expect, it's tough to gauge much of anything from only the first practice. Still, we got our first glimpse of what this team has to build upon. Probably the most visible and entertaining tidbit to emerge from Holuba Hall was the sighting of the Nittany Lions' first team offense and defense. Let's take a look.


Quarterback: Kevin Newsome

This seems like a no-brainer, but don't be fooled into thinking Newsome has this race in the bag. Joe Paterno is notorious for leaving an unsettled quarterback controversy as is until late summer.

Running Back: Evan Royster

No surprise here. Royster has the chance to become Penn State's all-time leading rusher, needing 480 yards to bypass Curt Warner's mark of 3,398, set in 1982.

Fullback: Joe Suhey

No surprise here, either. Suhey is a great fullback, very versatile. Could use a little more power, but that's a topic for another day.

Tight End: Andrew Szczerba

This could get interesting by the summer. Szczerba opened plenty of eyes with a great performance in last year's Blue White Game. But this will be the first of many wide-open races this spring, with Szczerba competing against Mark Wedderburn, and eventually freshman Kevin Haplea, who's just over a case of mono.

Wide Receivers: Derek Moye, Graham Zug, Curtis Drake (slot)

First thing you'll notice is no more Chaz Powell; we'll get to him in a minute. But this is a very expected starting group for the beginning of spring. Drake took on a greatly increased roll towards the end of last season, particularly on end-arounds and other tricky plays. Moye and Zug are obvious.

Left Tackle: DeOn'tae Pannell

Since we just covered the offensive line issues going into this spring, it's not a surprise seeing Pannell on the blind side.

Left Guard: Johnnie Troutman

Though he had some troubles last season, Troutman was the most consistent player here. Not a shocker by any means.

Center: Stefen Wisniewski

Would be like Royster not starting at running back.

Right Guard: Lou Eliades

Next to Wiz, Eliades is the only returning offensive lineman to have started all 13 games last year.

Right Tackle: Adam Gress

This one is a bit of a surprise, though we've heard great things about Gress coming out of winter workouts. With Eric Shrive most likely not far behind, this position will be a potential hot spot the rest of spring.


Chaz Powell (2) started his Penn State career as a safety, before switching to receiver in 2008. But, injuries in key spots this spring will force the redshirt junior to shift yet again. (photo: Mike Pettigano)

Defensive Ends: Jack Crawford, Eric Latimore

Latimore must have beat out Kevion Latham and Sean Stanley. Can't say I'm terribly surprised here. But I might have been if anyone other than Latimore was listed opposite Crawford to start the spring.

Defensive Tackles: Ollie Ogbu, Devon Still

Like the ends, the tackles on defense are the expected starters. Ogbu is the veteran, while Still has plenty of talent and experience to step right in without hesitation.

(Just a quick note before we look at the first-team linebackers. It looks like Mike Mauti is begin held back a little bit this spring, after his ACL tear last summer. Don't read too deeply into this. With Mauti still finishing up the recovery, the following lineup is about as non-controversial as we could expect this early...)

Fritz OLB: Bani Gbadyu

The redshirt senior has been a regular in the lineup (as a backup and starter) since 2007, so we know exactly what we're getting here.

Mike ILB: Chris Colasanti

The staff went with experience. Colasanti has been around a long time, working hard to get his shot. This is it, as he's a senior.

Sam OLB: Nate Stupar

There was talk that Stupar didn't play so well when in the lineup last year, but it was due to injury, not talent. I like Stupar here, especially coming off the edge on blitzes.

Cornerbacks: Chaz Powell, Stephon Morris

We expected Morris. But the Powell move is interesting. He actually came to Penn State as a highly-touted safety, so the whole defensive backfield thing isn't strange to him. However, could this be directly related to Drew Astorino's injury? After all...

Free Safety: D'Anton Lynn

... we have Lynn officially moved to Astorino's old spot. I wouldn't argue if this is a temporary first-team lineup. There's nothing negative about Lynn playing safety. It's just that it opens all sorts of questions about what happens after Astorino returns.

Strong Safety: Nick Sukay

Sukay, for all his first-year miscues, has really taken command as Penn State's strong safety. It's his to lose.


How much will this lineup change? Oh, a whole lot, even between now and the Blue-White Game in four weeks. If anything, it does have quite a few interesting tweaks for us to ponder until then. More reports will come out as spring practice continues. But finally having something substantive from Penn State football to wrap our minds around is always welcome.

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March 26, 2010

Blue-White Countdown 2010: Offensive Line


Previous entries...
1: Special Teams
2: Defensive Backs
3: Linebackers
4: Defensive LineDeOn'tae Pannell (50) is the leading candidate to take over at left tackle, replacing all-Big Ten performer Dennis Landolt. Can he live up to the recent standard of great Penn State left tackles? (photo: Mike Pettigano)

We continue our weekly countdown to the 2010 Blue-White Game. Over the next few weeks, I'll go through all the major positions, trying to give the most reasoned explanation of who we could see come out big, and why. In today's edition, we tackle the first offensive unit, the line.

During the "dark years," Penn State's offensive line was the key under-performer for the Nittany Lions. But starting with the 2005 line, Penn State has put together solid to outstanding offensive fronts the last five seasons. Even during a "down" year in 2009, the line was light-years ahead of many units produced earlier this century.


