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Penn State breaking in a new safety in hopes of adding depth

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about 16 hours ago

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Nittany Lions’ 2016 recruiting class lost safety pledge Andrew Pryts on National signing day when he opted to head to Stanford instead, so how is depth shaping up with the last line of defense? 

Penn State was forced to throw Malik Golden into the mix toward the end of the season when senior safety Jordan Lucas was lost for the year with a shoulder injury. While Golden has been a reserve player, he’ll be in the mix for the starting spot opposite Marcus Allen this year. Troy Apke, who burned his redshirt as a freshman to contribute on special teams, saw time last season too. 

But, in an effort to balance out a loaded position group of running backs headlined by Saquon Barkley who eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing as a true freshman, Penn State moved running back Nick Scott to safety this offseason, cornerbacks coach Terry Smith confirmed. Moving Scott, who completed his redshirt freshman season where he added depth in the backfield but was a key special teams contributor, has long been an option. 

 

Scott played running back, quarterback and safety in high school and was asked about the possibility of switching positions last month prior to the Lions’ TaxSlayer Bowl. He said he’d “do what’s in the team’s best interest,” but added that it had been awhile since he played on the other side of the ball. Looking at his senior year highlights I only saw one clip of him in the secondary that was included, the rest were of him playing running back and some quarterback too

“The greatest challenge is him learning our fundamentals, our technique and our terminology,” Smith, the Lions’ cornerbacks coach and defensive recruiting coordinator, said last week during National signing day. “Football is a simple sport, but we try to make it complex by giving it 52 words when you can just use one word that means the same thing.  

“That’ll be his greatest challenge: Base alignments, do we want him to take 10 yards by 2 yards off the hash versus 8 yards by 1 yard inside based on what the coverage of the defense is? He’s just got to understand why he’s here and what purpose he’s serving and where he fits into the defense whether it’s a gap responsibility or a coverage responsibility so those are just the challenge like any other position that he’s got to learn and as he learns them he’ll trigger faster and be a better player for us.”

Smith said special teams coordinator Charles Huff timed Scott running a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and when the coaching staff turned on special teams film to see who was maximizing their speed Scott clocked the same time. Scott will likely continue to make his biggest contributions on special teams, but safety has been impacted by injuries the last several years (Ryan Keiser’s injury made way for Marcus Allen as a true freshman, Jordan Lucas’ season ending injury made way for Golden) so building depth here is important. 

Safeties on scholarship (8)

  • Malik Golden (Sr/Sr) (Grades reflect eligibility for 2016-17 season)
  • Marcus Allen (Jr/Jr)
  • Troy Apke (Jr/Jr)
  • Koa Farmer (Jr/So)
  • Nick Scott (Jr/So) (moved from RB to Saf. this offseason) 
  • Jarvis Miller (So/Fr)
  • Ayron Monroe (So/Fr)
  • Johnny Petrishen (So/Fr) 

Johnny Petrishen, Ayron Monroe and Jarvis Miller all took redshirts this past season while Koa Farmer, who is coming off his redshirt freshman season, was used on special teams. Safeties coach Tim Banks, who was hired last month, will need the spring — including the Lions’ spring game which is announced for a 2 p.m. start on April 16— to sift through the depth chart and see how they’re all progressing. 

“We have a solid six, maybe seven guys at safety that we feel really, really good [about],” Smith said. “Some young guys in the program that their time is up, their time is here, they’ve got to step up. We feel like within those six we’ll find an additional 2-to-3 to go with Malik and Troy Apke and Marcus. We feel like we have a good foundation there.”

Audrey Snyder: asnyder@post-gazette.com and Twitter @audsnyder4


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How are Penn State's scholarships broken down by position?

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 1 day ago

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — It’s hard to believe Penn State’s season ended just a little more than a month ago considering all of the personnel changes — both with coaches and with players — that happened since then. 

Penn State has four early enrollees on campus who started classes and workouts last month and the Lions signed a 20-person 2016 recruiting class last week. 


James Franklin video chats with running back Miles Sanders on National signing day 2016. (Audrey Snyder/Post-Gazette)

Penn State has the full allotment of 85 scholarships available this season and due to the three early departures (QB Christian Hackenberg, DT Austin Johnson, TE Adam Breneman), numerous transfers, plus reserve safety Anthony Smith getting introduced on Senior Day, here’s a look at how the Lions’ scholarship numbers are shaping up. 

As always, this is a projection and a way to see what position groups are heavier and lighter than others. James Franklin  keeps Penn State’s scholarships close to the vest so in all likelihood this could be off by a person or two. I have not updated the class standing yet (ex. Saquon Barkley is still a freshman on this list even though when the season rolls around he’ll be a sophomore). 

Also, note the position change for Nick Scott who moved from running back to safety this offseason. I’ll have more on his position switch in a separate post.  

