Nittany Lions News: Reads from around the Penn State beat

Megan Ryan / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 5 days ago

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.

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Read some Penn State football extra tidbits from preseason camp in between Olympic events

Megan Ryan / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2 weeks ago

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.

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Zombies, skydiving and bus-pulling: How to commit in 2K16

Megan Ryan / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 1 month ago

I’m not even sorry about this ensuing blog post.

I took it upon myself today to take a deep dive into the recent phenomenon of commitment videos. Long gone are the days when prospective college football players would tweet a screenshot of a note on their iPhones, detailing how great the recruiting process has been, how grateful the players are for the schools/their coaches/their friends/their family, before deciding to continue their football career at [Name of School] [Said School’s Catchphrase].

Those quaint little ceremonies at players’ high schools where they put on the chosen school’s hat are a dying breed.

Now, it is about making a big production. As in film production. As in Acting. As in Cinematography. As in Friends and Family Becoming Momentary Movie Stars.

It’s incredibly extra and extremely outrageous, but we all love it, don’t lie to yourself.

I’m going to detail some of my faves I have found. Most are from Bleacher Report, which started its high-quality short films last year, I believe.

Kai-Leon Herbert to Michigan

This one just came out yesterday, and it is easily the best one yet. The Walking Dead and football recruiting just go hand-in-hand, don’t they? I’d like to know what the other schools he was considering think of Herbert viciously killing their zombie counterparts. But a million kudos for the creativity.

Deontay Anderson to Ole Miss

He went skydiving! Can you believe?! I’m a morbid person, so I just keep thinking about how terribly this could have ended. Again, would like to know what his future coaches think of this risky behavior, lmao.

Parker Boudreaux to Notre Dame

Can you believe he pulled a 16,000-pound school bus? Can you?

Nigel Knott to Alabama

NO QUESTIONS. Yeah, who cares about the media?

Quinn Nordin to Penn State ... er, JK

I couldn’t help myself. No. 1, this is so bougie, can you believe (sorry that can you believe is my unofficial slogan). And No. 2, he decommitted and went to Michigan. You would think he would have tried to get this video taken down, but I digress.

Also, I was going to make a joke about remembering how I made a video to announce my college decision back in the day, but Bleacher Report is more self-aware than I expected. (Side note, I applied to one school, the in-state public one, and delayed accepting as long as I could because I was Chris “I don’t play sports, I do plays” Evans).

And here’s some honorable mentions for y’all:

The Hollywood sign

The flaming paw of death in the sky

The plane over Atlantic City

The very fake Times Square billboard

The graffiti that I hope is real and still there

The symbolism of Matt Dotson leaping over a Penn State guy on his way to committing to Michigan State

There are more, oh, so more, out there. So happy Google searching. I also need to share this distressing one from an aspiring journalist from my home state, who not only snubbed my alma mater and my beat, but, in fact, chose Missouri. Sigh.

I hope this has been entertaining for everyone. It certainly was for me. Email or tweet me your personal favorites or any I might have missed. Now I’ve got to focus on my actual story for tomorrow about the new and very on-trend Power-Five initiative, Flex 21 (Now my whole team flexin’).

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Former players call for Paterno's return

Megan Ryan / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 1 month ago

In the infamous words of he who must not be named: How’s Joe Paterno? We gonna bring that back?

Well, according to more than 200 former Penn State football players, yes.

These former players, ranging from the 1950s to 2000s, sent a letter today (Tuesday) to the board of trustees and President Eric Barron, urging the school to return the large bronze statue of the infamous coach to campus. They also asked for an apology for Paterno’s wife and the restoration of the Player’s Wall, which are plaques honoring former players that surrounded the statue. Read more about it from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The school removed the statue from outside Beaver Stadium in 2012 in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. The university fired Paterno because of the scandal, and he died of lung cancer in 2012.

According to the Inquirer, a spokesman for the school said there was no timeline on acknowledging Paterno’s legacy and there would be a ”time and place” for that.

