Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien addresses a news conference before his first spring practice as Penn State's head football coach, in Pennsylvania

Bill O’Brien announces 2013 Penn State signees

Leave a comment

(Below is Penn State’s press release on the players added as part of its 2013 recruiting class.)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; February 6, 2013 – Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien announced the Nittany Lions’ 2013 recruiting class on Wednesday. In all, the Nittany Lions welcome 17 new student-athletes who signed National Letters of Intent to join the football program.

“Recruiting is about a fit and relationships,” O’Brien said. “We started working early on this class and they visited us multiple times. This is a group of high character kids who are tough, go to class and do things the right way. Our coaches deserve a lot of credit. They worked hard to develop relationships with the families and the prospects and it turned out well for us.”

Penn State’s 2013 recruiting class features nine defensive signees and eight offensive signees from seven different states and one from the District of Columbia. Breaking down the class by position, the signees include four defensive backs, three defensive linemen, three offensive linemen, two linebackers, two quarterbacks, one running back, one tight end and one wide receiver.

The list includes four high school players who graduated early to enroll at Penn State, and one junior-college signee, who began classes in January and are participating in winter conditioning with the team.

O’Brien led Penn State to an 8-4 record (6-2 Big Ten) during his first season as the Nittany Lions’ head coach and was selected the 2012 Bear Bryant, Maxwell Football Club and ESPN Coach of the Year and the Big Ten-Dave McClain Coach of the Year. The Nittany Lions begin spring practice March 18 and the Blue-White Game is April 20 in Beaver Stadium.

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 17 members of Penn State’s 2013 recruiting class.)

Richy Anderson
RB | Frederick, Md. | Governor Thomas Johnson High School | Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 171
The son of former Nittany Lion great and NFL running back Richie Anderson, Richy Anderson is a 5-11, 171-pound versatile all-purpose back. The Frederick, Md., native produced more than 1,700 yards of offense and 15 touchdowns as a junior at Governor Thomas Johnson High School. Rated a three-star prospect on Scout.com, Rivals.com, ESPN.com and 247Sports, Anderson helped lead Thomas Johnson High School to the Class 3A state title game in 2011. Anderson’s father lettered at Penn State from 1991-92, rushing for 1,756 yards and 31 touchdowns before embarking on a 12-year NFL career with the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys. Anderson is one of five signees already enrolled in classes and participating in winter workouts.

Brandon Bell
LB | Mays Landing, N.J. | Oakcrest High School | Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 222
Brandon Bell will bring depth to the Nittany Lion linebacker corps and could help contribute very early on special teams. Bell is a 6-2, 215-pound linebacker, who was also very productive at running back at Oakcrest High School in New Jersey. Bell was tabbed a three-star recruit and is ranked among the top 20 linebackers in the 2013 class nationally. The Mays Landing, N.J. native recorded 124 total tackles during his senior season, along with one sack, three forced fumbles, and one interception. Bell was a First Team Cape Atlantic League Linebacker, First Team All-Atlantic City Press Linebacker, and Second Team All-South Jersey Linebacker. Bell along with three other Penn State commits played in the Chesapeake Bowl. During his junior year, Bell had 117 tackles and six sacks. Bell recorded 22 tackles for loss and three fumble recoveries while also rushing for 429 yards and five touchdowns on offense.

Adam Breneman
TE | Camp Hill, Pa. | Cedar Cliff High School | Ht: 6-4 | Wt: 230
Rated among the nation’s top tight ends, Camp Hill, Pa., native Adam Breneman brings a versatile skill set to the Nittany Lion program. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Breneman possesses great speed and quickness for a player his size. A crisp route runner with good hands, the Cedar Cliff High School standout has the tools to line up in a variety of locations on offense. Breneman’s traits will fit nicely into the Bill O’Brien tight end-friendly offensive scheme. Rated a five-star prospect by Rivals, Breneman caught 72 passes for 1,120 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior. As a sophomore, Breneman made 60 receptions for 863 yards and eight touchdowns. Off the field, Breneman played an instrumental role in a fundraising effort, “Catch the Cure”, which helped raise more than $80,000 for Project A.L.S. Breneman is one of five Nittany Lions already enrolled in classes. He was elected an officer of Penn State’s Uplifting Athletes chapter last month.

