Chat with Josh Moyer
Welcome to NittanyNation! On Friday, reporter Josh Moyer stops by to chat about the state of Penn State football.
Moyer joined ESPN.com in 2012 after previously working for The Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Send your questions now and join Moyer Friday at 1 p.m. ET!
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:00 PM)
Hey everybody! Thanks for joining us this week. We got a lot of questions already, so we'll get right to it. Who's up first?
Sean (Elkton, MD)
Hey Josh. I know you are speaking to recruits quite often. I was wondering if you have gotten the impression that the majority of recruits still view Penn State as a great destination or if they are put off by all the negative press about the school and the football program?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:02 PM)
I don't think there's anything more that could come out that would deter kids from coming to Penn State. O'Brien keeps emphasizing how they're moving forward and rebuild this program, and recruits are buying into that. Honestly, I think it's more the sanctions that are preventing some kids from coming to PSU, rather than the Sandusky scandal. I don't know if that's been said before, but I don't think you'd find many disagreements in the recruiting community. I know you're probably alluding to the SI article, but I don't think that'll affect anything. Plus, for all that "negative press," there was plenty of positives -- keeping the team together, O'Brien as coach of the year, etc. that recruits also saw.
Rob P (Morristown, NJ)
Good Afternoon Josh, happy for another Nittany Lion football chat...Do you think the offering of JJ Cosentino who has already committed to Florida St. was for the purpose of pressuring O'Connon to commit sooner? (I think I saw they offered another QB or two in the past couple of weeks) But Cosentino seemed to be a pretty strong FSU commit, so I don't really understand the timing, I know he was recruited by PSU for a while now, they could have offered sooner...does it look like O'Connon is not a strong PSU lean anymore?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:05 PM)
I was talking to a few other recruiting writers about that. The timing is a little odd, but I think PSU's just trying to cover its bases here. O'Connor, in my opinion, is still a PSU lean -- and he planned on deciding in June anyway. (He'll be an early enrollee.) So there was really no need to push him. I see this as more of preparing for the worst-case scenario. Now, if PSU offered an uncommitted QB, I think that'd probably more show that PSU wants to hurry O'Connor along. So I wouldn't read into it that they like him any less or think he's heading elsewhere right now.
What are the chances that Penn State does enough to Land Peppers this weekend
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:06 PM)
I'm hearing that he's no longer heading to PSU this weekend, but I haven't been able to confirm that with Peppers or his coach yet. Even if he did visit, I wouldn't have put the odds at better than 25-to-1. PSU is a big long-shot here -- even moreso now -- so I wouldn't count on that. Dravon Henry is another guy high atop their big board that they do have a shot at ... if they can beat out Pitt. Peppers is going to Michigan.
Adam (Arlington, VA)
Josh, have a question about Jabrill Peppers' recruitment. PSU has said that he's the top guy on their board. If (and its a BIG if) he gives PSU a verbal committment, what would happen if another DB committed between now and the 26th? Would they have to pull a scholarship from someone who verbally committed?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:07 PM)
I can't see PSU pulling a scholarship from anybody. O'Brien's said before he doesn't want to turn into the "Wild West," and he really emphasizes his honesty. How many other coaches would tell their most-experienced QB they probably wouldn't start so he could transfer elsewhere in time? So, going along that same line, I just don't see them doing something like that. I'd be really surprised if O'Brien ever pulled an SEC-move like that.
Tom (Manalapan, NJ)
Hi there Josh. There seems to be a consensus that we need one offensive and defensive lineman in the 2014 class. It seems like Beh is the only offensive linemen we have a legitimate shot at right now. Do you think he'll commit to us and if not, do you believe we won't pick up any offensive lineman?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:08 PM)
Haha, you're killing me, Tom. We just had a story on Beh yesterday where he talked in-depth about that. Based off what he said -- and I'm sure you'll feel the same way if you read it -- he'll commit to PSU soon, probably early June. Even if he changed his mind at the least minute a la Jake Waters, PSU would still find another OT somewhere.