The absolute most unnerving situation along the offensive front this spring, Penn State loses both starting tackles from the 2009 campaign: All-Big Ten tackle Dennis Landolt, and mid-season starter at right tackle Ako Poti. The loss of Landolt has the potential to destabilize the entire line, as would the loss of any veteran left tackle. But making the problem worse, the Nittany Lions will start one of three or four quarterbacks this fall who have had little or no game experience. Oh, they're all right-handed, too, making the left side the blind side.

There is some hope, however, for the battle over left tackle. During the 2009 off-season, before Landolt was changed from right to left tackle, the front runner was DeOn'tae Pannell. The true sophomore from Michigan had some experience from backup duty in 2008, but was widely regarded as too green for such an important position up front. In 2009, Pannell started the first four games, but lost his job to Poti after a very poor performance against Iowa. He re-entered the starting lineup by the Indiana game, but at left guard, replacing Johnnie Troutman.

Pannell is probably the only offensive tackle that can expect to start this spring on the first team offensive line.






High School


DeOn'tae Pannell
Southfield, Mich./Groves
Brendan Flaherty
Adam Gress
West Mifflin, Pa./West Mifflin
Tim Brennan
Chimaeze Okoli
Virginia Beach, Va./Salem
Robert Jackson
Eric Shrive
Scranton, Pa./West Scranton
Mike DeAntona
Nate Cadogan
Portsmouth, Ohio/Portsmouth
Curt Clifford
Mike Farrell
Pittsburgh, Pa./Shady Side Academy
Dave Havern

Much-ballyhooed recruit Eric Shrive sustained a pre-season knee sprain last year, forcing him to redshirt the entire 2009 season. But all reports indicate that he's healed up well and ready to roll as leading candidate for right tackle. Shrive has never been solidly in the mix for left tackle, which could actually come out as a blessing this spring.

Competition for positions is usually a great thing, forcing players to work harder than the guy behind him. But on the offensive line, unit cohesion is everything; the sooner Penn State can set its five-man front, the better things will be this spring and fall. Shrive and Pannell are the assumed starters going into spring ball, giving this unit an early boost in the consistency column.

Behind them, however, it gets a bit foggy. While Shrive has the early lead on the right, it's at his position that I see the biggest chance for another player to break through to the starting lineup.

Adam Gress has reportedly impressed the coaching staff enough this winter to keep a watchful eye on the redshirt freshman this spring. Gress did not see action last year, part of a crop of young offensive linemen, including redshirt freshman Nate Cadogan, brought in with the 2009 recruiting class. Cadogan isn't considered the contender Gress is this spring, but has to be in the mix for playing time this fall as a backup.

Interestingly enough, one name not being mentioned as a serious candidate to start at tackle is redshirt sophomore Mike Farrell, who played in two games last fall. Aside from Pannell, Farrell is the only offensive tackle to have seen live game action in a Penn State uniform. I hate to count out any player, but from everything coming out of winter workouts, Farrell's best hope is for a great spring and a spot on the second-team line this fall.

The final piece of the tackle puzzle could be former defensive lineman Chimaeze Okoli, who has only recently moved to the offensive side. As a redshirt junior, Okoli has had trouble cracking the two-deep on defense, but that's not a slight to his talent. The staff wants to give him a shot here, and don't be surprised should he get playing time this fall. If nothing else, the added depth couldn't hurt this unit.

Interior Line

Center: Now that you're all sorts of freaked out about the tackle positions, let's take a less stressful look at the interior positions, the guards and center. Here is a group of positions that Penn State can really build around this spring, particularly with returning All-Big Ten center Stefen Wisniewski, probably the best interior lineman in the conference. After earning his first start as a true freshman against Indiana in 2007, Wisniewski took over as the full-time starting guard beginning in 2008, then moving to center last season.

The starting center job isn't one handed out unless that player has really earned it, making it one of the toughest positions for backups to oust a the starter. That will be the case in 2010 for Penn State. However, with plenty of talent across the entire interior line, the Nittany Lions have options to work with in their search for Wisniewski's backups.






High School


Matt Stankiewitch
Orwigsburg, Pa./Blue Mountain
Chuck Kutz
Ty Howle
Wake Forest, NC/Bunn
David Howle
Stefen Wisniewski
Bridgeville, Pa./Pittsburgh Central Catholic
Terry Trotten
Frank Figueroa
San Antonio, Texas/Thomas Edison
Vaughn Lewis
Mark Arcidiacono
Holland, Pa./St. Joseph's Prep
Gil Brooks
John Urschel
Williamsville, N.Y./Canisius
Brandon Harris
Quinn Barham
Durham, N.C./Hillside
Ray Harrison
Doug Klopacz
Hasbrouck Heights, N.J./St. Joseph Regional
Tony Karcich
Anthony Tortorelli
State College, Pa./Haverford
Joe Gallagher
Johnnie Troutman
Brown Mills, N.J./Pemberton Township
Hohn Rosnick
Lou Eliades
Ocean, N.J./Ocean Township
Sal Spompanato

Doug Klopacz's career has been crushed by ill-timed injuries, never allowing the redshirt senior the opportunity to break into the two-deep. That's hardly to say he doesn't have the skills to earn the coveted backup-center spot this spring. Klopacz is a hard worker, who's proven that he won't give up easily. I wouldn't hesitate to list the New Jersey native as a serious candidate to carry the second team center position.

Battling Klopacz this spring, three other linemen have at least some chance to win decent playing time by the fall. Ty Howle, Mark Arcidiacono, and Matt Stankiewitch all came to Penn State as guard/center prospects, with Howle probably the only pure center of the bunch. My money would be on Howle to lock up the second-team spot early this spring, but we've seen stranger things with the offensive line the last 12 months.

