(The last part of my headlined rhymed, how fun.)
It’s Penn State football’s day off, but the team can’t quit generating news, so here’s a bit of a notebook to catch everyone up.
First, Penn State’s redshirt sophomore kicker Joey Julius, known for making big hits on his kickoffs, took to Facebook early Monday morning to share a very personal story of why he was absent for most of this offseason.
The Hummelstown, Pa., native is 5-foot-10, 258 pounds and sought treatment at McCallum Place in St. Louis from May 9 to July 26, where he learned he has a binge-eating disorder. Julius said in his post he credits the Penn State football staff for helping him realize something was wrong and helping him through it. He also offered to be a resource to anyone who might be in the same position he was.
For some lighter news, junior safety Marcus Allen claimed the Big Ten conference’s Co-Defensive Player of the Week honor, sharing it with senior defensive lineman Ifeadi Odenigbo of Northwestern.
Allen, of course, nabbed a career-high 22 tackles, with eight solo stops, in Penn State’s 29-26 overtime victory against Minnesota this past Saturday at Beaver Stadium. It was the most tackles from a Nittany Lion since Paul Posluszny in 2005 and the most from a Big Ten player since Wisconsin’s Mike Taylor’s 22 in 2011. Allen is also just the second Football Bowl Subdivision player this year to record at least 20 tackles.
This was Allen’s first nod for defensive player of the week and the first for Penn State since Anthony Zettel won Sept. 28, 2015.
(Odenigbo made a career-high four sacks and was just the second player in the nation this year to reach that mark.)
And for the bad news for the Nittany Lions, they lost a commitment.
Derrek Pitts, a four-star recruit from South Charleston high school in Charleston, W.V., decommitted from Penn State’s class of 2017 on Monday. The 6-foot-1, 174-pound safety had this to say on Twitter:
Assuming there’s a missing ”to thank” in there. Perhaps he’s looking to stay closer to home at West Virginia? Only time will tell.
Lettermen reunite ahead of late coach Joe Paterno's 50th anniversary of first game leading Penn State
About 500 lettermen descended on Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on Friday night. The reunion coincides with former coach Joe Paterno’s 50th anniversary of his first game as head coach of Penn State — the school will honor him publicly for the first time since his firing in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal during the Temple game at noon Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
Sue Paterno, Paterno’s widow, put out this statement about the event:
“The Paterno family and the Lettermen's Committee will be hosting a Lettermen's reunion to honor the contributions Penn State Football Student-Athletes have made to the University and to society. The private event is to honor their achievements individually and as teammates at Penn State and in life. It honors the bonds of brotherhood and unity formed here and carried forward in the years since they left their Alma Mater. The event coincides with the 50th anniversary of Joe Paterno's first game as head coach at Penn State. Consistent with the Penn State tradition of philanthropy, the event will also raise funds for a scholarship for graduating Penn State athletes to attend graduate school.”
Here’s what coach James Franklin had to say about the reunion:
“I think it’s great. That’s one of the things that makes us special is when we’re able to get this type of support, and guys come back that feel a real strong connection to the university and the football program. That’s something that myself, Terry [Smith], Wally Richardson and all of guys are continuing to build and work on those relationships. That’s something that’s very important. I’m glad all of those guys are going to be back in town and going to be at the game this weekend. That’s the type of support that’s made this place so special for so long.”
When asked about what Paterno signifies to him, however, and what he thinks about the in-game commemoration, Franklin swerved:
“I’ve stated this before. You know, all of the wonderful things that have happened here academically, all of the wonderful things that have happened here athletically, and in the community as well, those things have been significant, and I think I’ve stated that before. But my focus and our team’s focus is on Temple and the game this week. And all of those other decisions are for the administration. Our focus is on Temple.”
There was at least one protester at the event.
Ex-priest Robert Hoatson, sexual abuse victims advocate, protests outside private reception honoring Joe Paterno. pic.twitter.com/YIvdLiyGEt— Erin McCarthy (@ErinMcPSU) September 16, 2016
Franco Harris also shared his thoughts about Paterno being recognized.
Franco Harris said he welcomes the university's decision to honor Paterno tomorrow: "It's a good first step." pic.twitter.com/0Z3xDKywMY— Josh Moyer (@ESPNJoshMoyer) September 16, 2016
And some prominent university officials also made an appearance.