JJ (Danbury, CT)
Any updates on our coaches visiting players in SEC country, during the spring evaluation period?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:10 PM)
Yeah, JJ, it seems as if PSU's really trying to build a pipeline to Florida now. Anthony Midget's been there, he used to coach high school there, but it's not going to come easy. I spoke to Tarvarus McFadden, whom PSU offered, and he had no opinion on PSU. Said he didn't know anything about them. Florida commits will come few and far between, but it's a gradual process. I can't see Midget bolting anytime soon -- this was a big step up for him -- so this is kind of a long-term step in the right direction. There probably won't be a lot of short-term payoff here.
Hey Josh, what are PSU's chances with Eluemunor? And are they still pursuing Mike Grimm and Alex Bars?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:11 PM)
I'm hearing from multiple sources that PSU has really cooled on Eluemunor -- and I don't think it's an issue with his play or academics. Alex Bars is a long-shot to land at PSU, and Mike Grimm likes PSU a lot -- I think he'd probably commit -- but PSU hasn't offered. I don't think PSU likes Grimm as much as he likes Penn State. But Noah Beh will likely commit to PSU, so that'll fill the OT spot.
Seeing as we have a Jr and SR at K and P respectively do you think that the coaching staff will offer any scholarships in the next 2 seasons to a punter or kicker? Are they just hoping Gulla or another walk-on pans out so they don't have to use a scholarship on a kicker/punter?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:13 PM)
Ed, usually it's hard to project what PSU might do 2-3 years in the future when it comes to what positions they'll offer. But I can almost guarantee you that they will not offer a punter or kicker. They already have two on scholarship, and there's no way they're carrying more than that. There's just no room. And there are plenty of quality kickers/punters who aren't on scholarship. Chris Gulla is a quality one, and he can punt and kick -- although he's probably at least a year or two away from punting. PSU will probably see what he's capable of first before going after some more. He'll be on campus June 22; he's made 67 straight PATs, too.
Adam (Arlington, VA)
Josh, it seems like several of PSU's recent commits are guys that aren't as highly regarded. (i.e. not graded by ESPN) I realize that ratings don't always translate into great players at the next level, but do you think PSU is being selective enough with who it offers, given the scholarship restrictions for this year and the looming 65 scholarship limit? Are they at risk of missing out on any big-name recruits because they haven't saved enough scholarships? Thanks and keep up the great work on the blog!
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:15 PM)
I'm glad you asked that, Adam. Just because a guy isn't ranked doesn't mean ESPN doesn't like him, not necessarily. I know our scouts are high on Troy Apke and that he factored into PSU's class ranking. We have a handful of guys who try to take a look at a lot of their film -- not just highlights -- to come up with their grades and scouting report. That being said, PSU is definitely being selective with their offers. I don't think they're really in danger of missing out on big-name recruits. They're not going to land Peppers, and I think they'll be able to find space for one guy (Dravon Henry) if he chooses to commit. This class might be all but wrapped up by the end of June -- except for Henry and probably DT.
Rob P (Morristown, NJ)
Can I make a blanket statement and say that NO highly rated high school recruit has picked PSU during a press conference on national tv...didn't T.Pryor spurn PSU on national tv for Ohio State...I know there have been others...I do not recall anyone who has put on the PSU baseball cap...
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:16 PM)
You're not the first person to tell me that. There was a lot of media at Antonio Logan-El's commitment ... but I don't think it that was nationally televised. Can anyone recall for sure? He definitely spurned Maryland there in favor of PSU there.
Will H. (NoVa)
Josh, do you know our 2014 OOC schedule? I know we play Temple
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:18 PM)
There's also Akron and another non-conference spot is TBA.
Anthony (Blue Bell,PA)
Josh, do you think the recent SI story will make recruits think twice about coming here or because O'Brien came out so strongly against it is it a non-issue?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:19 PM)
No. I think it's a combination. David Epstein's a great writer, but I don't think many people -- even Penn Staters -- continue to talk about that piece now. There's definitely a good underlying story there, on David Joyner and his politics, but PSU's medical care is obviously no worse than other major programs. It's on par or better.