Curtis Cothran
DE | Newtown, Pa. | Council Rock High School North | Ht: 6-5 | Wt: 235
Curtis Conthran, a 6-5, 230-pound defensive end brings great size and upside to the defensive line of the Nittany Lions. The Newtown, Pa. native made 35 tackles and eight sacks as a senior at Council Rock North High School. Cothran, who was rated a three-star recruit according to Scout.com, Rivals.com, and 247sports.com, was rated AP Class AAAA First Team All-State, Pennsylvania Football News First Team All-State and First Team All-Bucks County Courier Times ALL Golden
Team. Cothran is one of four Penn State signees who played in the Chesapeake Bowl.

Parker Cothren
DT | Hazel Green, Ala. | Hazel Green High School | Ht: 6-5 | Wt: 265
Parker Cothren will look to add depth to the interior of the defensive line following the departures of seniors Jordan Hill and James Terry. Hailing from Hazel Green, Ala., Cothren has good size at 6-5, 265-pounds to evolve into a contributor for defensive line coach Larry Johnson. A three-star prospect according to Rivals.com and Scout.com, Cothren is a skilled athlete with the tools to add depth to the Nittany Lion offensive line. During his senior season, Cothren recorded 22 tackles with six and a half tackles for loss. Cothren was also a very versatile player, playing defensive end, defensive tackle and offensive tackle for Hazel Green High School.

Tyler Ferguson
QB | Bakersfield, Calif. | College of the Sequoias | Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 199
A standout quarterback at The College of the Sequoias in Visalia, Calif., quarterback Tyler Ferguson enters the spring semester with three years of eligibility at Penn State. Ferguson, who threw for 2,614 yards and 22 touchdowns in 10 games during 2012, is a 6-3, 199-pound signal-caller. He completed better than 55 percent of his passes and was the second-leading passer in the CCCAA’s Central Valley Conference. The Bakersfield, Calif., product threw for 1,275 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior at Ridgeview High School. He fueled a 6-0 start during his senior season in 2011 before suffering a broken collarbone. Ferguson is an accurate passer with good pocket awareness and the ability to tuck the ball and run when he needs to. Ferguson is one of five Nittany Lions already enrolled in classes.

Kasey Gaines
DB | Loganville, Ga. | Grayson High School | Ht: 5-10 | Wt: 160
Loganville, Ga. native Kasey Gaines will look to add some depth to the secondary and special teams unit when he arrives on campus. During his junior year at Grayson High School, Gaines had 93 tackles along with five interceptions during a season where he helped lead Grayson to the Georgia 5A state title. The defensive back earned First Team All-State honors during the 2011 campaign. Gaines was also named 2011 All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year. Gaines brings a high football IQ and good ball skills to the Nittany Lion program.

Christian Hackenberg
QB | Palmyra, Va. | Fork Union Military Academy | Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 215
Rated among the nation’s top incoming quarterbacks, Christian Hackenberg brings outstanding size and a superb skill set to the Bill O’Brien-led offense. A 2013 Under Armour All-American Game selection, Hackenberg has superb arm strength and mobility to play an instrumental role in leading the Penn State offense. A standout at Fork Union Military Academy, Hackenberg led his prep school to a state title as a sophomore. The Division 1 first-team VISAA All-State quarterback, threw for 2,144 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2012. Additionally, Hackenberg rushed for 436 yards and three scores on the ground. He was invited to “The Opening”, an all-star summer prospect camp held on the Nike Campus. Additionally, Hackenberg was a 2012 Elite 11 Finalist. The Virginia native is a skilled athlete with a high football IQ. Hackenberg has a quick release and all the tools necessary to be a prototypical passing quarterback for the Nittany Lions.

