Christian Hackenberg

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Connor Cook responds to critical narrative about him at NFL Combine

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Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg isn’t the only former Big Ten quarterback looking to set the record straight at the NFL Scouting Combine this week in Indianapolis. Michigan State’s Connor Cook has had to answer some questions as well with regard to the narrative surrounding him coming out of East Lansing. That narrative is one that suggests he either has an ego too big to be a respected leader (for whatever reason that may be) or that he just is not liked by his peers.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people about it,” Cook said when getting a chance to meet with the media at the combine, according to MLive.com. “We had a great group of leaders that were seniors. We had a leadership of council of 12 guys and they’d pick a different guy each week from that council to be a captain and I was selected for four games. Usually guys are only selected once throughout the season.

Two of the biggest stains on Cook’s profile seem to be his awkward acceptance of the MVP trophy following Michigan State’s victory over Iowa in the Big Ten championship game and his decision to pass on attending the Senior Bowl. Cook previously addressed the postgame trophy presentation, and he stood by his decision to skip the Senior Bowl and train with quarterback guru George Whitfield in San Diego. Remember, Cook was coming off a shoulder injury that he played through in the Big Ten title game (against Iowa) and College Football Playoff (against Alabama). Cook says his shoulder is in good shape now.

“There’re no issues, no problems and I’m going to go out there and sling it,” Cook said.

Experts seem to have a range of opinions on where Cook will ultimately be drafted. Like Hackenberg, a case a year ago was made Cook may have been one of the first quarterbacks selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, but he has been projected to go anywhere from the first to third rounds so far.

Hackenberg: No hard feelings with James Franklin

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Christian Hackenberg created a bit of a stir when he omitted Penn State head coach James Franklin from his announcement confirming he will be passing on his final year in Happy Valley and entering the NFL Draft. Now at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, that was one of the topics of conversation once again as Hackenberg makes his rounds with the media. Hackenberg says there is no friction with his now former head coach at Penn State.

“We’re fine,” Hackenberg said, according to PennLive. “No hard feelings there. I think he’s doing a great job up there in terms of recruiting and getting the program headed in the right direction.”

Franklin previously said he had spoken to Hackenberg about his decision, perhaps easing the tension from the way things looked as Hackenberg was on his way out. Hackenberg’s lack of public thanks to Franklin was viewed as a slap in the face of Franklin during a month that also saw two assistant coaches leave to fill the same position in other programs and a small handful of players opt to transfer for one reason or another. But Hackenberg says there was no ill-will intended.

“It was one of those times where it was really emotional,” Hackenberg said. “It was a decision that was made, and I didn’t have anything written out, so what came to mind was the people I spent a lot of time with and the people that brought me to Penn State. Coach Franklin and I had a conversation in person, and I felt like that was best for our relationship to thank him on a personal level.”

Hackenberg did single out a couple of assistants on Franklin’s staff, including offensive coordinator John Donovan, who was fired after the end of the regular season.

Derrick Green granted release by Michigan, will transfer

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After much speculation of late, the Michigan playing career of Derrick Green has come to an end.

A source with knowledge of the situation has confirmed to CFT that Green received a release from his UM scholarship earlier this week and will transfer out of the Wolverines football program.  Rumors have been swirling for weeks that Green is a potential, or even likely transfer, although there has been no official confirmation from either side.

“The student-athlete is the one that should be confirming his decision… as we prefer they communicate their desire to transfer/graduate and play another season elsewhere. We do not confirm those decisions as an institution,” a UM spokesperson said in response to an email seeking confirmation of Green’s decision to transfer.

The running back is expected to stay in school until he graduates in the spring.  At that point, he’d be a grad transfer eligible to play immediately in 2016 if he ends up at another FBS program.  That would be his final season of eligibility, although the back does have a redshirt he could use if it became necessary.

Green came to the Wolverines as one of the highest-rated recruits in the Class of 2013.  In fact, according to Rivals.com, he was the No. 8 player at any position in the country, ahead of the likes of Ole Miss’ Laremy Tunsil (No. 14), Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg (No. 24) and 2015 Heisman winner Derrick Henry (No. 36), all of whom made themselves eligible for the April NFL draft.  That on-paper talent, though, never really translated into the anticipated on-field production.

