Dominate the state. That is the motto new Penn State head coach James Franklin has been selling since his first press conference in Happy Valley. After putting together a solid Class of 2014 in his short time at Penn State, Franklin and his coaching staff have already lined up five of the top 15 players from the state of Pennsylvania for the Class of 2015, highlighted Thursday with the verbal commitment of running back Andre Robinson, from a Bishop McDevitt High school program in Harrisburg that has traditionally been rich in talent that goes away from Penn State. Whatever Franklin and his staff are doing at Penn State seems to be working.
Franklin and his staff have already been breathing new life in to a program still in recovery mode. The staff has embraced social media and is reaching out to fans and delivering a unified message. The coaches are also getting involved in their new surroundings. Just last weekend coaches checked out the record-breaking THON dance marathon on Penn State’s campus. For a football program that for years was stuck in old-fashioned methods, Franklin and his staff are embracing it and utilizing them to their advantage.
For decades now, Penn State has been considered a bit of a sleeping giant. Instead of the powerhouse that was expected to compete for Big Ten titles on an annual basis, the Nittany Lions have won just three Big Ten titles since joining the conference in 1993. The scandal that rocked the university and community in November 2011 may have helped derail a bid for a fourth conference title, and the fallout was expected to be much more severe.
Penn State was supposed to be a program leveled by NCAA sanctions in 2012, but Bill O’Brien managed to keep the program afloat, and Franklin appears set to have the program competing at a high level when an NCAA postseason ban is lifted in two more seasons, if not before. Franklin is aided by the NCAA giving back some lost scholarships, and the new head coach is capitalizing on that. With two years remaining on the postseason ban, Franklin is guiding the program to the end of the tunnel. While the university could take longer to regroup, and the healing process as a whole will continue on, as far as football is concerned it looks as though Franklin is in a good position to do some damage.
Penn State is not quite awake from sleeping giant status yet, but the alarm is about to go off.
We can joke about Lane Kiffin turning FAU into the real ‘Last Chance U’ in 2017 but… it’s kind of happening for real.
In addition to adding several alums from the Netflix show, the Owls have been stocking the roster left and right with FBS transfers this offseason and added yet another just before the season starts in West Virginia wide receiver Jovan Durante.
Durante has started 17 games in his first two seasons in Morgantown, racking up 331 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore in 2016. He was expected to assume a starting role once again this year but didn’t report to the Mountaineers preseason camp for what WVU coach Dana Holgorsen described as personal issues.
The South Florida native will have to sit out the 2017 season but will have two seasons of eligibility for the Owls after he redshirts this year.
When BYU announced this week that linebacker Francis Bernard was going to redshirt this season, only a few people seemed to think anything was really amiss. That does not seem to be the case anymore just a week before the Cougars start their season.
The Salt Lake Tribune talked with Bernard’s brother, James, about the matter and it appears the family is not too happy over the situation and is now looking to transfer. While that wouldn’t normally be much to write home about, the fact that the younger Bernard wants to move up the road to Holy War rival Utah is bound to raise some eyebrows.
“Just to be clear: My brother wants to transfer, regardless,” James Bernard told the paper. “We talk almost every day. He just doesn’t want to stay there any more.”
He went on to say that the reason that first prompted the redshirt announcement was not related to academics or playing time but a potential Honor Code issue with the school. What exactly that violation was however, is not exactly being made clear by the program to the family.
Bernard was suspended from the team’s bowl game last year for an unspecified violation of team rules but was given every indication that he would be back in the good graces of the team prior to preseason camp. That is obviously not the question and it appears a brewing transfer battle to move from Provo to Salt Lake City will soon be taking place between two bitter rivals over the junior linebacker.
Ohio State’s newish looking offense is expected to lean on the ground game early in 2017 but a key cog in that machinery might not be 100 percent healthy heading into the Buckeyes’ opener against Indiana.
Starting tailback Mike Weber has dealt with a lingering hamstring injury he suffered over the summer and hasn’t participated at all in the team’s preseason camp. Despite that bit of concerning news, it seems both the running back and the coaching staff is expecting him to be good to go in less than two weeks when the team kicks off the 2017 campaign.
“I’m getting close,” Weber said Friday, according to Cleveland.com. “They’ve been holding me back all camp to make sure I don’t have problems with it during the season. … I talk to the trainer a lot and it’s looking pretty good. I’m not at full speed yet, but I’m going to get there and I should be ready for the first game.”
Weber rushed for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns last year as a redshirt freshman and will see an increased load carrying the ball with Curtis Samuel off to the NFL. True freshman J.K. Dobbins has apparently slid into the backup role but running backs coach Tony Alford told reporters that the starting job is Weber’s when it comes time to go against the Hoosiers.
We’ll see if that eventually holds up given how finicky hamstring injuries are for tailbacks but at least the prognosis is good enough that Buckeyes fans can breathe a little easier as camp winds down in Columbus.
Some training camp traditions are better than others but one universal truth every fall is that coaches will bring up players to sing the school fight song in front of the team. As you can expect, often times hilarity ensues because players either don’t know the words or are so off-key with the notes that you can barely recognize what they’re singing.
Indiana coach Tom Allen joined in on the act this week by putting a few players through the same paces by having them belt out the lyrics to ‘Indiana Fight’ in front of both the team and cameras. The school naturally released video of the event on Friday, including a very special message at the end for one of the players signing:
That would be now-former walk-on Luke Timian, a projected starter this season who received a brand new scholarship from the Hoosiers and was mobbed by his teammates after the message flashed on the screens. The junior was involved in every game last year for Indiana and caught 19 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown.
As cool as the unveil was for Timian though, it’s a good thing he’s now a scholarship player at IU because it seems pretty clear that American Idol is not in the kid’s future. We’re all still suckers for videos of coaches handing out scholarships to walk-ons though and this is certainly one of the more unique ways to let a player know the school is picking up the check this semester.