Monthly Archives: July 2015

Solid Recruiting Class Led by Offensive Line Giants

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Penn State head coach James Franklin appears to be poised for a long tenure in Happy Valley, and he has already shown his power to recruit top-flight high school seniors. The 2015 Nittany Lions recruiting class features over two dozen players who are already enrolled at the University and practicing in hopes of making an impact as soon as opening day of this year.

Saquon Barkley is a strong and lightning fast 5′ 11″ running back out of Whitehall, Pennsylvania who will likely be plugged into the multi-headed monster that is the Penn State backfield immediately. His knack for turning from a blocker into a receiver in the flat and his sticky hands will both be valuable commodities.

Garrett Taylor is a highly touted cornerback out of Richmond, Virginia. While on the sidelines during one of his official visits last year, Taylor wore a Richard Sherman “Shut Down” t-shirt. A bold move from a bold man who clearly has big intentions.

The Nittany Lions made two huge recruiting scores both literally and figuratively when they were able to officially sign Sterling Jenkins out of Baldwin High School in Pittsburgh and junior-college transfer Paris Palmer out of Plymouth, North Carolina. Ready for the numbers on these two offensive lineman? How does 6′ 8″ and 305 pounds sound?

Both players are just a few inches away from setting the all-time record for height at the college football level. In a year’s time, they will likely be anchoring an o-line that protects Christian Hackenberg as he embarks on his Senior season. It is almost unfathomable to imagine two men the better part of 7 feet tall with strength and agility anchoring the offensive attack.

Penn State also inked 6′ 5″ offensive tackle Ryan Bates out of Warminster, Pennsylvania and 6′ 4″ offensive guard Steven Gonzales out of Union City High School in New Jersey. Most major programs recruited up to a half-dozen offensive lineman, but no other program was able to lure such an impressive, intimidating and diverse collection of young talent.

Another name Penn State football fans might want to keep an eye out for his Tommy Stevens. The 6′ 4″ 200-pounder out of Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis was recruited as both a quarterback and defensive tackle – an extremely rare combination at any level of college football.


Nittany Lions Bid Farewell to a Collection of Solid Players

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After being lured away from the head coaching position at Vanderbilt University to lead the esteemed program in Happy Valley, James Franklin only had one year to acquaint himself with many Junior and Senior players who opted to test the waters in the 2015 NFL Draft back in May. Here’s a quick look at the players who will be the most difficult to replace both on the field and in the locker room.

6′ 6″ 340-pound offensive tackle Donovan Smith was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 34th overall pick. The mountain of a man did an excellent job over the last two seasons of blocking for Christian Hackenberg as he matured from a wide-eyed freshman into a confident leader.

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He will now be expected to block for #1 overall pick Jameis Winston. The Heissman Trophy winner and National Champion will not have far to travel from Tallahassee to Tampa Bay, where he will be expected to be the future of a Buccaneers franchise that has been less than stellar over the last decade and a half. Expect Smith to make an impact and likely become a starter in his rookie season.

6′ 7″ tight end Jesse James is now a Pittsburgh Steeler after the esteemed franchise selected him with the 24th pick of the fifth round. He seems to be an absolute perfect fit for a squad and city known for its blue-collar work ethic and toughness. He will immediately become a gigantic target for Ben Roethlisberger, and the Steelers are always going into every season expecting to compete for the Super Bowl. The man with the same name as a famous Wild West outlaw is going to be a tough matchup for linebackers throughout the AFC North.

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Free safety Adrian Amos is headed to Chicago to play for the Bears after being selected with the 142nd overall pick. The loss of Amos will certainly hurt a secondary that was exposed at various times throughout the 2014 season.

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Other notable departures include reliable kicker Sam Ficken, who made a number of huge field goals throughout his career. He was still a free-agent as of press time, but will likely get some phone calls as soon as kickers start shanking high-pressure kicks a few weeks into the NFL season.

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Linebacker Mike Hull was a fan favorite who could fill up the stat sheet with tackles on any given Saturday. In terms of locker room leadership and tutelage of younger players, the loss of Hull is the biggest on the defensive side of the ball. One might even say it’ll be a big “Hull” to fill.

