Hey guys! Hope everybody's had a good week. We'll get started in just a minute here.
All right, and we're off. Who's got the first question this week?
love jopa. obrien will be great coach! hope he stays a long time!! WE ARE PENN STATE !!!!!
Haha ... OK, that's not a question. But point taken.
Do you expect a better, worse or about the same class next year?
I don't think you'll see a top-25 class in 2014, and I think the numbers are going to be a big reason for that. With the 65 scholarship limitation kicking in, I think PSU will be able to sign -- as of right now -- about a dozen guys. They're aiming for a lot of big names, too, but they don't yet have a lot of guys with major interest. Don't think there'll be a Hackenberg-Breneman kind of duo this season ... but I guess we'll see!
Who do you think will headline the 2014 recruiting class (much like Hack and Breneman did for 2013)? As a top player and/or a solid recruiter once they've verbally committed.
Well, that's really hard to say since only one guy's committed. But, right now, DeMatha Catholic RB Mark Allen has kind of taken the lead there. I know he's already spoken with some Baltimore/D.C. are guys to get them on board with PSU. He's talked with Omar Truitt, for one. Allen also brought about five of his teammates up for the Wisconsin game. So, sure, they only have one commit right now -- but he's trying to do the best he can right there.
There had been a lot of discussion about trying to play future football games at warm weather locations. Hawaii was most frequently mentioned. Have you heard any news on that front? Thanks!
Well, I haven't heard anything new on Hawaii -- but I think that's still a possibility. For now, PSU is looking to schedule a game in Orlando with Central Florida in either 2014 or 2015. UCF's replacing Virginia on the schedule this season -- but it'll be at Beaver Stadium. So Florida might be a nice escape ... but I wouldn't rule out Hawaii quite yet either. O'Brien said before that one's a little trickier to schedule because he'd like to do it late in the season, but that's hard since the B1G has all its conference games at that time.
While there is no doubt Penn State has a loyal fan base, game attendance has decreased every season since 2007. With the higher costs associated with donation levels and the "meaningless" games Penn State will play for the next 3 seasons, where do you see attendance numbers finally bottoming out?
Well, I think a lot of it's going to have to do with just how good Penn State actually is. If they can string together 8-4 seasons, I don't think you'll see much of a drop-off from this past season. I believe PSU is scaling back the donation levels a little bit, too. That being said, the average was about 97K this season -- and I'd really be surprised if it dipped below 90K through the sanctions. Definitely time to hit the panic button if that were to happen. I imagine it'll hover around 95K the next few years.
Josh my wife was trying to explain to me that the five early sigings go into the 2012 class is that true?
Yup, your wife's a smart woman! Early enrollees, for whatever reason, can count against the previous class. That's how PSU's kind of getting around the sanction that only allows them to sign 15. So, PSU signed 17 guys in this class. BUT, five were early enrollees. As far as the NCAA is concerned, that means PSU has 12 guys in the 2013 class. Weird ... but works out in PSU's favor.
Who did Penn State sign on the National Signing Day on Wednesday?
Well, rather than me list all 17 guys, let me just point you in the right direction. Here's a free blog that recounts everyone who signed Wednesday: http://insider.espn.go.com/blog/colleges/psu/post/_/id/6495/nittanynation-signing-day-live-blog
With the 2013 recruiting class now in the books, do you have a feel for how many BCS quality players consider Penn State to be one of their top choices in the class of 2014?
Hmmm ... that's a good question, David. Penn State's offered around 30 guys so far, and nearly all of them are elite players. I think something like all but three are on the ESPN Watch List -- and the guys who aren't could definitely make an argument they deserve to be there, too. There are some guys -- Omar Truitt, Connor Morehart -- who have PSU as their No. 1 school. But they're good or great BCS prospects, not elite, and don't yet have a PSU offer. I think PSU's class might come together a little later than usual as a result, but they're REALLY trying to go after players that are also being targeted heavily by the likes of Ohio State, Alabama and Notre Dame. They want to see if they can nail down those kinds of players first before they turn to great athletes who they know would commit ASAP.
any chance Hack will start this season? I know Bench is full year ahead of him but it's not like he played in 10 games last year.. your thoughts?
Well, there is a chance -- but I don't think there's a large one, certainly for the first game at least. Historically, first-year QBs struggle. Even Matt Stafford threw twice as many INTs to TDs -- and he enrolled early. Hackenberg's going to have his hands full trying to pick apart college-style defenses, and that's why I really think Bench is the favorite right now. I can't tell you who'll be starting by the end of the season, but I really feel like they'd prefer to redshirt Hackenberg this season as long as Bench/Ferguson can handle the work in 2013.
do you think Adam B. will be healthy enough to play in spring game?