Stankiewitch has floated between guard and center since arriving in Happy Valley, and with two full seasons under his belt, he has the experience factor working in his favor. Arcidiacono is the long shot here, particularly since he's a mere freshman. Not mentioned so far, redshirt junior Anthony Tortorelli shouldn't be completely counted out of this mix, but hasn't been mentioned as a major factor in the race.

Guards: Though not as settled as the center position going into the spring, the guards are at least more clear-cut than the tackles. Lou Eliades started every game at right guard last season, after pushing hard for playing time in 2008 behind a veteran line. Seeing how he is the only guard to start all 13 in 2009, it is nearly a given that Eliades will hold onto his spot this spring. Behind him, redshirt junior Quinn Barham saw action in five games, while . I'm not expecting Barham to leap ahead of Eliades before the Blue-White Game, but he does have the talent and experience to stay put as the backup right guard.

Left guard is another story. Through 13 games in 2009, Penn State started three different left guards. Stankiewitch began the season holding the spot, but following sub-par efforts in the first two outings, he was pulled in favor of Johnnie Troutman. Troutman started the eight-game stretch from Temple through Ohio State, only to suffer a calf strain against the Buckeyes. Pannell took over from there, but Troutman did share time as he gained back his stamina in that leg.

Since Troutman had displaced Stankiewitch after only two starts, and was on track to start the remainder of the 2009 season, I'm very sure that Penn State's coaching staff won't mess around with what worked last season. Much of the line issues mid-season (Iowa and Ohio State losses) had to do with inconsistency at right tackle. But when Troutman, Eliades and Wisniewski were lined up in the middle, the Nittany Lions' offense was churning out impressive numbers in blowouts against Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota.

Penn State will go only as far this autumn as its offensive line takes it. There is a great core to build around, and I am very confident that the coaching staff will work with what they have, building yet another solid offensive front to pave the way for another solid offensive football team.

Next week: Receivers

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March 25, 2010

Urban Meyer, defending family values since yesterday

My friends, not all is good in Gainesville.

Tim Tebow, Urban Meyer

What started as a small kerfuffle earlier this week, has grown into a bit of a hullabaloo. Jeremy Fowler, Florida beat reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, posted what should have been a routine spring practice story earlier this week. The big story this year in Gainesville is, obviously, the loss of Tim Tebow. The next Gator quarterback in line, John Brantly, is a pure drop-back, pro-style signal caller, the complete opposite of Tebow, who would have fit in perfectly running any modern offense of the 1930s.

Naturally, Fowler spoke with junior receiver Deonte Thompson, one of the top prospects a few years ago, about what it will be like to have someone like Brantley taking the snaps and chucking the pigskin. It's an obvious question, one any half-competent journalist would pose in to a Florida player this off-season. And, as predictable as the question itself, Thompson said he was happy to have a more pass-oriented quarterback this year.
“You never know with Tim,” Thompson said. “You can bolt, you think he’s running but he’ll come up and pass it to you. You just have to be ready at all times. With Brantley, everything’s with rhythm, time. You know what I mean, a real quarterback.
Mr. Meyer didn't take too kindly to that kind of candor from his player, quickly cutting off all media contact with the Gators' coaching staff and players. Should have been as simple as that, but not exactly. Meyer took it one step further, making a public scene in front of the national media, attempting to scare, intimidate and shame Fowler for what Thompson said (as if Fowler water-boarded the receiver to get the quote) during the interview.

I'm a bit biased here, having experienced life as a beat reporter. I can sympathize with Fowler. What the reporter did here was not a personal hit-job on Meyer's program. Even if it was on the shady side of things (it wasn't), it was still a first offense, and Meyer's reaction was way out of line. He should have taken Fowler aside, or set up an off-the-record meeting, to express his disappointment with the story and the quote from Thompson.

But aside from breaking the accepted protocol between the media and the teams they cover, what Meyer said about family was downright hypocritical. All of a sudden, the Gators' coach is Mr. Family Man again, even though he mind-f@cked his own family earlier this winter, announcing he would quit coaching to concentrate on his own health, and spend more time with his family, who he admitted he'd neglected for too long.

So before we all go demonizing the media for doing their job, let's take a moment to consider who exactly is doing the demonizing. This latest spat came from a head coach who doesn't have the kind of credibility on the whole family thing that he believes he possesses.

But the family issue isn't the only problem I have with Meyer's reaction to his own player's words. It's this steadfast belief that Tebow should never be criticized or cast in doubt. Kind of reminds you of something else, no? The Church of Tebow has finally shown its true face this week, with Meyer leading the sermon.

Could Meyer be a bit more defensive of his star pupil following the NFL Scouting Combine, where not only did Tebow grossly under-impress the scouts, but now we're hearing he was even the recipient of a royal smack down by his soon-to-be teammates and colleagues? It would hardly surprise me.

But since when can't Tebow fend for himself? Meyer is acting like Tebow hasn't been college football's wonder-child for the last four years, having nothing but blind praise poured upon the two-time national champ and Heisman winner.

What Meyer did this week wasn't the honorable defense of good old fashioned family values. It was, in fact, the action of an inexperienced (and immature) head coach. Rather than maintaining a cool head, Meyer did what any zealot would, offer up a knee-jerk reaction, blowing the entire issue out of proportion.

Was Meyer justified in restricting media access to his staff and team? Absolutely.