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All Statistical Leaders Return to Fuel Powerful Offensive Machine in 2015

All solid college football squads are built on core players who learn the system early and fill important roles for a handful of seasons. Unlike college basketball, where players often treat their collegiate careers as a quick stop-off before the pros, college football players wishing to compete at the sport’s highest level must first put in at least three years of work. Here are the most important Nittany Lions who will be returning for the 2015 fall campaign.

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Christian Hackenberg is already a Junior? That happened fast. Barring a Heisman-worthy season that catches the attention of NFL teams drafting in the Top-10, Hackenberg will complete his four years of eligibility in 2016. If things go as planned, he will have carved his name into the short list of truly great Penn State shot collars. The offensive line is young and lacks experience as compared to most top 20 teams, so that could be an issue in 2015.

Hackenberg will be able to spread the ball to several talented wide receivers and tight ends if he indeed has time to do so. The bunch is led by super Soph DaeSean Hamilton, who set an all-time school record last year against the eventual CFB Champions with 14 catches for 126 yards in a 31-24 loss to Ohio State.

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At 6′ 1″ and 211 pounds, Hamilton has the build of a durable athlete, and he is clearly unafraid to go across the middle and catch passes all over the field. His 82 receptions in 2014 were good for 899 yards and two touchdowns. It would not be at all surprising if he eclipses those lofty figures this year. Expect him to have a monster season.

Junior running back at Akeel Lynch will be carrying the brunt of the rushing load going into the season, and the coaching staff will obviously favor who has the hot hand as the season progresses. At 6′ 0″ and 220 pounds, Lynch has a similar sturdy and strong build that is essential for the type of running attack that the Nittany Lions have historically employed.

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The 2015 Penn State defense will be anchored by senior defensive tackle Anthony Zettel. Alongside Junior Austin Johnson, the two should make it very difficult for teams to pound the ball up the middle, especially in short yardage situations.

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Penn State is returning the overwhelming majority of its productivity from the 2014 season. In fact, every offensive statistical category other than kicking featured and underclassmen at the very top of the list.


Former Nittany Lions Ali Kregier & Alyssa Naeher Experience Soccer’s Highest Summit in 2015 World Cup Win

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30-year-old midfielder and defender Ali Krigier understandably gets very emotional while recalling a day nearly a decade ago, when she became extremely winded from simply walking down the hall into her kitchen. Upon further examination, doctors found her in a critical, touch-and-go situation that required immediate and extensive surgeries to rid her body of several blood clots.

It changed her outlook on life and gave her an unwavering passion and dedication to pursue her soccer dreams. She recently did just that, serving as an important part of the 2015 US Women’s World Cup Team that hoisted the trophy after a 5-2 demolishing of Japan.

The former Penn State standout starred for the Nittany Lines from 2003-2006, launching a career that has taken her from Washington DC to Germany. She joined the United States National Team in 2008 and has made 73 appearances for the squad in the years since. She gives a lot of credit for her success to her brother, who was able to overcome his own battles with addiction after he bared firsthand witness to the intense and at times uncertain journey that Ali went through at the age of just 21.

A shutdown goalkeeper who had a great four-year career as a Nittany Lion, Alyssa Naeher has gone on to carve out a nice career for herself in professional soccer. She was a four-year starter in Happy Valley, starting every game she appeared in between the years of 2006 and 2009.

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Naeher made 36 appearances for the Boston Breakers between 2010 and 2011, and she returned to the team in 2013 after a brief hiatus to play for the FCC Turbine Potsdam squad in Potsdam, Germany. She has become a valued commodity in Boston and one of the most respected goaltenders in the league.

As a member of the women’s World Cup 2015 team, she obviously did not see much playing time as a result of being behind superstar goalie Hope Solo on the team’s depth chart. Nonetheless, it infused all teammates and fans with a sense of security knowing that if Solo was indeed injured are needed to come out of the game, they would have a replacement that is also at a world-class level.

The 27-year-old Bridgeport, Connecticut native has a twin sister, and she recently spoke in an interview about just how important the bond they have established is in her personal and professional life. “You always have a built-in training buddy, a built-in friend.”