In three seasons in Ann Arbor, Green totaled 898 yards on 212 carries (4.2 ypc) and seven touchdowns.  His best season came in 2014, when as a sophomore he ran for 471 yards and averaged 5.7 ypc before injuries derailed the last half of the year.

Instead of building off that momentum, however, Green ran for just 157 yards the first nine games of the 2015 season before failing to see the field the last four games.  As if to put an exclamation on the disappointment, Green did not travel with his teammates to Orlando for the Jan. 1 Citrus Bowl because of what head coach Jim Harbaugh described as “an internal matter.”

With the God-given talent Green possesses, however, he should have little trouble finding a Power Five landing spot for his senior season.

Penn State LB transferring to Delaware

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Penn State linebacker Troy Reeder is leaving the program and returning closer to home. The redshirt sophomore will be joining the Delaware Blue Hens, according to a report from Lions 247.

Reeder was Penn State’s fourth-leading tackler in 2015 with 67 tackles. For a defense that at times was in need of quality depth, Reeder tended to step up and make plays with some good signs of potential moving forward. At Delaware, he will join his younger brother, Colby Reeder, who committed to Delaware last week. Reeder’s father, Dan Reeder, also played for Delaware. Because Reeder is transferring to a program at the FCS level, he will be eligible to play right away in the fall for the Blue Hens of the CAA.

Reeder’s sudden departure adds to a growing list of roster amendments for Penn State this offseason. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg declared early for the NFL Draft. So did defensive tackle Austin Johnson. Tight end Adam Breneman was forced to retire due to chronic knee issues. Wide receiver Geno Lewis announced a transfer to Oklahoma. Penn State should be OK at the linebacker position in 2016 with Jason Cabinda, Nyeem Wartman-White and Brandon Bell all expected to be back. Penn State will also have a new defensive coordinator with Brent Pry being promoted to the role following the departure of Bob Shoop to Tennessee.

Penn State will also apparently be down a cornerback on the roster in 2016, according to Bob Flounders of The Patriot News;

Penn State WR Geno Lewis to transfer to Oklahoma

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Penn State wide receiver Geno Lewis will be catching footballs with some other college football team in the fall. Lewis announced his intention to transfer out of Penn State with a statement released on his Twitter account Monday morning. Lewis announced he will transfer to Oklahoma.

“After a long discussion with my family and coaches, I have decided that it would be in my best interest to transfer from Penn State University to pursue my graduate studies and play football with my last year of eligibility,” Lewis said in his statement. “This was not an easy decision but I feel like it is time to move on to the next chapter of my life.”

Because Lewis will be a graduate transfer, he will be eligible to play immediately with any other FBS program in the fall. Lewis was Penn State’s fourth-leading wide receiver in 2015 with 196 yards and three touchdowns. This was just one season after being the team’s second-leading receiver with 751 yards and two touchdowns. As a freshman in 2013, Lewis hauled in 18 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns as well. Lewis saw his production take a back step as young receivers like Chris Godwin, DaeSean Hamilton and Saeed Blacknall emerged for the Nittany Lions. Godwin, a sophomore, was a 1,000-yard receiver this season and Hamilton, also a sophomore, led the team with six touchdown catches. All three leading receivers from 2015 are expected to return for Penn State in 2016.

Lewis was the top-rated recruit in Penn State’s Class of 2012, the first under Bill O’Brien just weeks after being introduced as head coach. Penn State’s Class of 2012 was derailed by the Jerry Sandusky scandal fallout that led to the firing of Joe Paterno. Before Christian Hackenberg and Adam Breneman had a chance to be the leaders and glue of O’Brien’s first full recruiting class, Lewis was seen as the jewel of Penn State’s torched Class of 2012. Lewis was the only four-star recruit in Penn State’s Class of 2012.

UPDATE (12:45 pm): Lewis announced he will be moving to Oklahoma. This is the second time in a few years Penn State lost a transferring wide receiver to Oklahoma. Justin Brown transferred from Penn State to Oklahoma when the NCAA gave a free transfer exemption to Penn State players in 2012 with the sanctions dropped on the program.