Was he justified in making a public ass of himself by personally attacking Fowler? No.

Head coaches are the ones who should exude equanimity no matter how stressful the situation. It could even be asked, would Tebow himself have reacted that way? Talk about turning the pro-Meyer argument on its head.

Yet, what bugs me the most about this story is that Meyer thinks he won. "I showed him!" But all he did was portray himself, and his program in a negative light once again. Meyer, once again, displayed his unwavering belief that he is in charge of everything, and must not be doubted or questioned.

That attitude might work when you're winning national championships and Heisman trophies. But like everything else in college football, once the glitter begins to fall away (Tebow's departure, Meyer's un-retirement and hypocrisies), the fluff stories become less frequent, while the cracks and flaws begin to surface. That's what has happened this off-season in Gainesville, and Urban Meyer doesn't like it one bit.

The full transcript of the Fowler-Meyer exchange:
Meyer: “You’ll be out of practice … you understand that? … if you do that again. I told you five years ago: Don’t mess with our players. Don’t do it. You did it. You do it one more time and the Orlando Sentinel’s not welcome here ever again. Is that clear? It’s yes or no.”

Fowler: “Urban, come on. Don’t make any threats. That’s fine. I’ll play by rules.”

Meyer: “What’s that? (walking away, then turning back)”

Fowler: “I’ll play by rules, but all I was doing is quoting the guy. I don’t think I was the only one.”

Meyer: “You’re a bad guy, man. You’re a bad guy.”

Fowler: “Thanks, Urban. I appreciate that.”

Meyer: “Maybe when you get a chance, call his family and all that and help them out with it [the controversy the blog post created]. The kid has never been in trouble one time. He’s a great student, a great kid and you’re going to do that [to him]?

“If that was my son, we’d be going at it right now.”
You stay classy, Urban.


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March 23, 2010

Tuesday Recruitin': De'Matha-load'

Seeing how national signing day is still 10 months from now, it's no wonder the majority of recruiting services, if not all of them, are having trouble nailing down which prospects have offers, from which schools, when they were made, if they're just verbal, or written. The last few weeks, much of the news trickling out of the recruiting networks has been regarding scholarship offers. But the problem is that of the two major recruiting services, Rivals and Scout, it's nearly impossible to get a good feel for who exactly has offers, in this case, from Penn State.

Jordan Lomax (photo: WaPo)

The Rivals site, Blue White Illustrated, has 13 offers out from the Nittany Lions; Scout's own Fight On State has the tally at 18 offers. Well, bud, which one's right? Truth is, no one seems to know. As I mentioned, it's very early in the process, even with recruits making verbal commitments earlier than ever before. Spring practice starts this week for about half the college programs nationally, while the other half will start next week. Once the spring scrimmages are complete, SATs (or whatever those kids have to take nowadays) over, and early summer football camps heat up, a more definitive offer count should mold into place. Until then, who knows?


Athlete Jordan Lomax (Rivals/Scout/ESPN) has been in contact with Penn State. The Nittany Lions have extended scholarship offers to two of Lomax's teammates at DeMatha High School, defensive tackles Darian Cooper and offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio. Larry Johnson, Sr., is the recruiter for the DC/Maryland region, so there is no need to wonder if the three DeMatha prospects are worth Penn State's time. LJS knows what he's doing here, having pulled names like Derrick Williams, AJ Wallace, Navorro Bowman, Bani Gbadyu, Stephon Morris, among others.

By our count here at, he will be the fourth two-way/all-purpose prospect that Penn State is looking at for this 2011 recruiting class.

Tar Heel Target

Fayetteville, N.C., Jack Britt High two-way end Eric MacLain (Rivals/Scout/ESPN) just picked up a verbal offer from Larry Johnson, Sr., this week. Interestingly, MacLain had originally committed to Lane Kiffin, when he was still the coach at Tennessee last season. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound junior has indicated that he's in no rush to make another commitment, which is expected after being screwed over so badly by Kiffin.

MacLain is listed on the ESPNU 150 and Rivals250 watch lists. His offer from the Vols still stands, with other offers coming from Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Clemson, North Carolina, among a few others.

***Note: I'm not positive that next week will see a Tuesday Recruitin', as I'll be traveling. But you never know.

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Ed DeChellis Presser Recap


As mentioned earlier, Ed DeChellis held a press conference to address the state of the basketball program. No, he's not resigning but he did offer the typical gobbedlygook one would expect to come out of a coach's mouth following yet another dismal campaign for Penn State basketball that fell way short of expectations. Needless to say, all 50 of us Penn State hoops fans are just plain giddy with excitement, next November can't come soon enough...

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Ed DeChellis Press Conference at 4 PM ET Today


"For the last goddamn time, Jimmy Hoffa's body is NOT buried underneath our practice facility! My god, don't you people realize that anybody can edit a Wikipedia page?"

Apparently it's been confirmed that Ed DeChellis will be holding a press conference today at 4 PM ET. From what I understand, the likely topic of discussion will be the roster shake-up following the departures of Chris Babb, Bill Edwards, Andrew Ott, and Adam Highberger.

I'm not sure why Ed would hold a press conference about the transfers/graduations, considering there's already an official release about it from the athletic department. Perhaps, he simply wants to answer questions from the media and dispel any myths being spread about further possible transfers from the program.

Or perhaps, in a rather unlikely (but more awesome) scenario, Ed will hold up a printed copy of Devon's letter, light it on fire, and declare jihad against Nittany White Out.

