Hey guys, we'll get started in a minute here!
OK, and we're off. Thanks for joining us this week, everybody. Who's got the first question?
Josh, thanks for being the lifeline for all of us football-starved blue and white fans. I would like your insights on Akeel Lynch. Could he be the #2 back this year? What type of a RB is he? Obviously Zach Zwinak (Z2) earned the #1 spot last year. Belton seemed to disappear during the last third of the season.
Hey Jim, definitely my pleasure. Anyway, I haven't really been able to see much of Lynch with my own eyes yet. But from what our scouts and PSU's coaches have said, he's kind of made in a similar mold as Bill Belton and Richy Anderson. He can line up in the slot, and he's a versatile guy. He doesn't have 4.3 speed and isn't really a true home run threat, BUT he hits the hole and reaches top speed quickly. The main knock on him this past season was that he had some difficulty grasping the playbook -- but it was his first year, after all. I think he'll challenge Belton for playing time. If Belton struggles at all, PSU's staff doesn't need to be patient with him.
Who will be the Starting Quarterback & the Running Backs for Penn St. in 2013?
Starting RB will definitely be Zach Zwinak. He doesn't actually fit the style of offense PSU is trying to pull off, but he's just too good to ignore. Have to start him; somehow turned in a better 40 than Belton over the winter. As far as the starting QB, I've said this repeatedly -- and I'm certainly not straying from it now: Steven Bench will be the starter come opening day.
Which young skill players are you most looking forward to see in spring practice?
Hmmm ... you're from W-B and you want to know about young skill players? Well, I'll bite on this one: Eugene Lewis. (Along with Jesse James and Trevor Williams.) I don't know if Lewis is faster than Moseby-Felder, but it's clear he's the better athlete. PSU thought really hard about playing him last season but, because he wasn't used to the WR position, the staff thought it best if they redshirted the former HS QB since he was a little raw. He should be a special player for the Nittany Lions, and I'm most interested in how he fares during the Blue-White Game. As far as the other two, Trevor Williams impressed the staff enough to battle for the starting job up until opening day. He ended up not seeing a lot of targets thrown his way, but I'd still like to see what he does this offseason. Ditto for James, who really stepped up in Kyle Carter's absence. At 6-foot-7, he has "end zone target" written all over him. With Breneman likely redshirting, I expect it to be James-Carter this season with Lehman coming on in relief.
By positions, how do you believe this class will be recruited? I read a QB was visiting, but I thought we were done with QBs.
Yeah, PSU's going after a few quarterbacks -- like Clayton Thorson, the guy who should be making a visit. But a QB isn't in the short-term plans. If PSU's scholarship guys -- Hackenberg, Ferguson, Bench -- struggle this year or don't live up to expectations, they'll have to find someone else. They know that. So they can't wait until, say, come Week 3 of the season when Bench gets injured and Hack struggles. They're recruiting these guys now in case they need them down the road. I highly, highly doubt you'll see any written offers going out to quarterbacks before halfway through the season. As far as some other positions, you'll still see a focus on DBs this season -- and there'll be one OT and one DT.
Do you believe PSU can land Gateway DB's Montae Nicholson and Anthony Davis in a package deal?
No, I'm afraid not, James. I actually got this question about two weeks ago. Davis is projected as a cornerback at most schools, while Nicholson is the higher-rated player at safety. HOWEVER, PSU is also recruiting Davis at safety -- and I can't see PSU taking more than one safety this class. I think you'll probably see two cornerbacks and just one safety. So, with that being said, I think the odds are very, very low that PSU lands both -- only because it doesn't need both. It needs one or the other. Davis said PSU's in his top 3, while I'd say Nicholson's interest in PSU is only "medium" right now. PSU wants Nicholson more, but Davis is the more likely commit. Honestly, I was a little surprised they jumped at Davis so early since they were looking at him as a safety.
I think if Hackenburg would have enrolled early he would have been the starter. Why didn't he? What do you think?
If Hackenberg enrolled early, I think he would've had the slight edge over Bench. He just has too many tools and is too good not to develop quickly at PSU. ESPN ranked him as the No.1 overall QB in the nation for a reason -- and you don't have to be a professional scout to see just how talented he is. He has a great arm, great delivery and can make all the throws. His school, Fork Union Military Academy, doesn't allow for early graduations -- so that's why Hackenberg is arriving over the summer.
Who do you think will be the biggest sleeper this year from the 2013 class?