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Women's football clinics: the reporter's cut

Megan Ryan / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2 months ago

By now, hopefully y’all have read my story on women’s football clinics. Otherwise the ensuing massive blog post will make no sense to you.

I reported this story for more than a month, starting when I first heard about Penn State’s women’s clinic. I had honestly never heard of these before, as my alma mater, the University of Minnesota, didn’t have these clinics when I was on campus. I was intrigued, and will take any opportunity to explore how sports act as a microcosm of society, so here we are.

Obviously, I wasn’t allowed to attend Penn State’s, but Ohio State did let me cover its clinic, and that firsthand experience was invaluable (the epic sunburn and ensuing strange tan lines I took home as a souvenir was not). There were a lot of fun things that didn’t make my final print story, but I wanted to share them with you here.

First, the stripping! Cheryl Cooky (she’s got a great Ted Talk, too), an expert on women in sport, had a cool take on the whole undressing-of-players-for-the-sake-of-learning-how-uniforms-work scenario. She mentioned how Not OK that situation would be if it were reversed, middle-aged men at a clinic for women’s basketball, for example, undressing a 20-year-old woman. But while the age limit made this particular instance a little creepy, the bigger picture shouldn’t be completely overlooked:

“I don’t want to discount sexuality and sexual desire as an important component of many women’s fandom experience. An attraction to players, a sexual desire, I think, is a part of the fan experience for some women that gets delegitimized. … That somehow that component has to be disengaged in order for a woman to be the right kind of fan or an authentic fan.

“Sexual desire gets discounted by men and male sports fans because it brings sexuality into picture, flips the gaze. Because men usually look at women and this challenges that. If women are looking at men and think they’re hot, then men [are] also looking at these hot men.

“I think there’s ways to acknowledge the kind of pleasurable aspects of being a sports fan, in particular being a woman fan of football, whether that be Big Ten college football or NFL football, while also recognizing that there’s some aspects that we might want to raise questions or concerns about.”

That’s kind of fascinating, isn’t it? Here’s Raekwon McMillan, one of the Ohio State players to get stripped, on his first women’s clinic experience:

“Just coming out here seeing some crazy women fans and seeing how they act and seeing how much football they actually know is actually pretty cool because you really don’t think that women would know that much about it.

“It just empowers women, you know. They come out here, and they can do the same thing the men do. … It shows just the passion of women who love football and actually get to have hands-on time with the coaches and the players.

“I would say that Ohio State does it differently, man. We coach them all the same way, so they’re getting coached just as good as us all. The drills they showed you on the stage were the same drills that we actually do in practice, so they’re not going to take it easy just because they’re women because equality is real. … They are coming out here working hard just like we do.”

McMillan also said the coaches usually pick a team captain or someone with a “nice body” to do the uniform demonstration. He said he didn’t know the women were going to strip him down to his boxers, but he just rolled with it. He said it was awkward when he was first up on stage, but he just went with the flow. (Hear this quote and more on the stripping in this video.)

Something else about the uniform demo, Holly Swanson, the woman I spoke to who went to Penn State’s clinic, said she would have loved the opportunity to put on some pads and see how that all worked. So why not just let women put on pads for themselves and eliminate the cringey strip-tease? But I digress.

Swanson said her favorite part of Penn State’s clinic was, “Walking over to the cafeteria … James Franklin and I were talking about bed time routines for our kids and the best way to get your kids to go to bed on time. You were really able to connect with them on a different level than we did at any other event I had ever been to.”

That’s just a cool anecdote, I thought.

Cooky had a really interesting take on women’s clinics within the overall college and even professional football landscape. It was a little too broad for my story, but I think it’s definitely something to consider:

“I would be hard-pressed to say that this is about being more inclusive of women sport fans, that the goal of this isn’t somehow tied to a kind of public relations strategy, in terms of addressing the kind of negative press that the NFL and football in general has been receiving the past couple of years. The Sandusky scandal is one, the concussion scandal in the NFL is another. … For me, I see those as connected. Maybe not as a direct connection.