DaeSean Hamilton
WR | Fredericksburg, Va. | Mountain View High | Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 182
Receiver DaeSean Hamilton will add depth to the talented Nittany Lion receiver corps. The 6-foot-1, 182 pound Hamilton is known for his quickness and consistent hands. As a senior at Mountain View High, Hamilton caught 64 passes for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns. As a junior, he caught 73 passes for 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns. The versatile Hamilton also contributed as a safety in high school. Hamilton was rated a three-star prospect by both Scout and Rivals.

Tanner Hartman
G | Lynchburg, Va. | Lynchburg Christian Academy | Ht: 6-5 | Wt: 255
Guard Tanner Hartman brings good size and tenacity to the Nittany Lion offensive line. The 6-foot- 5, 255-pound Hartman played on both sides of the line at Liberty Christian Academy, but will look to contribute and provide depth on the Bill O’Brien-led offense. Hartman, who participated in the Chesapeake Bowl, played prep ball for former Penn State quarterback Frank Rocco. He earned first- team All-State (VISAA) honors as an offensive lineman during his senior season. Hartman is the son of Tom Hartman, a standout lineman at Virginia Tech. The Lynchburg, Va., native played against fellow signee Christian Hackenberg in a game during his senior season.

Zayd Issah
LB | Harrisburg, Pa. | Central Dauphin Senior High School | Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 215
Linebacker Zayd Issah will provide depth to the linebacking corps and will likely have an opportunity to contribute on special teams. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Issah is a versatile player, who contributed at multiple positions across the offense at Central Dauphin. Issah is a three-time all-state selection, and he earned Pennsylvania Class AAAA Co-Player of the Year as a junior. He registered 123 tackles and 14 sacks as a junior. Issah also had a big impact on the offensive end, rushing for 1,345 yards and 21 touchdowns while also catching 29 passes for 672 yards and 10 touchdowns. Issah also rushed for 1,653 yards and 26 touchdowns as a sophomore. A talented athlete with good size and speed, Issah will make an impact on the Penn State defense.

Brendan Mahon
G | Randolph, N.J. | Randolph High School | Ht: 6-4 | Wt: 315
Offensive guard Brendan Mahon will provide immediate depth to the offensive line. The 6-foot-4, 315-pound lineman brings terrific size to the Nittany Lion offense and is regarded for his sound technique. Mahon joined Garrett Sickels as one of two future Nittany Lions that participated in the U.S. Army All-American game, and he was a captain on the East squad. The Randolph, N.J. native was named second team all-state as a lineman. Mahon was rated a four-star prospect and the third- best guard in the nation by Rivals. The New Jersey Star-Ledger tabbed Mahon as the top offensive lineman in New Jersey.

Andrew Nelson
OT | Hershey, Pa. | Hershey High School | Ht: 6-5 | Wt: 295
A true offensive tackle, Andrew Nelson is highly regarded for his aggressiveness and quickness on the offensive line. The 6-foot-5, 263 pound lineman from Hershey High School will have an opportunity to add depth on a Nittany Lion offensive line that graduated two senior starters. Nelson competed in the Chesapeake Bowl and earned an invitation to the Big 33 Classic. The Hershey native was also named a third-team all-state selection for his efforts during his senior season. Nelson was rated a three-star prospect by Rivals.

Neiko Robinson
DB | Flomaton, Ala. | Northview High School | Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 170
Defensive back Neiko Robinson will look to have an impact in the Penn State secondary and on special teams when camp opens in the fall. The Flomaton, Ala. native is a smart and aggressive player. He is also versatile in the secondary, being able to play both cornerback and safety. As a junior at Flomaton High School, he was a first-team all-state selection. He transferred to Northview High School in Florida for his senior year. He finished his senior campaign with 95 tackles and seven interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns. Robinson was named first-team all-state after leading Northview to its first state championship in school history (Class A Florida state title). The three-star prospect is one of two signees in the class from Alabama, joining defensive tackle Parker Cothren.