Any chance we get Lackawanna's Jermaine Eluemunor or is he all Alabama's?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:20 PM)
No, don't think PSU wants him much anymore. They've cooled on him.
jay p (philipsburg pa)
who do you look to break out this year for psu?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:22 PM)
Donovan Smith is No. 1 on my list. He was injured last season, but there was a HUGE difference on the OL when Gress-Farrell were in there as opposed to Smith-Farrell. If he stays healthy, I think he's a shoo-in for the All-Big Ten team. Mike Hull is also a popular choice for obvious reasons. Austin Johnson, too.
In response to Rob's question, what about Derrick Williams, he was live on ESPNNEWS when he announced his decision?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:23 PM)
Good question -- and I'll be completely honest. I can't remember where he announced. Anybody?
Brian (Portland, Ore)
In response to Carl. Actually, DWill announced for the University of Penn State ;-)
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:23 PM)
Haha. Oh yeah, ditto for Thompkins. He joked about that in a Q&A with us like two weeks ago.
Is there now a zero percent chance Peppers picks psu after canceling his visit this weekend?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:24 PM)
I think zero percent would be pretty accurate. Maybe 0.1 percent. It's near zero.
Rob P (Morristown, NJ)
How could I forget DWilliams, the SAVIOR of PSU football...while I was a student there!! Thanks Carl!
Craig (Richmond, VA)
I am getting a little nervous with how thin we are at linebacker and only one so far in recruiting....what is the plan?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:27 PM)
Hope that a non-scholarship player steps up -- or that Brandon Bell surprises. Honestly, there's not much else to do. It's not like last season where PSU can just bring in two LBs right before camp starts. Garth Lakitsky is now OFFICIALLY a PSU guy, so he should help, too. But I've heard good things about current non-scholarship guys like Cole and Baney. If PSU stays healthy, it should be OK there. Four LBs saw a lot of time last season, and there will be six scholarship guys this season once Kline returns and Bell enrolls.
Tyler (Hanover PA)
How many more commits of the 2014 class is Penn State allowed?Who could be the next to commit?What are the chances on another big name recruit?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:29 PM)
Well, PSU will probably have about 13 commits in this class. They can't really sign more because of the 65-scholarship limit that kicks in next year. I think O'Connor and Beh will announce for PSU in early June. You never know what can happen in the world of recruiting but, right now, I think they're both PSU leans. Troy Vincent, too. As far as the DT, that's a hard one to project. I think PSU is the team to beat for Walker, and our recruiting writers projected Thomas Holley to pick PSU as well. Guess that's a good problem to have.
Aaron (Burke, Va)
Michigan is killing us in recruiting, and seem to be in better shape than us with some of our remaining top targets. Is beating them on the field our only way to counter this trend?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:32 PM)
I think that'd be pretty fair to say, Aaron. Michigan and Ohio State are both top-5 or top-10 programs. PSU's not right now. I think that's why you don't see the Andrew Browns of the world pledging to PSU right now. If PSU made several straight BCS bowl appearances or beat up those teams consistently? Oh yeah. If O'Brien can turn in great classes through the sanctions, it'd be pretty incredible to think of what he could do with a pitch like that to supplement everything.
Aaron (Burke, Va)
Thanks for doing these chats. My question is, are we putting too much faith in our S/C and OL staff when we recruit undersized OT's, or is the thought that they can switch later to DE if they do not add the weight? Namely, Hartman and Beh, were both destructive DE's and by all acccounts great kids. Asking them to add 50 pounds in 3 yrs to start by their R-So. year just seems like a tall order. Thanks!
