Bill O’Brien announces 2013 Penn State signees

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(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.

Purdue vs. Indiana means Big Ten guaranteed to have eight bowl teams

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At the conclusion of Saturday’s schedule, the Big Ten had seven teams that had already clinched their bowl eligibility for the 2017 season. Though no new bowl tickets were punched on Saturday, Purdue’s upset win at Iowa and Indiana’s home rout of Rutgers assured the Big Ten of getting to eight bowl-eligible teams this season.

Purdue will host Indiana this week in one of the more important games in the rivalry in recent years as the winner will become bowl-eligible this season. That would be great news for the Big Ten, a sit would essentially guarantee the conference will manage to fill all of their partnered bowl spots for this season, although that could come up just short if one of the conference’s teams reaches the College Football Playoff. With Wisconsin still undefeated and Ohio State being discussed as a possible long shot to reach the playoff, this remains a realistic scenario. In addition to the Badgers and Buckeyes, the Big Ten also has bowl-eligible teams in Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan, Northwestern, and Iowa.

Here’s a look at the Big Ten’s bowl partners for the 2017 season, not including the Rose Bowl as it is being used as a College Football Playoff semifinal this year;

  • Orange Bowl: The highest-ranked team available from the Big Ten, SEC, or Notre Dame will play a team from the ACC. Wisconsin or Penn State would appear to be in line for a possible invite.
  • Outback Bowl: Vs. SEC
  • Holiday Bowl: Vs. Pac-12
  • TaxSlayer Bowl or Music City Bowl: The ACC and Big Ten split these bowl games, with each taking on a team from the SEC
  • Pinstripe Bowl: Vs. ACC
  • Foster Farms Bowl: Vs. Pac-12
  • Quick Lane Bowl: Vs. ACC
  • Heart of Dallas Bowl: Vs. Big 12

Because the Purdue vs. Indiana game must produce a six-win team, the Big Ten looks to be in great shape to fill out its bowl lineup. The only setback would be not being able to send any additional teams to other bowl games to fill in a spot where needed, unless five-win teams end up coming into play.

Minnesota is the only other five-win team on the Big Ten map right now with a chance to break through to a bowl game, but that may require beating Wisconsin for the first time since 2003 this week in order to hit the six-win requirement. Minnesota has reached a bowl game with five wins before, and it could still be in play under that scenario.

SEC West, Pac-12 North divisions on the line after Thanksgiving

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After a relatively lackluster weekend of college football, a mix of rivalry games and division races crossing the finish line will be among the many highlights this week. The most notable of those races will be the SEC West and the Pac-12 North, as they will play a role in the greater College Football Playoff picture to various degrees. Throw in the possible Big 12 championship game scenarios and we have some good stuff to look forward to this week.

The ACC and Big Ten championship games are already locked in. Clemson will face Miami and the ACC hopes each will avoid an upset this weekend in order to keep this a potential matchup of top four teams at worst. Wisconsin and Ohio State are set to square off in Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship, and that game also figures to play a key role in the College Football Playoff picture.

USC clinched the Pac-12 South and now gets a bye week to prepare for the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Trojans will face either Stanford or Washington State. That opponent will be determined by the Apple Cup between Washington State and Washington. If the Cougars win, they will play USC in the Pac-12 championship game. If Washington State loses to Washington, then it will be Bryce Love and Stanford going against Sam Darnold and the Trojans.

The Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn will determine the SEC West Division champion, with the winner advancing to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game to face East Division champion Georgia.

The Big 12 championship game is also still to be determined. Oklahoma will play either TCU or Iowa State, although it is most likely to be the Horned Frogs who will face the Sooners. Iowa State would need a win and TCU to lose to Baylor in addition to a combination of two losses from Texas, West Virginia and Oklahoma State. If TCU beats Baylor, TCU will be in.

The Group of Five puzzle still has a few pieces to figure out as well. Fresno State and Boise State must still learn where their Mountain West Conference championship game will be played. Memphis will play the winner of this week’s UCF vs. USF game, with the location to be determined. Conference USA has FAU vs. North Texas ready to go, but the MAC will have both divisions settled this week. Akron will clinch the East with a win on Tuesday, otherwise, the door will be open for Ohio to grab the division on Friday with a win. Toledo will clinch the West with a win or an NIU loss, while NIU can clinch the division with a win and a Toledo loss.