Garrett Sickels
DE | Little Silver, N.J. | Red Bank Regional High School | Ht: 6-4 | Wt: 238
Defensive end Garrett Sickels has the tools to potential join a long list of successful Penn State defensive ends. The U.S. Army All-American comes to Penn State from Little Silver, N.J. Standing at 6-foot-4, 238-pounds, Sickels racked up 25 career sacks at Red Bank Regional High School. With Sean Stanley and Pete Massaro graduating, Sickels will look to provide some needed depth at the end position. Rated a four-star prospect by both Scout and Rivals, Sickels picked up nine sacks in his senior season. As a junior, Sickels recorded 76 tackles, nine hits for loss, 10 sacks, and forced three fumbles. Sickels is a talented player who will bring speed and power to the defensive line.

Anthony Smith
DB | Randolph, N.J. | Valley Forge Military Academy | Ht: 6-0 | Wt: 184
Defensive back Anthony Smith will likely have an opportunity to make an early impact during spring drills in the Penn State secondary and on special teams. A 6-foot, 184-pound defensive back hailing from Randolph, N.J., Smith spent last season at Valley Forge Military Academy. In addition to playing in the defensive backfield, Smith spent time at quarterback and was the long snapper for Valley Forge in 2012. He earned second-team All-West Jersey honors during his final season at Pope John XXIII High School (Sussex County, N.J.) in 2011. Smith is an aggressive player with the size and speed to add depth in the Penn State secondary and special teams unit when spring drills begin in March. Smith is one of five Nittany Lions already enrolled in classes.

Jordan Smith
DB | Washington, D.C. | H.D. Woodson High School | Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 178
Penn State has had a long line of talented players from suburban Washington, D.C., and 5-foot- 11, 178-pound defensive back Jordan Smith will look to join that list for the Nittany Lions. Smith is an aggressive athlete with the skill set to play in a number of different spots in the secondary. Like Anthony Smith, Jordan Smith will likely have an opportunity to add depth and make an early impact in the secondary and on special teams during spring drills. Smith tallied two-straight 60-plus tackle seasons at Archbishop Carroll High School before moving to H.D. Woodson High School in Washington, D.C. Smith has known former Penn State cornerback Stephon Morris since they were young children. Smith’s older brother, Stephen, played high school football with former Nittany Lion great Derrick Williams at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Maryland. Smith is one of five Nittany Lions already enrolled in classes.

Entering Championship Saturday, just one playoff spot remains open

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 11:  The College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy is seen on the field before the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game between the Clemson Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Getty Images
2 Comments

At least from my vantage point, it’s borderline staggering that we’ve reached the final full Saturday of the 2016 season. It seems like just days ago when, among other things, Texas was back and the epitaph for USC’s season had already been chiseled into its headstone.

Three months later, circumstances couldn’t be more different for not only those two programs but for a handful of others. Penn State representing the B1G East instead of conference bluebloods Ohio State or Michigan? Check. Washington (???) and Colorado (??????) fighting it out for Pac-12 supremacy last night? Yep. Western Michigan, 1-11 on this date three years ago, undefeated this year and looking every bit like the favorite to land the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six slot? Certainly. Alabama looking like a playoff lock even if… yeah, most everyone saw that coming even with their annual attrition.

Speaking of ‘Bama, the top-ranked Tide has already sewn up one of the four playoff slots, regardless of what happens in Atlanta against Florida.  Idle Ohio State, sitting at No. 2 after the penultimate CFP rankings, has a key in the deadbolt of a second spot and is just waiting for the committee to turn it Sunday afternoon.  No. 4 Washington’s methodical emasculation of Colorado guaranteed the Pac-12 will be back in the playoffs after a one-year absence.

While math is not my strong suit, that would appear to leave just one playoff spot to be decided in the coming hours.  No. 3 Clemson, should it take care of business against 9-3 Virginia Tech tonight in the ACC championship game, would render any further discussion moot and solidify the four-team playoff field.  Should the Hokies upset the Tigers?  Meh, maybe there’s some movement.