The offensive linemen, especially some of the incoming freshman, could play multiple positions down the road so while OT is heavier than G it will all likely balance out. 

My best guesses: 

Quarterback (3)

  • Trace McSorley (So/Fr)
  • Tommy Stevens (Fr/Fr)
  • Jake Zembiec (Fr, enrolled in Jan.)

Running back (5)

  • Mark Allen (So/Fr)
  • Johnathan Thomas (So/Fr)
  • Saquon Barkley (Fr/Fr)
  • Andre Robinson (Fr/Fr)
  • Miles Sanders (arrives in June) 

Wide receiver (8)

  • DaeSean Hamilton (Jr/So)
  • DeAndre Thompkins (So/Fr)
  • Saeed Blacknall (So/So)
  • Chris Godwin (So/So)
  • Brandon Polk (Fr/Fr)
  • Juwan Johnson (Fr/Fr)
  • Irvin Charles (Fr/Fr)
  • Dae’lun Darien (arrives in June) 

Tight ends (5)

  • Brent Wilkerson (Sr/Jr)
  • Mike Gesicki (So/So)
  • Nick Bowers (Fr/Fr)
  • Jonathan Holland (Fr/Fr) 
  • Danny Dalton (Fr, enrolled in January) 

Offensive line (17)

Offensive tackle (9)

  • Paris Palmer (Jr/Jr)
  • Andrew Nelson (Jr/So)
  • Chaz Wright (So/Fr)
  • Noah Beh (So/Fr)
  • Brendan Brosnan (So/Fr)
  • Chance Sorrell (So/Fr)
  • Sterling Jenkins (Fr/Fr)
  • Alex Gellerstedt (Fr, enrolled in January)
  • Will Fries (arrives in June) 

Guard (5) 

  • Derek Dowrey (Sr/Jr)
  • Brian Gaia (Sr/Jr)
  • Brendan Mahon (Jr/So)
  • Steven Gonzalez (Fr/Fr)
  • Michal Menet (arrives in June, could play G, OT or C)

Center (3)

  • Wendy Laurent (Sr/Jr)
  • Ryan Bates (Fr/Fr) (can play C or G)
  • Connor McGovern (Fr, enrolled in January)

Defensive line (18)

Tackles (7)

  • Tyrell Chavis (JUCO transfer, arrives in June, 2 yrs of eligibility left)
  • Parker Cothren (Jr/So)
  • Antoine White (So/Fr)
  • Brenon Thrift (JUCO transfer with 3 yrs eligibility left) 
  • Robert Windsor (Fr/Fr)
  • Ellison Jordan (arrives in June)
  • Antonio Shelton (arrives in June)

Ends (11)

  • Evan Schwan (Sr/Jr)
  • Garrett Sickels (Jr/So)
  • Curtis Cothran (Jr/So)
  • Torrence Brown (So/Fr)
  • Shareef Miller (Fr/Fr)
  • Kevin Givens (Fr/Fr)
  • Ryan Buchholz (Fr/Fr)
  • Kamonte Carter (Fr/Fr) 
  • Shane Simmons (arrives in June) 
  • Daniel Joseph (arrives in June) 
  • Shaka Toney (arrives in June)

Linebackers (7)

  • Nyeem Wartman-White (Sr/Jr)
  • Brandon Bell (Jr/Jr)
  • Von Walker (Jr/Jr) (Former walk-on was put on scholarship last year. This is assuming it’s renewed, no guarantee it is though) 
  • Jason Cabinda (So/So)
  • Manny Bowen (Fr/Fr)
  • Jake Cooper (Fr/Fr)
  • Cameron Brown (arrives in June) 

Defensive backs (16)

Cornerback (8)

  • Jordan Smith (Jr/Jr)
  • Grant Haley (So/So)
  • Christian Campbell (So/So)
  • Amani Oruwariye (So/Fr)
  • John Reid (Fr/Fr)
  • Garrett Taylor (Fr/Fr)
  • Zechariah McPhearson (arrives in June) 
  • Anthony Johnson (arrives in June) 

Safety (8)

  • Malik Golden (Sr/Jr)
  • Marcus Allen (So/So)
  • Troy Apke (So/So)
  • Koa Farmer (So/Fr)
  • Nick Scott (So/Fr) (moved from RB to Saf. this offseason) 
  • Jarvis Miller (Fr/Fr)
  • Ayron Monroe (Fr/Fr)
  • Johnny Petrishen (Fr/Fr) 

Specialists (2)

  • Blake Gillikin (P, arrives in June)
  • Alex Barbir (K, arrives in June) 

OFFENSE: 38

DEFENSE: 41

ST: 2 

= 81

Audrey Snyder: asnyder@post-gazette.com and Twitter @audsnyder4 


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Penn State National signing day: Follow along live with updates

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 6 days ago

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Penn State goes JUCO route to add another DT

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 1 week ago

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -— There are exceptions to every rule and when it comes to laying the foundation of a program James Franklin isn’t in favor of going the junior college route to add players.