Well, I was at the morning workouts today, and he definitely looked good. If I didn't know he suffered a torn ACL last year, I wouldn't have known he was coming off any kind of injury. That being said, Breneman told me a few days before he stepped foot on campus that he didn't know if he'd be ready. And his coach told me last week he thought PSU would probably play it safe. So, going off those two, I think he's probably not going to be able to. If this was an important regular season game, yeah, I think they could put him in there. But why hurry him along in a full-contact scrimmage? There's really nothing to gain with that. So, he waited this long, and I think fans might have to wait a little longer to see him in action.
we have like 20 run-ons this year..who do you think has the best chance to play early? in other words who is the best run-on player?
Yeah, I think the count right now is at 21 -- and it should be at least at 22 in the coming days. But, believe it or not, the best run-on and the ones who can play earliest are a little different. There are actually two guys who will be competing for starting jobs this coming season: Long-snapper Sean Corcoran and kicker Chris Gulla. Corcoran will never be a regular starter on the offensive line because he's too small, but he's been told he could come right in and they expect him to compete. Gulla's mission is also to start, and he had several walk-on invitations elsewhere. As far as the most-talented walk-on, I'd definitely have to say Jack Seymour out of Park Tudor in Indianapolis. He's the only guy who actually turned down FCS offers from several MAC schools to walk-on to PSU. He's an under-the-radar guy who played on a really bad team. Is he going to overtake Hackenberg? No ... but he should be a solid backup in future years. Maybe he could start as a fifth-year senior if Hack doesn't redshirt.
who is the biggest name we are after for 2014 class?
Well, Da'Shawn Hand is a name to keep in mind. But PSU really doesn't seem to have a shot at him despite an early scholarship offer. As far as big-name guys who they do have a shot at, though, I think there's CB Troy Vincent Jr., DB D'Andre Payne, OT Quenton Nelson and WR Thaddeus Snodgrass. All of those guys are ESPN Watch List prospects and could all end up in the ESPN 300.
which recruit means more to the program? Derrick Williams or Hackenberg?
Obviously, we'll be able to answer that better after Hackenberg's career is over. But my gut says it's going to be Hackenberg. D-Will was an important pick-up at the time, but he never really was this take-over-the-game-and-completely-dominate kind of guy. Hackenberg -- just by the fact he's a QB -- has the potential to do that. D-Will gave fans hope during a dark time; Hackenberg's giving hope in the darkest time to be a PSU fan. So I really think, in the end, it's going to be Hack. But I think there's a lot of parallels to draw between Hack-Brenenman and King-Williams.
which tru freshman has the best chance to play?
I think CB Jordan Smith really put himself in good position to play early. He trained with Stephon Morris' father, Roman, and he's an incredibly hard worker. He's a kid, when he had fits of insomnia, who would literally just get out of bed and do push-ups ... sometimes thousands of push-ups for couple hours. He enrolled early, and PSU needs some CBs -- so he's the first name that springs to mind. I also think Neiko Robinson could see some time at least on special teams. Ferguson and Hackenberg will also be in position to compete.
Hey Josh - who would be on the short list to give the Lions an early commit for 2014?
Well, with the elite names they've offered so far, I think there's still some work to do before getting a couple commits. Right now, I think they're in the best shape to maybe pick up LB Troy Reeder who wants to commit somewhere by the early summer. LB Kyle Berger is another guy to keep an eye on because he wants to decide relatively soon ... but Ohio State is the favorite there. There's also an outside shot that Snodgrass and De'Andre Thompkins could decide to pull the trigger early.
have you met with early enrollees? do they seem to enjoy college life and state college?
O'Brien doesn't let the media speak with true freshmen, so I haven't really gotten the chance to see how college is going with them. That being said, I spoke with Breneman's HS coach last week and asked him about it. He said Breneman's adjusting nicely; he's a kid who doesn't mind hard work and wants to make it to the NFL someday. So, his coach said Breneman's really taken to offseason program and already loves it up here. Tyler Ferguson, who's from Cali, was bundled up big-time this morning. I think he was wearing the most layers. Most guys had on tights to go along with T-shirts and shorts. He was in a Chicago Bears beanie, black sweatpants, a fleece sweatshirt and gloves. I'm sure he's still adjusting to the weather some ...
If PSU finds a few diamonds (I would love a Jahri Evans) though its 'run-on' program, I believe other schools would recruit PA harder. What disadvantages do you see with a successful "run-on" program?
I really don't think you have to worry about a cause-and-effect thing there. A lot of these guys end up falling through the cracks just because of their size. McGloin wasn't the 6-foot-4 quarterback with the rifle arm, so schools paid him no mind. After he succeeded, it's not like Scranton was mined for talent afterward. So I really don't see any disadvantages. The main concern, I guess, would be that if a lot of these guys end up contributing, teams could try to poach future walk-ons who commit to PSU. Those guys can still go anywhere right now; they're not binded by a LOI or anything.
Gary Gilliam moving to Tight End, what do you think of the move?
Well, I think you mean TE Gilliam moving to OT. The move makes sense. I mean, PSU's absolutely stocked at TE -- and Gilliam didn't see a lot of time there last year. He was their best-blocking TE, so what do they really have to lose? I like the move. PSU says he's at 297 pounds -- still looked a little thin to me today -- so he's getting himself ready in that regard. I think he opened the 2012 season at 262 pounds, so that's no small feat.