While it does not play a conference championship game this season, the Sun Belt Conference crown is also up for grabs. Troy, Arkansas State, Georgia State, and Appalachian State are all 5-1 in conference play going into this week, leaving the door open for an interesting conference championship situation. Troy will play at Arkansas State, so the winner of that game will finish in no worse than a tie for first place. Georgia State has two games remaining, including this week’s game against Appalachian State. Again, the winner here will be in a tie for first place. Georgia State and Arkansas State do not play this season, so the two could finish with a true split conference championship. Troy and Appalachian State also do not play, presenting another potential scenario for a true split conference championship. But if Troy and Georgia State end the season with the same conference record, then Troy would own the head-to-head tiebreaker for bragging rights. Let’s just get through this week first and then re-evaluate the Sun Belt championship picture with one week of games still to play.

Got all that?

UCLA relieves Jim Mora of head coach duties effective immediately

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UCLA has announced it has relieved head coach Jim Mora of his coaching duties effective immediately. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch will take over as the team’s interim coach for the remainder of the season.

“Making a coaching change is never easy, but it’s an especially difficult decision when you know that a coach has given his all to our University,” UCLA athletics director Dan Guerrero in a released statement. “Jim helped reestablish our football program, and was instrumental in so many ways in moving the program forward. While his first four seasons at UCLA were very successful, the past two seasons have not met expectations. We thank Jim and his family for his service to our school and his unquestionable commitment to our student-athletes.”

Mora was in his sixth season as the head coach of the Bruins and it was largely a run that had some promise at times but never fully took advantage of a division that included a USC program held back by NCAA sanctions. Mora coached UCLA to two 10-win seasons in 2013 and 2014 and has seen his win totals hit 8, 4 and 5 wins in the three seasons since. What makes the Mora legacy so frustrating is he had talent to work with. Among solid recruiting classes during his time at UCLA, Mora coached two NFL quarterbacks in Brett Hundley and Josh Rosen as well as one of the top defensive players in recent years (Myles Jack) still failed to deliver a Pac-12 championship. Mora was 46-30 as UCLA’s head coach, but the trends were heading in the wrong direction at a time when crosstown rival USC continues to be rising, thus increasing the pressure for UCLA to keep up.

UCLA’s loss on Saturday night to the Trojans dropped UCLA to 5-6 on the season, leaving the Bruins in need of a win this week against Cal in order to become bowl eligible (without hoping for vacancies needing to be filled by 5-win teams). USC will play for the Pac-12 championship a year after going winning the Rose Bowl in the stadium UCLA calls home.

The UCLA job is one that should be expected to draw some interesting names to the rumor mill. Among them could end up being Chip Kelly, who doesn’t feel like a great fit in the SEC and has past success in the Pac-12 while at Oregon. UCLA’s release confirms the school will begin a national search for a new head coach.

AP Top 25 stands firm with few modifications; TCU back in top 10

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Like the coaches poll, the AP Top 25 saw few changes to its look this week after a fairly straight-forward weekend of college football for the nation’s top-ranked teams. No. 1 Alabama remains the clear favorite among the AP voters, with 58 first-place votes to stay ahead of the field.

The top nine teams remain unchanged from last week with Miami falling in at second behind Alabama, with Oklahoma, Clemson, Wisconsin, Auburn, Georgia, Ohio State, and Notre Dame next in line. No. 10 TCU is the newest member of the top 10 in the AP poll after moving up one spot this week, followed by USC and Penn State with similar moves up. All three were bumped up after former No. 10 Oklahoma State fell to No. 18 this week following a home loss to Kansas State. No. 13 UCF, No. 14 Washington State, No. 15 Washington, No. 16 Mississippi State, and No. 17 Memphis all moved up a spot at the expense of the drop by the Cowboys.

Three new teams appear in the top 25 this week at the bottom of the poll. No. 23 Northwestern, No. 24 Virginia Tech, and No. 25 Boise State fill out this week’s poll.

Here is this week’s AP Top 25:

  1. Alabama (58 first-place votes)
  2. Miami (3)
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Clemson
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Auburn
  7. Georgia
  8. Ohio State
  9. Notre Dame
  10. TCU
  11. USC
  12. Penn State
  13. UCF
  14. Washington State
  15. Washington
  16. Mississippi State
  17. Memphis
  18. Oklahoma State
  19. LSU
  20. Stanford
  21. Michigan State
  22. USF
  23. Northwestern
  24. Virginia Tech
  25. Boise State