The Lions’ head coach said so several times, even adding last November that while there are such things as quick fixes he doesn’t want to build that way. 

“That first year we could have went out and signed 15 junior college players. This year could have went out and signed 15 junior college players. But I don't think myself or the administration or our fans really want to do it that way,” Franklin said Nov. 24. “We want to do it for the long haul. Once you start doing that, then it's almost you have to commit to continuing to do that because your turnover happens every year or two.

“And like I've said from Day 1, we want to build this thing the right way for the long haul, and when you do that, it takes some time.”

Franklin made an exception to his rule Tuesday when the Lions picked up a verbal pledge from Nassau Community College defensive tackle Tyrell Chavis who will have an opportunity to add much needed depth along the Lions’ depleted defensive line. Penn State is working to replace starting tackles Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson along with reserve Tarow Barney who was also a former JUCO product. The Lions enter spring ball with Parker Cothren, Antoine White and Robert Windsor as scholarship defensive tackles and could make some position switches to other players to help build depth. 

The Lions’ 2016 class, which will be finalized on Wednesday once letters of intent are faxed in, has verbal commitments from defensive tackles Ellison Jordan and Antonio Shelton. Shelton picked Penn State on Sunday, giving the class depth after Michael Dwumfour flipped from Penn State to Michigan and the class saw the departures of former verbal pledges Christian Colon and Karamo Dioubate.

Penn State will need help right away upfront and Chavis, at 6-4, 320 pounds won’t have to make as much of a transition in the weight room as the incoming freshman, thus helping fill one of the team’s biggest positions of need. Penn State went the junior college route in the 2015 recruiting class too with the addition of left tackle Paris Palmer who played at Lackawanna College before enrolling at Penn State last winter. 

Audrey Snyder: asnyder@post-gazette.com and Twitter @audsnyder4


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How is Penn State’s 2016 recruiting class shaping up?

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 1 week ago

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State addressed two needs within the last day as the Lions added a verbal pledge from defensive tackle Antonio Shelton on Sunday and flipped wide receiver Dae’lun Darien from Temple to Penn State Monday morning. 

The Lions’ 2016 class is up to 19 members, including offensive lineman Connor McGovern, quarterback Jake Zembiec, tight end Danny Dalton and offensive tackle Alex Gellerstedt who enrolled in January. Coming in at No. 19 according to Rivals, Penn State’s class is still is in the mix for some high-end talents with some of the prospects not announcing their college decision until Wednesday afternoon. 

Who announces when?

-CB Damar Hamlin, Monday night

-LB Brendan Ferns, Wed. 7 am on twitter 

-CB Lavert Hill, Wed., TBA 

-CB K.J. Sails, Wed. 3:15 pm

-DE Rashad Weaver, Wed. 3 pm

While it’s important to see whether Penn State lands any of these players, it’s also key to see where they choose if it isn’t Penn State. Hamlin could end up at Pitt or Ohio State while Hill, once a Penn State verbal pledge, could play at Michigan or Michigan State.

It’s also worth keeping an eye on five-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary to see if Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines land him, thus making life harder on the Nittany Lions down the road, or if he goes elsewhere out of the conference. Gary will announce on Wednesday. 

Updated heights and weights

Penn State added the four early enrollees to the roster on Monday and here’s what they checked in at:

-QB Jake Zembiec: 6-3, 205

-TE Danny Dalton: 6-4, 240

-OT Alex Gellerstedt: 6-6, 275

-OL Connor McGovern: 6-5, 310 

McGovern physically is in a better spot than most offensive linemen when they arrive and while James Franklin likes to point to the third year as one where the linemen are physically and mentally ready to play we could see McGovern contribute earlier, maybe even in year two.  

Why so negative? 

James Franklin mentioned Penn State having to deal with negative recruiting when he addressed the media for his season ending teleconference. He said that’s not how his staff does business and vowed to take the high road. 

Interestingly enough when Penn State flipped former Temple verbal pledge Dae’lun Darien Monday morning the Owls’ receivers coach wasted no time mentioning negative recruiting. In a tweet that has since been deleted, here was the take from Temple’s receivers coach:

Now, in the crazy world that is college football recruiting I don’t see what the big deal is with negative recruiting. Surely it’s happening at quite a few schools these days (maybe even all of them), but where Temple does have some leverage now that they didn’t in the past is with that season opening win over the Nittany Lions.

As Penn State preps to play both Temple and Pitt this season look for the stakes both on the field and on the recruiting trail to heighten as the winner of each game will surely be using that as part of their recruiting pitch to in-state kids in the 2017 cycle. 

Audrey Snyder: asnyder@post-gazette.com and Twitter @audsnyder4 


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