Such a development, a Clemson loss, could conceivably bring two teams back into the equation: Michigan and the winner of the Penn State-Wisconsin Big Ten championship game.  And, yes, that means I’m completely discounting the Bedlam winner as a playoff possibility because of Washington’s win.

So, Clemson, Penn State/Wisconsin, Michigan.  How do their résumés compare entering Week 14?

  • CLEMSON: One FCS win; nine Power Five wins; five Power Five road wins; three wins over current Top 25 CFP teams; two road wins over current Top 25 CFP teams.
  • MICHIGAN: Zero FCS games; eight Power Five wins; two Power Five road wins; three wins over current Top 25 CFP teams; zero road wins over current Top 25 CFP teams.
  • PENN STATE: Zero FCS games; eight Power Five wins; three Power Five road wins; one win over current Top 25 CFP teams; one road win over current Top 25 CFP teams.
  • WISCONSIN: Zero FCS games; eight Power Five wins; four Power Five road wins; one win over current Top 25 CFP teams; zero road wins over current Top 25 CFP teams.

For comparison’s sake, here’s Ohio State’s résumé using the same criteria that will weigh heavily in the committee’s decision:

  • OSU: Zero FCS games; nine Power Five wins; four Power Five road wins; three wins over current Top 25 CFP teams; two road wins over current Top 25 CFP teams.

Also part of the equation? Michigan beat both Penn State and Wisconsin at home but lost to Ohio State on the road.  Penn State beat Ohio State at home but lost by 39 to Michigan on the road.  Ohio State beat Michigan at home and Wisconsin on the road but lost to Penn State on the road.  Wisconsin lost to Michigan and Ohio State by a combined 14 points.

Got that, committee?

I’ve given Ohio State a near-mortal lock on a playoff spot, and its résumé more than speaks for itself.  Given Clemson’s 2016 pedigree, you could (should?) put them in that very same category even with a loss tonight.  With a win, they’d likely leapfrog OSU into the No. 2 seed.  And Washington, with a conference championship, could push OSU to No. 4.

In the end, seeding may be the only thing determined this weekend.

The stark reality is, there’s very little if any drama as it pertains to the playoff participants even before Championship Saturday kicks off.  The true reality will come when, at some point Sunday afternoon, a team that didn’t win its division let alone its conference becomes the first team to make the College Football Playoff.

The collective media/fan hyperventilating, at that point, will be off the charts and absolutely hilarious.  And the howls for an eight-team playoff will commence in earnest, which in and of itself will be a glorious and righteous and much-needed development.

Disney employees given free tickets in attempt to fill stadium for ACC championship game

FORT COLLINS, CO - NOVEMBER 01:  A lone fan takes his seat as the Brigham Young Cougars and the Colorado State Rams take the field to warm up prior to the game at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium on November 1, 2008 in Fort Collins, Colorado. BYU defeated CSU 45-42.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Getty Images
6 Comments

Thanks to a controversial bill passed in the state of North Carolina, the ACC moved this year’s football championship game from Charlotte to Orlando. That move, it seems, has played a role in creating an attendance problem for the conference.

Instead of Clemson and Virginia Tech fans having to travel just 130 or 170 miles or so, respectively, to Charlotte, it’s more than 560 for the former and 700 for the latter. If you’re a Tech fan and you’re driving, you’re going to spend an additional than $100-plus just in gas to get there and back.  And that’s just one aspect of the move that could add to the cost of a trip to Florida instead of North Carolina for both fan bases.

For Tiger fans, they also have to take into account that their team could be playing in a College Football Playoff semifinal and, potentially, the CFP title game, which could impact budget decisions when it comes traveling to the conference championship game. Dabo Swinney, though, doesn’t want his fan base to assume they’ll need to budget for other games until this one is in the books.

“I hope we have a great crowd. I hope we don’t just get complacent and say, ‘ah, well, we’ll go win that game. Let’s think about the next one.’ No, this is the biggest game of the year,” the Tigers head coach said earlier in the week. “It’s one thing to have an expectation, it’s another thing to have an appreciation. One of the things that sets Clemson fans apart is there’s always been a genuine appreciation.