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:34 PM)
Hmmm. Well, it is kind of interesting with Beh. O'Brien called him to his office, didn't offer and then called him back -- he seemingly changed his mind -- to offer him. Seemed like his size was a sticking point, but O'Brien told him could always add that weight and O'Brien wasn't worried about it. Is it a tall order? Sure, but Hartman and Beh both have the frame for it. I talked to Hartman's coach not too long ago, and he said he's added a lot of good weight recently. Parker Cothren needs to bulk up, too. If Beh can't? Well, a lot of teams want him at DE. So the worst-case scenario isn't too bad.
Jim T. (Media, PA) [via mobile]
Hi Josh! I love reading your articles on a daily basis. Regarding the Penn State arms race, I always thought Steven Bench was a huge Penn State fan/supporter based on his enthusiasm on the sidelines during games last year. Do you see his leaving being due to the Hackenberg future as much as this year's competition with Ferguson? Does Bench have a realistic chance to even start for one of the schools that he is rumored to transfer to? How does 2014 QB prospect O'Connor compare to Hackenberg including projected relative ESPN 150 ranking?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:37 PM)
Hey Jim, thanks -- good to hear! And, yeah, Bench was a popular guy in the locker room and he was/is a big PSU guy. He just wants to start. Hack and Ferguson were going to get first-team snaps and I don't think Bench would've been able to do that. I haven't heard too much of three guys splitting first-team snaps ... So, yeah, I don't think he left just because of Ferguson. I mean, he told me that. To answer your other questions, yes, Bench does have a shot to start at one of the other schools. And O'Connor is ranked No. 123 while Hack was No. 15. O'Connor already runs an offense similar to PSU and really impressed Charlie Fisher with his football knowledge. I think that's the one thing Hack needs to work on to be a great QB.
Ajay Devaraj (Lincoln, NE)
Hi Josh, this is Ajay from Husker territory but a hardcore nittany lion.. I have a bunch of questions for you today. When the sanctions came out ppl said Penn State football is dead because they wont be able to recruit high quality players and wont have a winning season for the foreseeable future. My questions are:1) With this current recruiting class and last years class has this coaching staff made it clear it can recruit high quality players? and are you surprised with the recruiting results so far?2) If Penn State has a 7-5 season (though my heart says its gonna be a 9-3 season due to BILLieve) with a 65 member roster, is it fair enough to say NCAA sanctions dint hurt much and Penn State will be a force to reckon with once the sanctions are over?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:42 PM)
1.) Absolutely. I don't know what more evidence someone would need to see. PSU has a top-15 recruiting class right now and had a top class last year, too. Hackenberg, Breneman, Mahon, Sickels, Godwin, Thompkins, Reeder -- those are players nearly any team in the country would love to have. I thought PSU would do OK ... but, honestly, I didn't think they'd be able to do this well. I thought there'd be more guys like Daquan Worley, under-the-radar guys who don't have many offers. 2.) That's a hard one. The sanctions still hurt; the argument is just the degree to which it hurt. PSU's still thriving right now with those sanctions ... but you have to ask yourself just how well they'd be doing without the sanctions. If PSU has a 9-3 season, I think that might be safe to say the sanctions' impact has been minimal to its win/loss record. It's hard to judge that without seeing how the season goes; if a LB goes down and PSU doesn't have the depth to fill that spot and struggles, OK, yeah, the sanctions hurt them a lot. I'm hemming and hawing here ... but I still think the verdict's out with that one.
Andrew (Springfield, pa)
Josh, have you heard anything about how Christian Hackenberg is picking up the playbook?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:44 PM)
Yeah, I last talked to him about a month ago. He's trying to study that whenever he gets some free time. It's different from what he's used to, but it got easier after the first few weeks. I remember him saying the Under-Armour Game helped prepare him because he had to learn a lot in a short period of time.
Seeing as how were almost done with 2014... What prospects do we have to look forward to in 2015? Any with high PSU interest already?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:46 PM)
Yeah, there's a few here. Rick DeBerry is an LB recruit that PSU's high on -- and Jake Cooper is an LB recruit who absolutely loves PSU. John Butler visited him this past week, and he'll see Cooper again later this month. (Tuesday after Memorial Day, I want to say.) I think Cooper would commit to PSU before the end of his junior season if PSU offered him. Other guys to watch include CB Jordan Whitehead, OL Steven Gonzalez ... and I know there are more. Those are just the guys I can think of off the top of my head.