Either way, check back here at LBU for a recap of Ed's presser.

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March 22, 2010

Wrestling Wreport: Penn State finishes 9th

The Penn State Wrestling team ended the season in 9th place at the NCAA Wrestling championships this weekend. The Nittany Lions had three All-Americans lead by 165-pounder Dan Vallimont who lost in the finals to Andrew Howe of Wisconsin. Frank Molinaro took 5th at 149 and Cyler Sanderson took 6th at 157 both finishing as All-Americans. In four years head coach Cael Sanderson has always finished in the top ten, while Penn State had placed out of the top ten in seven of the last ten years.

Vallimont came up just short finishing 2nd

1: Iowa - 134.5
2: Cornell - 90.0
3: Iowa State - 75.0
4: Wisconsin - 70.5
5: Oklahoma - 69.0
6: Oklahoma State - 65.0
7: Minnesota - 63.0
8: Ohio State - 62.0
9: PENN STATE - 49.0
10: Missouri - 48.0

As expected Iowa ran away with the championship getting 3 individual champions while getting 5 in the championship finals. Cornell had a surprising run to finish 2nd in the team race. As is usually the case, 5 of the top 10 were schools out of the Big Ten. The Big Ten lead all conferences with 25 All-Americans followed by the Big 12 with 15.

125: Brad Pataky (28-10) 2-2 in NCAA championships
Rd. 1: W, 6-4 dec. #9 Jarrod Patterson, Oklahoma
Rd. 2: W, 3-2 dec. #8 Matt Steintrager, Central Michigan
Qtrs: L, 0-15 tech. fall #1 Angel Escobedo, Indiana (TF; 6:27)
Round of 12: L, 5-9 dec. #2 Troy Nickerson, Cornell

Out of all the Penn State wrestlers, Pataky got a serious screwing by the bracket. He proved the seeding wrong by beating two ranked wrestlers in the first two rounds. When a wrestler has to wrestle four wrestlers in the top 10 including both No. 1 and No. 2 something is screwed up. In the quarterfinals not only did Pataky have to wrestle Escobedo but on his side of the bracket the only unseeded wrestler left was Pataky himself, on the other side out of the four wrestlers left only one was seeded. Pataky's season ends like it did last season: one win away from All-American status. Brad has one year left to get the elusive finish that all wrestler dream of, hopefully this will drive him. It sounds like it will.
"I've never had a feeling like this before," Pataky said, "coming so close to something that you prepare for all your life and falling short of it. Coming away from the tournament, I think I grew mentally as a wrestler," Pataky said. "It will fuel my fire for next year."

149: Frank Molinaro (33-7) 4-2 in NCAA championships
Rd. 1: W, 9-4 dec. Donald Vinson, Binghamton
Rd. 2: W, 8-0 maj. dec. Eric Albright, Pittsburgh
Qtrs: W, 8-0 maj. dec. Torsten Gillespie, Edinboro
Semis: L, 0-2 dec. Lance Palmer, Ohio State
Cans Semis: L, 1-7 dec. #4 Kyle Ruschell, Wisconsin
5th Place: W, 10-1 maj. dec. Torsten Gillespie, Edinboro

Frank the Tank ended to his seed finishing 5th. In the semis Molinaro lost a heart breaking 2-0 decision to Lance Palmer of Ohio State getting rode out the entire third period after giving up and escape in the second. The good news for Frank is that Metcalf, Palmer, and Ruschell, wrestlers that finished ahead of Molinaro, are all seniors.

157: Cyler Sanderson (32-7) 4-3 in NCAA championships
Rd. 1: W, 16-12 dec. Bryan Deutsch, Northern Illinois
Rd. 2: W, 4-2 dec. Dan Gonsor, Virginia
Qtrs: L, 4-9 dec. #5 Steve Fittery, American
Rd. of 12: W, 6-3 dec. Anthony Jones, Michigan State
Cns Qtr: W, 9-6 dec. Justin Gaethje, Northern Colorado
Cns Semis: LBF Justin Lister, Binghamton (4:04)
5th Place: L, 6-15 maj. dec. #5 Steve Fittery, American

Although he finished an All-American in 6th place, I think Cyler had bigger plans that fell through. Not to make a pun (ok, yeah I'm making a pun) but American's Steve Fittery gave Sanderson fits. In fact in his three losses the same thing that haunted Sanderson all season long hurt him in the Nationals: getting out from the bottom position. Sanderson got caught in a cradle for the pin against Lister and got caught on his back several times in the 5th place bout. Sanderson actually built up a 6-3 lead against Fittery before back points turned the bout into a major.

165: Dan Vallimont (30-8) 4-1 in NCAA championships
Rd. 1: W, 8-3 dec. Matt Epperly, Virginia Tech
Rd. 2: W, 9-0 maj. dec. #11 Rick Schmelyun, Bloomsburg
Qtrs: W, 5-2 dec. Nick Amuchastegui, Stanford
Semis: W, 3-1 (sv) #2 Jarrod King, Edinboro
Finals: L, 9-3 dec. #1 Andrew Howe, Wisconsin

Dan finished his career wrestling well, ending the national runner-up. Really, beating an undefeated Howe was a tough chore and Vallimont never gave up, but it was a tough match that didn't go his way. All in all though, Dan had a great tournament dominating his first three opponents and getting the take down in sudden victory against second seeded King of Edinboro to send him to the finals. Dan finishes his Penn State career a two time All-American with a 3rd and a 2nd place finish.