Hmmm ... two names immediately jump to mind: Parker Cothren and Jordan Smith. Cothren was able to stand his ground against Alabama commit Grant Hill, and Cothren was at least 50 pounds lighter than him. Cothren obviously needs to put on some weight but, once he redshirts and does that, I think he has a very bright future. He could start in 2014 or 2015 depending on how he develops. I'm also big on Jordan Smith because of his work ethic. I know "work ethic" is probably overused in sports, but I seriously haven't heard a kid who's as passionate at getting better and working out. And I've talked to a lot of prospects. He's a grinder; he's a lot like Adam Breneman in cornerback form ... which is maybe why they're roommates.
How do the coaches feel about Eugene Lewis? Does he have a chance to start next to Robinson this fall?
Haha -- another Lewis question from W-B? Well, I think he'll definitely challenge to be that No. 2 target. It's a little jumbled after A-Rob -- you have Trevor Williams, Lewis and Moseby-Felder. Any one of those guys could be the No. 2, but Lewis' stock is rising ... and it's difficult to bet against him. I think Moseby-Felder will still likely be the No. 2 guy this year, but I'm sure Lewis' catches won't be too far behind.
What kind of player is Andrew Nelson? What have you seen from him and do you think he'll play this year?
I was at one of his games earlier this season, and I was really impressed with him. The staff went after him early, and it's easy to see why. He's tremendously athletic for an offensive tackle; he moved along the line -- sometimes playing RT, LT or inside -- to actually catch the defense off-guard. I was trying to keep track of his pancakes but every time I glanced down at my notepad, he'd already be upfield blocking linebackers. He's strong, quick and PSU obviously think he's capable of being a starter sooner rather than later. O'Brien said he expects big things out of Nelson -- and he doesn't praise incoming freshmen like that very often.
What positions are the focus for next year's recruiting class?
I think cornerback is the big focus this year. Obviously, Jabrill Peppers is the prime candidate there, and PSU would love to have him. I think you'll see PSU take two cornerbacks -- and I can't see another position where they'd take three of anybody.
Who are the most NFL caliber players on the team right now?
Allen Robinson, Donovan Smith, Glenn Carson, Deion Barnes, DaQuan Jones, Adrian Amos. Granted it's a little premature, but I'd probably put them in this order: Smith, Barnes, A-Rob, Amos, Carson, Jones. I've been high on Smith for awhile, and I think he could be PSU's next first-rounder. A-Rob's a great college wideout, but he doesn't necessarily have the speed NFL teams crave. He's still obviously a great college wideout, but I can't see him as a first-round guy. Amos has a bright future, and Barnes should definitely be playing on Sundays. As far as Jones, he has the size -- and, if he has a good season, I think he should be drafted.
any updates on the sanctions being overturned, how long could the legal process take on this matter?
Not really. We're still in the early stages, and it could be a few months before we hear any kind of ruling on the matter. I think the state would be pretty happy with some sort of compromise, but it's clear the NCAA wants to see if it can get the lawsuit thrown out first before it goes there. I think the longer it takes, though, will probably only help PSU's image in the public eye. I feel like people are starting to see just how ridiculous the sanctions were ...
Is MosebyFelder the long term solution at widereceiver or not? Besides Lewis, who could challenge him?
Well, this is his last year of eligibility -- so definitely not a long-term solution. You mentioned Lewis, and I think he'll definitely be the No. 2 guy next season. Besides him, Trevor Williams could challenge for the job. Incoming freshman DaeSean Hamilton will probably be redshirted -- but I think he'll see time in 2014. Read his scouting report on ESPN Insider. Seriously, there's not a single "con" mentioned. He has a great vert, great hands and isn't the fastest guy on the field. Remind you of anyone?
What do you think the chances of psu actually playing a game in Ireland? And do you think the uniforms will change or will they continue to have names on the jerseys?
Well, talks appear to be pretty serious. O'Brien's previously mentioned he wants to go somewhere that feels like a bowl, in that it's an exotic location, and he alluded to Hawaii. I don't know what happened with that, but Ireland seems to be the priority now. If O'Brien's mentioning a specific place like that already, I've got to think PSU's working on something as I type this.
I know you always say Bench will be the starter. But why? And why don't you think Ferguson has a chance? I think he fits Penn State's offense well.
Penn State's offense requires a smart and accurate quarterback. Bench has had a longer time to learn the playbook so, in that respect, he's smarter. From the HS/juco coaches I've spoken with and from looking at Bench, too, it seems like he's more accurate. Ferguson can probably throw better on the run, but I just think Bench has more going for him. PSU was most successful in the no-huddle offense, and it's not going to be easy for a juco guy to grasp all that more quickly than a guy who's practiced for full season under O'Brien and Fisher. I really don't think Ferguson has any chance at starting; I'd be incredibly surprised if he does.
Who are the candidates to replace Hill?
