Penn State tries to return to normalcy in first fall practice

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There’s no question about it. Penn State, as a football program and an institution, will never be the same. Not after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

The Mark Emmert-levied sanctions against the program in response to the Freeh report? Those hurt, but eventually the Nittany Lions will recover from the scholarship losses (10 initial, 20 overall for four years) and postseason ban (also four years). Bill O’Brien will have plenty of time to weather that storm, but his immediate focus has been on keeping the team together.

He hasn’t been able to keep some players from leaving. Running back Silas Redd is gone to USC and receiver Justin Brown is expected to transfer to Oklahoma. Quarterback Rob Bolden has been out since being demoted to third-string and ended up transferring to LSU. In all, nine players have taken advantage of the NCAA’s specially amended transfer policies, according to the Associated Press.

But when you consider the potential damage, the numbers aren’t all that bad. Penn State reports Monday morning that 109 football players reported to the first fall practice, just over 92 percent of the roster as of July 23. Of those, only 70 are scholarship players though.

O’Brien said he was “very confident” that the players he does have will stick around. He may not fully believe that, but that’s what he has to say in August to keep this team going. There has to be some sense of confidence.

The sanctions have been handed down, and agree with them or not, all Penn State can do at this point is try to move forward as best it can. Emmert could have denied Penn State a football team this year, but he didn’t, so play on.

The first step in doing so was practicing as a team today.

East Carolina grad transfer QB Gardner Minshew will reportedly visit Alabama this weekend

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It appears the Jalen Hurts Transfer Protection Plan™ is close to being implemented.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Alabama had an interest in Gardner Minshew, the quarterback who announced late last month that he had withdrawn from East Carolina to tend to a personal matter in his home state of Mississippi.  That interest has ramped up since as al.com is reporting that Minshew will be visiting the Crimson Tide’s campus this weekend.

As a graduate transfer, Minshew would be eligible to play immediately this season at UA, or any other FBS program for that matter.

Alabama’s interest in a grad transfer at the position will do nothing to quell the rumors that Hurts, the starter for each of the last 29 games over the past two seasons, is a potential candidate for a transfer. Hurts was benched in favor of Tua Tagovailoa in the national championship game, with the true freshman’s comeback heroics signaling a likely changing of the guard under center.

As for Minshew, he started five games for the Pirates last season, throwing for 2,140 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions in completing just over 57 percent of his 304 pass attempts. Prior to his departure from ECU, he was penciled in as the Pirates’ 2018 starting quarterback.

Wake Forest WR Greg Dortch cleared for spring practice

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Unlike how his 2017 season ended, Greg Dortch‘s 2018 offseason is trending much more positively.

In Wake Forest’s late-October win over Louisville, Dortch went down with what turned out to be a season-ending abdominal injury. Four months after sustaining the injury, and with spring practice right around the corner, the wide receiver has been medically cleared to fully participate in practice.

Despite missing the last month of the regular season as well as the postseason, Dortch still led the Demon Deacons in receiving yards with 722. His 53 receptions and nine receiving touchdowns were tied for tops on the team as well.

In the game in which he was injured, he set the school record with four touchdown catches.

Jeff Brohm stays in-house for new Purdue assistant

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When it came to filling out his Purdue coaching staff, Jeff Brohm didn’t have to look very far.

Kevin Wolthausen, the football program confirmed in a release, has been hired as the 10th of Brohm’s allotted 10 Boilermakers assistant coaches.  Per the school, Wolthausen will be working with the team’s special teams and defense.

This marks a positional homecoming of sorts for Wolthausen as he spent the 2012 season as the defensive line coach at Purdue.  Last season, Wolthausen served as a quality control coach for both special teams and defense for the Boilermakers.

In between his two stints in West Lafayette, Wolthausen was the special teams coordinator and linebackers coach at UConn in 2016; the two years prior, he was the Huskies’ defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator.

In 2013, Wolthausen was the special teams coordinator at Florida International.  The 60-year-old long-time college football assistant has also spent time on staffs at Louisville, Arizona, USC, Arizona State and Oklahoma.

Neal Brown completes Troy staff with FCS co-DC

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For the most recent addition to his Troy coaching staff, Neal Brown has dipped into the Football Championship Series.

The Sun Belt Conference program confirmed Tuesday that Brandon Hall has been hired by Brown as his new linebackers coach.  Hall had spent the past four seasons as the co-defensive coordinator at FCS Jacksonville State.

“Brandon is an outstanding defensive coach and has experience coaching at a lot of different levels,” a statement from Brown. “He is relentless on the recruiting trail and already has developed strong relationships in the areas that we believe are key. Looking at his track record, it comes as no surprise that Brandon helped build one of the top defenses in the FCS at Jacksonville State over the last four years.”

Prior to JSU, Hall had spent time at Arkansas State, Auburn and Oklahoma.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to join this program and coaching staff,” Hall said in his statement. “You can’t help but get excited as a coach when you look at what Coach Brown and the rest of this staff has done over the past three years with the Troy program. My family and I are looking forward to becoming part of the Trojan Family and continuing the strong tradition of Troy football.”