184: David Erwin (31-10) 2-2 in NCAA championships
Rd. 1: W, 4-0 dec. Erich Schmidtke, Oklahoma
Rd. 2: LBF #6 Max Askren, Missouri (3:51)
Cn Rd. 3: W, 8-3 dec. Jerome Ward, Iowa State
Cn Rd. 4: L, 2-6 dec. #10 Mike Pucillo, Ohio State

Like I said in my preview, it was a tough first outing for Erwin at the championships. The nationals can be intimidating, everyone is wrestling hard. Erwin did lose to the eventual 184 pound champ, Max Askren but the loss to Pucillo is tough.

HWT: Cameron Wade (22-11)
Rd. 1: L, 1-3 (SV) #3 Zach Rey, Lehigh
Cns. Rd. 2: W, 1-0 dec. David Wade, Eastern Michigan
Cns. Rd. 3: W, 8-3 dec. #8 Ryan Tomei, Pittsburgh
Cns. Rd. 4: L, 0-7 dec. #11 Mitchell Montiero, CS-Bakersfield

Cameron actually wrestled well, coming within a sudden victory takedown of #3 Zach Rey in the opening round. Wade bounced back with two solid wins in a row including an 8-3 decision over Ryan Tomei, a wrestler Wade lost to earlier in the year. If anything, Wade got a lot of good experience from the nationals. Hopefully he can get back next season.

Final Thoughts
So ends the inaugural season for Cael Sanderson directing the Nittany Lions. It wasn't a great finish but considering PSU finished 17th last season it is improvement. The season had mixed results with some highlights and some not-so-great moments, but not a bad start. I think Molinaro had about the most consistent year of all the Penn State wrestlers and of course Dan Vallimont finished out peaking at the right time. It was great to see Cyler Sanderson finish out his career in a Penn State singlet. The Nittany Lions will return next season with two All-Americans in Molinaro and Quentin Wright (after a redshirt year). With Pataky and Wade at either end of the lineup, Penn State will have a decent foundation. With all the big recruits currently redshirted and the ones coming in after this season Penn State should be poised to put together a decent dual team.

Blue-White Countdown 2010: Defensive Line


Previous entries...
1: Special Teams
2: Defensive Backs
3: Linebackers Penn State defensive end Jack Crawford (81) emerged as the Lions' best pass rusher in 2009. Can he keep it up in 2010?

We continue our weekly countdown to the 2010 Blue-White Game. In today's edition, we'll go over the defensive line. Penn State's defensive line coach, Larry Johnson, Sr., has done a tremendous job every year, building one of the most consistently-great units in the nation. In the next four weeks, I'll go through all the major positions, trying to give the most reasoned explanation of who we could see come out big, and why.

Recent History

Michael Haynes, Jimmy Kennedy, Tamba Hali, Scott Paxson, Jay Alford, Maurice Evans, Aaron Maybin, and Jared Odrick.

Since 2002, Penn State has produced eight first-team All-Big Ten defensive linemen. The above list doesn't include the dozen or so other all-conference defensive line selections, including second-team and honorable mentions.

Under Johnson, the Nittany Lions never rebuild it's defensive front--they simply reload, season after season. Last season was no different, as Penn State finished the season as the Big Ten's best scoring defense (12.2 ppg) and red-zone defense (67%), second-best rush defense, third-best pass defense, and tied Wisconsin for the most sacks (37) in the conference. Since every defense is only as strong as its line, those record-setting stats can only be attributed to the strength of the Penn State defensive line, even after losing two first-team ends, Maybin and Evans.

The 2010 season should be no different, even with the loss of Odrick, probably one of the best defensive tackles Penn State has produced in the last decade. Young guns are ready to step in, while the few veteran starters are ready to provide leadership to a unit that thrives in tough situations.

Defensive Ends

Heading into the Blue-White Game, Penn State returns all but one starter (Jerome Hayes) from 2009. But even Hayes didn't start full-time, as he started six of the last seven games, part of seven starts for the season. There is no doubt that an enthusiastic leader like Hayes will be missed. But with such indisputable talent returning, the fifth-year senior's departure will be easier to bear.






High School


Dakota Royer

Manheim, Pa./Manheim Central

Kevion Latham
Greensboro, N.C./Page
Kevin Gillespie
Jonathan Stewart
North Huntingdon, Pa/Norwin
Daniel Conwell
Eric Latimore
Middletown, Del./Middletown
Mark Delpercio
Pete Massaro
Newtown Square, Pa./Marple Newtown
Ray Gionta
Jack Crawford
Longport, N.J./St. Augustine
Dennis Scunderi
Kyle Baublitz
York, Pa./Central York
Brad Livingston
Garry Gilliam
Carlisle, Pa./Milton Hershey
Bob Gayer
Sean Stanley
Rockville, Md./Gaithersburg
Kreg Kephart

Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore combined for 18 starts last season, with Crawford missing only one (Michigan) official start. Latimore's starts were in place of Hayes, which would lead to the assumption that Latimore will get the full-time starting spot in 2010. That might not be a lock, however, since Penn State likes to rotate one end position, while leaving the stronger player--in this case, Crawford--in a constant full-time role. Crawford had 5.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss in 2009, and will be the leading defensive end this spring and in the fall. Only a junior, Crawford is being talked about as the next great end at Penn State.