Corey (Brookville, PA)
Richy Anderson looked pretty solid in the B/W game. Do you think he's in a better position to see the field right now than Kenney?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:49 PM)
That's a VERY good question. Alex Kenney has really underperformed since he arrived at PSU. He seems more like a track star playing football than the other way around. I'd love to give you a clear answer, Corey, but I'm not entirely sure. I don't think the coaching staff is entirely sure yet. If Kenney struggles, they will plug Anderson in there. I think it's a bit like the Belton situation.
Andrew (Springfield, pa)
Do you see Eugene Lewis having a breakout year? I read that he is impressing everyone. He looks to be a game changer.
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:50 PM)
When someone asked earlier about breakouts, I thought about listing Lewis. He's definitely a playmaker, and I think he has a bright future at PSU. The only negative now is that he's still learning that position -- and that's why he redshirted last season. He's a great athlete, but he was a HS quarterback. He's a guy who's only going to get better, but he's definitely worth keeping an eye on. Lewis-Hamilton-Godwin-Thompkins-Apke is one heck of a future lineup. That's four, maybe five, four-star guys.
Don't we have two linebackers in recruiting (Reeder and Wangler)?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:51 PM)
Yeah, they're 2014 commits so they'll be on the field next season. Brandon Bell is the 2013 commit who'll be on the field this year.
Josh, any thoughts on the run-ons and if any of them could help in the future?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:55 PM)
I think a lot of them could help. I spoke to Marcus Allen's coach earlier this week and he said something that stuck with me. To paraphrase: Small kids have to prove they can play. Big kids have to prove they can't play. I talked to another coach for about an hour who said he thought today's coaches focused too much on what players look like and not enough on how they can play football. There's a Moneyball-approach here waiting to happen, and I think BOB's trying to figure that out with the run-ons -- like Gregg Garrity, for example. There's a great route-runner with great hands who's small. Tom Pancoast is "too tall" for a safety. Those are guys who could contribute. And, of course, I can't forget to mention Jack Seymour when we're talking about run-ons. Kid turned down several offers to walk-on to PSU. Might not start at QB, but he should be a solid backup eventually.
Josh, just how competitive do you think Penn State can be over the next few seasons? Do you see a losing season or two before the sanctions end?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:56 PM)
With Hackenberg there for four seasons, I think PSU will be able to escape the sanctions without a losing record. If you polled 100 sportswriters -- yes, I have to admit, me included -- the week after the sanctions came out, I bet you zero would've said that. Now I think the majority would agree with me. That's a pretty crazy turnaround.
rob (Rochester, NY)
do you think the QB race will be open after this season or do you see whoever wins this year keeping that spot until they graduate or enter the draft?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:58 PM)
Even if Ferguson wins the job this season, I just can't see them keeping Hackenberg on the bench. If Hackenberg wins it and leads the team to a winning record, he'll be a four-year starter. If Ferguson wins it, I think it'll be an open competition next year.
Andrew (Springfield, pa)
Josh last question...What is your expert opinion on O'brien leaving PSU for the NFL?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (2:00 PM)
I don't think this is a destination job for O'Brien, and I haven't come across one fan yet who thinks he'll be another Joe Paterno. He seems destined for the NFL, so I think it's just a matter of time. He's told several commits this season that he'll be there throughout their careers. So I think he'll get PSU past these sanctions. And then? I think he'd leave when the right opportunity came long. Just my opinion.
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (2:01 PM)
OK, guys, that's all the time for this week. I'm actually going on vacation -- hey, only one a year! -- next week in Austin, Texas. I'll still have some content for you guys, but it'll all return to normal the week after. So you guys have a good one, and I'm sure I'll be talking to you all again soon!