How did Adam Brennaman look in the early morning workout? Was he allowed to run?
Breneman looked really good. A lot of us reporters remarked to each other how it was pretty difficult to tell he was coming off an injury. There was no contact, obviously, but he took part in all the drills and weightlifting sessions. He pushed the sleds and seemed to keep up pretty well. Definitely looked better than I anticipated ... waiting for the Adrian Peterson comparisons to start up already.
The secondary seems to be the biggest question mark on this team heading into the 2013 season. How do you see things shaking out there with the new recruits? Who do you think gets redshirted and who do you think contributes this season?
Well, I still think the biggest question mark will be QB. But you're right, secondary's also an issue. Obeng-Agyapong and Willis return as starters, so at least there's that. (And, surprisingly enough, it turns out Obeng-Agyapong is the second-fastest player on the team.) The real question mark, then, is cornerback and who replaces Stephon Morris. Amos is one of the best in the B1G, so that's the position fans should watch. Da'Quan Davis is next in line, but I think Jordan Smith could definitely compete there. Kasey Gaines will redshirt at safety, Neiko Robinson could see time ... and I don't know about Anthony Smith. I can't really see him getting much time in the first few years.
Who do you see replacing Mauti on the field and who replaces him in the locker room?
Well, it looks like Mike Hull will be taking over his spot. As far as who replaces him in the locker room, it really seemed like John Urschel stepped up. I was really impressed with the leadership he showed today. I know Urschel's on offense, but leaders are leaders. On defense, I think more will be asked from Hull, Glenn Carson and the safeties because of their experience.
What should we expect out of the defense this year? Any guys we should look to fill the play maker void left by Mauti, Hodges, and Stills?
I think there's going to be more growing pains than last season. To me, defensive tackle and CB are the biggest question marks. Jordan Hill (I think that's who you meant instead of Still) struggled in the early going last year because he was unaccustomed to double-teams. I imagine DaQuan Jones will have the same problem, and the No. 2 DT isn't set at all yet. ... Ben Kline/Nyeem Wartman will fill in for Hodges, Hull for Mauti and Baublitz/Johnson will likely take over the No. 2 DT spot.
Are you aware that almost all of your replies start with "Well, ...."? Very nifty.
I am not ... but I'm going to be hyper-aware of that now.
Does Bill Belton move back to slot receiver if Akeel Lynch impresses this spring?
I've received a few questions like that, but I still think he's going to stay at running back -- if for no other reason than depth concerns. If you recall last year, O'Brien had to turn to the fifth-string tailback in Zach Zwinak. Now, there's four guys back there -- Zwinak, Belton, Lynch and true freshman Richy Anderson. You might see Belton moved around a little bit, but I think his primary position will remain at tailback.
With Kyle Carter hopefully back at 100% and the outlaw Jesse James, how dangerous will the Nittany Lions be at the TE position this fall and do you think the inexperience at QB will limit the effectiveness of the TEs?
I think Penn State should definitely belong in the conversation for the top TE corps in the country. They're probably not No. 1 yet (wait for Breneman) ... but definitely top-5. Matt Lehman is on scholarship now, too, and Carter-James present a lot of matchup issues. James is a 6-7 target who can move really well for his size. He's a red-zone threat waiting to happen. That being said, it's hard to see Carter repeating the season he had last year with a less-experienced QB, but having a 6-7 guy as a safety valve ... well ... I wouldn't be surprised if James sees a few extra receptions.
So that means for 2014 they can technically sign 18 as long as three of them are early... so why are they only looking for about a dozen?
Because, in 2014, another sanction kicks in -- and that's that the roster is limited to 65 total scholarship players. So if PSU would sign 18, they would go over that 65. That's what would really prevent them from signing more.
In your opnion, will Hackenberg lead Penn State to a 10 win season?
Yes. Just not this year; maybe even as early as 2014 with A-Rob, Carter, Breneman, Lewis and Zwinak on offense. Biggest question in 2014 might be the defense ... which is definitely a change.
Do run-ons count in the recruiting rankings? I know many of them do not have any stars, but I thought at least some (Jack Seymour) were two-star players.
No, they don't count, Rich. But you're right. When you add quality guys like Seymour, I think that really helps boost the class a little bit. So, maybe if we take the top run-ons into account, PSU might've switched spots with Nebraska. PSU was No. 24, and Nebraska was No. 23.
I can only go to one game this season..between Michigan and Nebraska.. which one would you recomend and why?
Oh man ... that's a good question. Anyone else care to share their opinion here? I'd have to go with Michigan because there's more history there. That's the first answer that comes to mind.
OK guys, well, that's all the time I have this week. Lots of good questions I was unable to get to ... and lots of guys who kept asking the same question (I'm looking at you, Ryan from Boston!). You can email me questions at email@example.com, and I'll have more in-depth answers for you next week for Friday's mailbag.
Thanks again for joining us this week, and I hope to see you all again soon. Have a good weekend, everybody!