“I also am a little bit skeptical as well because when we look at the overall context of collegiate football or professional football, and in particular those big-time programs like Ohio state, like Penn State, like the professional league in general, and look at the ways in which women get treated outside of the league or outside of the sport context, in terms of I’m thinking domestic violence and sexual assault. For me, I think, it’s a kind of a contradiction that I can’t necessarily resolve or accept. Ok, so yeah, we’re going to have this space for women. We’re going to include women. We want women to be fans of the sport. We want women to feel included in our team and in this space of football. But at the same time, then when we look at the policies, when we look at the practices, when we look at the pervasive sexism within some of those sports team and how teams often cover up or look away when instances of sexual violence, sexual assault, domestic violence, even violence against athletes themselves in the form of suicide or what have you. When sport looks away from that, then I have a hard time with seeing this as simply a, ‘this is about including women in the game.’

“If it’s being framed by the teams and by the league as, ‘Let’s create an inclusive space for women fans. Let’s educate women fans so we can get more women at the games and supporting the team.’ … Then you can’t say that on the one hand and then when issues that are pertaining to women outside of the field, domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual violence, when those things happen, and you’re turning the other way or you’re victim blaming or you’re giving excuses or you’re giving very lenient penalties or you’re covering up, I’m not buying that.”

While at the camp and in talking to various people about them, I kept running into this same phrase. That women needed to be educated on the sport so they could be better moms, wives and girlfriends — so that they could better communicate with their sons, husbands and boyfriends. I found that pretty disturbing, and here’s what Cooky had to say about this idea of conventional relationships and heteronormativity:

“Women are watching sports because of the men in their lives, and they’re being taught by men for the purposes of enhancing their relationships with other men, whether that be fathers or husbands or boyfriends or sons, which I think is also problematic because it erases the woman fan of football who is generally interested in the sport because of her own pleasure and her own appreciation of the game. So where does she fit into that narrative?”

Shelley Meyer, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s wife, also had some more good quotes from our talk, as did Amy Nicol, Ohio State’s coordinator of football administration and special events. Both of them use that women-are-football-fans-because-of-the-men-in-their-lives language. Here’s Meyer:

“I don’t want to stereotype, but men mostly get the game of football at some level. But there’s just as many female fans that are just as passionate that go got the game and spend their money. And just to make them feel part. … It’s a, quote, man’s sport. … It’s a male-dominated sport.

“A lot of husbands get annoyed when their wives are saying, what’s that? What’s that called? What was that? What was that play? … They don’t want to teach their wives about football. So come and learn the game. Get the experience that these young men do and have a little fun doing it.

“We just feel like it’s important to embrace the female population that supports us.

“Anything we do as women, when we do it together without men involved … you feel more comfortable, and that’s what it’s for. The whole day is for women to feel comfortable asking about football, learning it, experiencing it.”

And from Nicol:

“We just found that’s really what our the Buckeye fans are looking for. They really want to be involved. They want to walk away with a piece of knowledge they didn’t have before, and sometimes, I think, they want to be able to say something that, go home and impress their husband when they’re watching TV, watching the game and drop a little bit of knowledge. But they really seem to be pretty knowledgeable and want to learn as much as they can.

“A lot of times, football is a sport that is portrayed kind of like a boys’ club. It’s all men that play and just recently women are starting to coach. But it’s kind of portrayed that way, and it’s just not true. I know, my friends know, we’re really into the game of football and appreciate it and understand a lot of it, and it’s just nice to have an event that’s geared toward women.”

So now that y’all have basically seen my entire reporting process, lmao, email or tweet me with your questions and/or opinions. As I think many of you are after reading my story, I’m conflicted about these clinics. I’d never condemn someone for having a good time and fun fan experience, and I think including women in traditionally male-dominated activities is an excellent step forward. But the way some of these clinics are carried out is problematic, to say the least.

Basically, Stay Woke, Question Everything, Don’t Take Sports For Granted Because They Are Entertainment. Thanks for reading and thinking with me!

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