Confirmed that I did in fact see Penn State president Eric Barron walk into event. Jimmy Cefalo also late arrival.— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) September 17, 2016
It’s game week, y’all. So to kick it off right, here are some stories from around the Penn State beat to read.
Rich Scarcella of the Reading Eagle writes about the defensive line and how it will ”tackle” inexperience.
It’s up-tempo. It’s no-huddle. The Centre Daily Times’ Jourdan Rodrigue delves into how Penn State’s new offense came to be.
Here’s Pennlive’s Bob Flounders’ (so many apostrophes) story on newly minted quarterback Trace McSorley’s winning ways. Also from Pennlive, Penn State has a three-touchdown gap on Kent State, the odds-makers say.
Sean Fitz of Lions247 has a little ditty on walk-on d-lineman Ryan Monk.
Tweet or email me any other stories you read and liked. Also, don’t forget to tweet or email firstname.lastname@example.org your Penn State football or other questions to #YouveGotMailbag. Let’s try to get this thing off the ground by game one.
While we wait for another practice availability Wednesday, here’s some links to reads around the Penn State beat to satisfy your Nittany Lions News Needs.
State College News’ Mike Poorman has this story on the relationship between redshirt sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley and coach James Franklin, plus some history on Franklin and his former QBs.
The Daily Collegian’s Giana Han wrote this article on who will backup star sophomore running back Saquon Barkley — freshman Miles Sanders, redshirt sophomore Mark Allen or redshirt freshman Andre Robinson. Also from The Collegian, Andrew Rubin writes about how Barkley can grow this year and possibly help out on special teams. Support your local college newspapers, folks. It’s how the best of us get our starts (I’m talking about me, shoutout to The Minnesota Daily).
Pennlive has several reads, including Greg Pickel’s writeup on the possibility of a breakout season for sophomore corner John Reid. Pickel also talked to recent commit Pat Freiermuth about why the four-star tight end picked Penn State.
David Jones from Pennlive also takes a look at how unique it is in today’s college football landscape that Penn State will play both its in-state rivals this season in Pitt and Temple.
Rich Scarcella of the Reading Eagle wrote about the deep receiving group, but you need a subscription read it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
And finally, Tom Dienhart of the Big Ten Network fielded some questions after the network’s practice tour and addressed Penn State’s depth.
Did I miss any good reads? Send them my way through email or Twitter. Also, don’t forget to send in your Penn State football and other questions to the #YouveGotMailbag. I only need one more to finally publish some answers, lmao.
Take a break from the Olympics to read some extra tidbits from Penn State’s preseason camp practice today.
My story on the QB battle (yes, still) and the receiving corps will be in tomorrow’s paper (and online, obvs), but here’s some stuff that didn’t fit.
As far as that other position battle, that of middle linebacker of course, coach James Franklin said both junior Jason Cabinda and redshirt senior Nyeem Wartman-White are still competing for the job. Franklin said there’s not a whole lot of difference between the two, except that Wartman-White has a renowned football IQ (apparently), and Cabinda did a good job coming in clutch last season at mike when Wartman-White endured his season-ending knee injury in the season opener.
“To be honest with you, it’s really a situation right now where we think we have two guys that could play mike linebacker and that we could win with,” Franklin said. “Really the way we do it, those two guys are primarily box linebackers anyway. Typically, you’re on a hash in college football. You’re in the boundary. That guy’s typically going to hug the box anyway. ... We really look at those two positions really similar, but we feel good about it. We feel like it’s interchangeable.”
Franklin also talked about the interior defensive line and said it’s still ongoing as to who those starters will be. He mentioned redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Antoine White as someone who has jumped out at him. He also talked about redshirt junior DT Parker Cothren as someone who has had many reps this offseason. And while the coaching staff has heaped a lot of praise on redshirt freshman DT Kevin Givens in the past months, Franklin said Givens still has a lot of room for growth.
Junior DT Tyrell Chavis, the junior college transfer who joined the team late just ahead of camp because of academic issues, is settling in well, Franklin said. But Chavis isn’t in the same shape as the rest of the team who have been working out all summer with the Penn State staff.
“Trying to get him caught up as quickly as we possible can,” Franklin said. “It’s a difference, but we have no choice but to get him ready.”
All right, that’s all I’ve got for you right now. Also, I started this new feature called my #YouveGotMailbag (lmao, do you get it?). So every week, email or tweet me your Penn State football and other questions, and I’ll answer them every Thursday.
Ok, go back to the Olympics now.