Behind Crawford and Latimore--sometimes more "in place" of Latimore--will be junior Kevion Latham and true-sophomore Sean Stanley. Both players saw significant time in 2009, as backups to the three starters. The two combined for 6.5 TFL and 3.5 sacks. Stanley's biggest game came against Illinois, forcing a fumble deep in Illini territory. The sophomore, who played in 11 games last season, is easily the most explosive underclassman defensive end, while Latham has much more experience as a junior, seeing action in 18 games over two seasons.

There are also two wild cards going into the spring session--freshman Dakota Royer and sophomore Pete Massaro.

You probably know Massaro as the player who tore his ACL in the 2009 Blue-White Game, an injury which many feared would really hurt the defensive ends' depth last fall. That turned out not to be the case, as it allowed other players like the ones I mentioned above to gain valuable playing time. But by all accounts Massaro is back this spring and ready to roll. The coaching staff really likes his attitude.

Royer graduated high school early to enroll in January. This allows him, along with six other early-enrollees, to participate in spring practice. Royer grabbed the attention of recruitniks everywhere when he jumped straight up out of a four-foot pool. He was recruited out of high school as a defensive end/linebacker hybrid, and I wouldn't doubt if Penn State signed him for that very role. Hayes played the hybrid position with great success the last three seasons (when he wasn't injured).

Defensive Tackles

Almost any other team in the FBS (I-A) would have never been able to sustain the kind of losses Penn State has had to at the defensive tackles position over the last three years. For on and off the field issues, THREE tackles with starting experience have left the team since the summer of 2008. Abe Koroma, Phil Taylor and Chris Baker have all been either excused from the team, or punished enough to force a transfer. These were hardly scrub teamers. All three started games at one point, and all were emerging as sure-fire all-stars when they were sent on their way elsewhere.

But none of that hurt Penn State. In fact, it only removed distractions from the team, and possibly improved the product on the field, particularly in terms of attitude and consistency. In 2009, Jared Odrick and Ollie Ogbu combined for 25 starts (Ogbu didn't start the Capital One Bowl), leading a defense that was as good as any in the nation.

This spring Penn State won't face such an uphill battle on the interior defensive line. Odrick is the only departure, while the other starter, Ogbu, returns.






High School


J.R. Refice
Jessup, Pa./Valley View
George Howanitz
Jordan Hill
Steelton, Pa./Steel
Rob Deibler
Tom McEowen
Feasterville, Pa./Neshaminy
Mark Schmidt
Devon Still
Wilmington, Del./Howard
Dan Ritter
James Terry
New Castle, Del./Brandywine
Steve Dent
Evan Hailes
Chesapeake, Va./Oscar F. Smith
Richard Morgan
Ollie Ogbu
Staten Island, N.Y./Milford Academy
William Chaplick
Mikel Berry
Upper Arlington, Ohio/Upper Arlington
Mike Golden
Brandon Ware
Harrisburg, Pa./Harrisburg
George Chaump

There's little mystery with Ogbu, who perfectly complemented Odrick the last two seasons. But the only other defensive tackle to see significant playing time last season, or at least get noticed by the average viewer, was junior Devon Still. Still actually started the Capital One Bowl, while seeing action in all 12 regular season games. He had two sacks last year, in back-to-back games against Michigan and Northwester. Still's sack of Mike Kafka knocked the senior Wildcat quarterback out of the game, virtually ending any chance Northwestern had of pulling the upset. Still was one of the top defensive end prospects coming out of high school in 2007, but his impact on Penn State was delayed by injuries in 2007 and 2008. But now, he's fully healthy and ready to go. I completely expect Still to start the season aside Ogbu.

Behind Still and Ogbu, there are about three more defensive linemen who could vie for regular playing time in 2010. Penn State loves to work with a five-man, sometimes even a six-man tackle rotation. This ensures the players are kept fresh through the entire game. Of course, Still and Ogbu will get the majority of snaps this fall.

Sophomores Mikel Berry and Brandon Ware both top 300 pounds, possess great talent, but haven't impressed the coaching staff enough to break the two-deep since arriving on campus. Neither traveled with the team to Orlando this January, while earlier in the season, it was speculated that Joe Paterno had issues with Ware not trimming the required weight. But that's all in the past now, and reports have said how these two players have really turned things on this winter. With a good spring, they have the chance to be Penn State's solid second-team tackle set going into the Blue-White Game.

The only other senior this season beside Ogbu is Tom McEowen. McEowen has battled injury most of his career, and it was speculated that he might not return for his final season of eligibility. But he's back this year. McEowen has been a very hard worker for the Nittany Lions, an attribute that's always rewarded by Joe Paterno and Larry Johnson, Sr. Don't be surprised to see him get a good chunk of playing time this fall, especially if we see him in the two-deep for the Blue-White Game.

Two younger tackles could make a splash this spring, as true sophomore Jordan Hill and true freshman Evan Hailes are definitely factors to consider. Hill played in the final eight games in 2009, finishing with 12 tackles and a TFL. Hailes could be this season's impact freshman up front. True freshmen rarely see action, particularly when you have such a deep crop of linemen as Penn State does this spring. But Hailes is enrolled for this semester, and has a big opportunity to impress the coaching staff over the next five weeks of spring practice. I'm not convinced he will redshirt this fall.

Next week: Offensive Line

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March 19, 2010

And The Hits Keep On Coming: Chris Babb Bids 'Adieu' To Penn State

A couple of days ago, a co-worker told me that he heard from a friend (who allegedly is close to the basketball team) that Chris Babb along with a couple other players, would be transferring from the basketball team*. Unfortunately, I couldn't access the Internet at work but later that night, when I checked the PSU message boards immediately after getting home, I saw no threads talking about transfers. Naturally, I started to think that perhaps my co-worker's 'friend' was absolutely full of it.