“I know that it’s a game that’s been moved and all of that, and probably some frustration with that stuff. But hey, at the end of the day, we’re playing for a championship.”

Camping World Stadium has an official capacity of 70,000. The ACC estimates 50,000 fans will be in attendance according to one report.

According to TigerNet.com, tickets on StubHub.com are going for as little as &10.

Title game attendance issues aren’t limited to the ACC, though, as fellow Power Five leagues the Big Ten and Pac-12 have struggled this year either in actual attendance or on the secondary ticket market or both. “[U]pper deck tickets in Lucas Oil Stadium were less than $20 on the secondary market for Penn State-Wisconsin and the Washington-Colorado game was not yet a sellout,” USA Today wrote.

Perhaps one way to eliminate the attendance problem is to move the neutral-field game to on-campus sites at the home of the team ranked higher in the CFP Top 25, although such a move likely wouldn’t make fiscal sense to the various conferences and is therefore a non-starter.

Wyoming, Craig Bohl agree to new seven-year contract

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 10: Head coach Craig Bohl of the Wyoming Cowboys watches warmups before the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Less than 24 hours before the Mountain West championship game, one of the head coaches involved is being rewarded for, in part, getting there.

Wyoming announced Friday night that Craig Bohl has signed a new seven-year contract that would keep the coach with the Cowboys through the 2023 season.  The news comes as UW is set to face San Diego State in the MWC title game.

It’s the football program’s first-ever appearance in the game.

“When I hired Craig three years ago, I believed he was the best coach to turn around our football program,” said athletic director Tom Burman in a statement. “He has certainly delivered and the turnaround is evident in the performance of our team this season.

“What excites me most about this new contract is the opportunity to develop stability in our football program. Our fans, our student-athletes, donors and our state legislators will now get an opportunity to watch this football program continue to grow. I believe Coach Bohl is going to be the head football coach at the University of Wyoming for the rest of his career.”

Bohl came to UW after creating an FCS dynasty at North Dakota State, a program that won three straight national championship before Bohl left for Laramie after the 2013 season.  A 4-8 first season with the Cowboys gave way to a 2-10 second year that had some whispering that Bohl might be out of his element at the FBS level.

However, Bohl’s eight wins thus far this season are the most since 2008 and just the second time they’ve reached that mark since 1998.  With wins in the league title game and a bowl, the Cowboys would reach double-digits for the first time since 1996.

“This is a mutual agreement to continue to move Cowboy Football forward,” said Bohl. “I can’t thank Tom Burman, Governor Mead, President Nichols and numerous members of the state legislature enough for the support they’ve provided our football program to help us be successful. And to our donors, fans and the UW student body, I want to thank them for the enthusiastic manner in which they have embraced our team and our coaches. …

“All of these elements will provide the resources necessary to give Cowboy Football the opportunity for long-term success, which the people of Wyoming deserve.”

Starting QB Alex Hornibrook questionable for Wisconsin in B1G championship game

MADISON, WI - OCTOBER 15: Alex Hornibrook #12 of the Wisconsin Badgers warms up before the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Camp Randall Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The lead-up into tonight’s Big Ten championship game apparently won’t be without some injury intrigue.

On Wisconsin’s injury report ahead of its title game matchup with Penn State, quarterback Alex Hornibrook is listed as questionable with a head injury. The redshirt freshman sustained the injury in the regular-season finale against Minnesota last Saturday.

Hornibrook took over the starting job in late September and has started the last nine games in a row for the Badgers. However, for the last two-thirds of those starts, he shared significant time with Bart Houston.

Houston started the first three games of the season, and would get the start if Hornibrook is unable to go.

Also making a surprise appearance on the injury report for the Badgers? Defensive lineman Conor Sheehy, who’s listed as questionable with an injury to his right arm.

The junior has started 11 of 12 games this season and 19 total in his career. In 2016, he’s been credited with four tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.