Well, DaQuan Jones will obviously become the No. 1. After him, you'll probably see Kyle Baublitz and redshirt freshman Austin Johnson compete. I think Baublitz will likely be the starter, with Johnson playing the James Terry role this season. Other dark horse candidates include Nate Cadogan, who moved from OT, and Anthony Zettel -- who should compete for the starting DE spot but also has the ability to play DT if he adds some weight.
DO you think Bill Belton has a chance at being the starter this year or is he finished?
No chance at being the starter. Zwinak's shown he can handle a heavy workload. O'Brien initally wanted Belton to get 20-25 carries a game ... then he got injured and Zwinak stepped up. Then he was trying to do a committee approach -- and then he just settled on Zwinak. I think you'll see a committee approach to open the season but, if we see more of the same struggles from Belton, he'll be benched. Lynch should really push him for playing time, but Belton is definitely not finished yet. This is a make-or-break season for Belton.
With Robinson having another year under his belt and Zwinack coming back, do you think this offense will be better than last year?
No. Maybe I sound like a broken record with this now, but there's one big reason: No Matt McGloin. He had 24 TDs to five interceptions. You can't really replace that! He was incredibly efficient and it doesn't matter how good your receivers are if the QB isn't as good. Now could the 2014 offense be better than the 2012 offense? I think that is absolutely possible.
Who do you think could be the next commit?
Well, I think there are three guys to keep an eye on. The first is Jeremiah Clarke from T.C. Williams in Virginia -- Larry Johnson's area. I believe he's a DT, and he has high interest in PSU. He really likes Johnson, and his HS DL coach used to play under him when Johnson coached at T.C. Williams. He wanted to visit about three days after receiving his offer, but PSU was going on vacation. I think he could have committed already if spring break was a week later. The other two guys are Noah Beh, who knows PSU only has one spot at OT and told me he was thinking about his next move. And the other is Jermaine Eluemunor, who'll be visiting soon. Eluemunor has never seen a real four-year college before and he's never been to an FBS game. PSU will be his first-ever visit ... and, while I'm not expecting a commitment, it wouldn't surprise me. Seeing a football stadium, let alone Beaver Stadium, and then hearing if you don't commit right now, there might not be a spot for you -- well, I think that'd be hard to walk away from.
Who are the top 3 reasonable DT targets for 2014?
Jeremiah Clarke and Antoine White come to mind right away. They both have very high interest in PSU. Clarke has a scholarship offer, and White does not. Thomas Holley is another option; I don't expect him to commit soon, however. He still wants to see quite a few other schools, but PSU is in good shape there.
Do you think Matt McGloin will be drafted? What about Mauti?
I don't think McGloin will be drafted, but he should definitely find himself in a training camp. Maybe hell be a seventh-round guy, but I think that's about the best he can hope for. If I'm the Patriots, I might take a chance on him. He already knows the offense, and I believe there's only two QBs on the roster. As far as Mauti, I think he'll most likely be taken in Rounds 4-6. If he was healthy? Rounds 2-3. Someone's going to get some good value come draft time by selecting Mauti.
Who's the strongest player on the team? And who are the fastest?
Mike Hull is actually the strongest player on the team, and we're not even talking pound for pound. Just overall. He had the best bench-press on the team -- I think he might have gotten 400+ pounds. As far as the fastest, it's no surprise that Alex Kenney is No. 1 there. But I was surprised by No. 2 -- safety Stephen-Obeng Agyapong. According to 40 times, Obeng-Agyapong turned in the No. 2 time. His teammates said he was the most-improved player since Week 1, so he's got a lot of upside for this season.
Who are the recruits PSU's looking at at wide receiver?
The two guys PSU wants most appear to be Chris Godwin and De'Andre Thompkins. PSU was actually one of the first teams after Godwin, right after his freshman year, which obviously predates the new staff. They offered him very early. Thompkins is versatile player who PSU said could also play nickelback and/or be a returner. Thompkins visited campus in November, and he has high interest in PSU. They both have scholarships. As far as other options, there's Troy Apke, who holds an offer. Drake Harris also received an offer, although he's committed to MSU, and Snodgrass is another option.
Will Sam Ficken be teh starter this year?
You know, I really don't think he will. Preferred walk-on (or "run-on") Chris Gulla will come in over the summer, and he'll compete for the starting job right away. Ficken could not be trusted over 40 yards, and Gulla told me he can hit "55 yards and beyond" without a tee. Gulla was offered a full ride from UMass and also had walk-on offers from the likes of South Carolina. So Gulla is legit; I think PSU has a four-year starter here.
OK guys, that's all the time we have this week! Thanks for joining us; I'll see you all again in two weeks -- once spring practice starts up.