With all apologies to my co-worker, I was dead wrong. According to PennLive, Babb is in fact, transferring elsewhere.

Mike Babb said his son met with PSU coach Ed DeChellis on both Thursday and today (Friday) to talk about the situation. Mr. Babb wished not to speak for his son about his reasons for the transfer. But it's easy to speculate the Nittany Lions' 11-20 season that included a 3-16 record against Big Ten competition certainly didn't help. Texts and calls to Chris Babb's phone went unanswered. His father said he didn't want to talk about his transfer yet.

"Overall, Penn State's a great place," Mike Babb said. "We don't have anything bad to say about it. But it is what it is. If Chris is going to do this, he has to do it at this point. He'll have two years left.

"It's nothing personal. But you don't want to wait until it's too late."

Needless to say, Babb's transfer was one that certainly wasn't on any fan's radar. He was second on the team in average minutes per game (29.3), and his 9.3 points per game at 37% from 3-point range (69 for 185) are nothing to scoff at. Not to mention, Babb also reached double figures in scoring in 10 of the last 18 games of the season, he certainly seemed to be making some strides in the latter half of the season after struggling to adapt to his starting role early on.

I'm not going to spend a whole lot of time speculating on the reasons behind Babb's transfer. If I were to venture a guess though, I'd say a combination of being homesick plus being stuck in a power conference program that isn't showing any clear signs of being an NCAA tourney team were the likely reasons. Also, he may have come to the realization that perhaps Taran Buie was going to take his starting role at the 2-guard position, particularly since Buie is supposedly more of a slasher type as opposed to the spot-up shooter that Babb is. It's no secret how critical it was to have a slashing 2-guard like Pringle in the backcourt last year, as it forced teams to worry about someone other than Talor Battle trying to drive on them from the perimeter. Babb was not the type of person capable of filling Pringle's role, and Buie is more comparable in that sense.

Of course, this now puts Keanu Reeves-like pressure on Buie to step into Babb's spot and immediately contribute. This is where Babb's loss hurts the most for next season...There WILL be a next season, right?

* I was given the names of the 'other players' but out of respect for the players and their families, I will not name them unless/until their transfers are officially reported by some credible media outlet.

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March 18, 2010

Abbreviated Media Roundup: Penn State's Pro Day


Sean Lee (45) ran a 4.55 40-yard dash at Penn State's Pro Day yesterday.

Here we go, the short-short version...

Richard Scarcella, The Reading Eagle:
Hello, Anthony Morelli. And where've you been?

Morelli was one of 22 former Penn State players who worked out for scouts from all 32 NFL teams. It's been more than two years since he played his last game that counted, the 2007 Alamo Bowl against Texas A&M.

"I'm only 24 years old," he said. "I'm young. I still have a lot in the tank. I just really love the game. There's no quit in me. I'm going to keep going until I exhaust all options."

Bernard Fernandez,
"Did I help myself? Well, I got a lot of positive reviews," Clark said. "The question [the scouts] have been asking is whether I'm consistent enough to play in the NFL. I feel like I answered that question today."

There has been some speculation that the 6-2, 232-pound Clark could follow in the footsteps of one of his mentors, former Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson, who is now a backup running back with the San Francisco 49ers. Clark and his agent, onetime Penn State and NFL wide receiver Chafie Fields, indicated they'd be resistant to a position change, at least for now, as well as to the possibility of playing in the Canadian Football League.

Mike Poorman,
If there was a circus atmosphere in TebowhaseverythingtoGainesville, then the sunny day and heightened hopes at Holuba Hall truly made it a Happy Valley. At least before the players were X’ed out.

The former Nittany Lions walked in twos and threes from the Lasch Building -- where their height and weight were recorded and their bench presses were tallied -- to Holuba Hall at around 10:30 in the morning. The majority of the group was smiling, happy, upbeat and a bit antsy. Most chatted easily with the three reporters gathered.

A few, however, already saw the future and it was bleak.

“How many bench presses did you do?” cornerback A.J. Wallace was asked.

Jeff Rice, CDT:
Hull, who ran a disappointing 4.91-second 40 in Indianapolis, was clocked at 4.71 Wednesday.

“That was my main emphasis coming in today, and I knocked it down two tenths of a second,” said the Milheim native, who also bettered his combine numbers in the broad jump and 3-cone drill. “So I was happy with what I did.”

Bowman, about eight pounds heavier (237) than he was when he played in the Capital One Bowl in January, ran a 4.61, down from 4.72 in Indianapolis.

He also set up meetings in the coming weeks with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys. Lee, who ran a 4.74 at the combine, was clocked in the 4.55 range Wednesday.

Bob Flounders, Patriot-News:
PSU tight end Mickey Shuler Jr. spent the last two months training for Wednesday's Pro Day at a performance center in Pensacola, Fla.. He believes he made the most of his one shot and is hoping for some workout invites from NFL teams.

Several former teammates congratulated Shuler after his Wednesday workout, including Bowman. The 6-4, 251-pound Shuler said he ran in the 4.6s, broad-jumped almost 11 feet, was measured at 37 inches in the vertical jump and bench-pressed 225 pounds 28 times. Those aren't good numbers. They are great numbers.

“Not too shabby,'' joked Shuler, an East Pennsboro High School grad.

The 2010 NFL Draft begins in prime time, April 22.

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