Hey everybody! Football season's getting close, but this chat's even closer. We'll start up in a minute here, so get those questions in.
And just one more note before we begin, my duties will be shifting a little so I'll no longer be covering PSU recruiting. That'll fall to Brad Bournival and Tom VanHaaren. I'll try to answer future recruiting questions the best I can, but that's why you've noticed some changes recently. I'll be covering the team, along with other stories around the Big Ten. Anyway, enough explanation, who's got the first question this week?
With the diversification of the Penn State defense since the sanctions were handed down last year, which area are you the most excited about this school year (D-Line, Linebackers, or secondary)?
I'm not quite sure what you mean by diversification here, but I'm most intrigued by the secondary this season. You have two new CBs -- Trevor Williams and Jordan Lucas -- so it's pretty difficult to know what to expect. I remember Butler saying last year they didn't really know what they had until the played their first game, and I imagine that'll be the case again this year. Whatever they have, they had to be confident enough in those two to move Adrian Amos to safety -- and I think he'll immediately be one of the Big Ten's best at that position. There's a lot of great safeties here, and we might even see Stephen Obeng-Agyapong (or Amos) as a linebacker at some points. Obeng told me yesterday he's already practiced some at linebacker, so I think this is a good unit, a deeper unit -- and a versatile unit. The secondary should be improved from last season, and I can't say the same for DL or LB.
What will be the Coldest College Football Game for Penn State in 2013?
Chris, I swear you asked me the same question at this exact time last year haha ... But the Nov. 30 game at Wisconsin should be the coldest. I imagine that'll be quite the jolt to the system for Tyler Ferguson ... but I'd be really surprised if Hackenberg wasn't the starter by then.
do you think BOB was trying to motivate HACK by saying Tyler has an edge?
Either that or maybe giving Ferguson a bit of a confidence boost. Jordan Lucas admitted that Ferguson still had some cobwebs to shake off, and there were a few miscues in practice that O'Brien wasn't too happy about. Let me say this, though: The fact Ferguson leads right now means nothing. Absolutely nothing. Three practices were in the books when O'Brien said that; Ferguson should be in the lead after that. It would've been an even bigger surprise if he wasn't. This doesn't sway me at all in thinking Hackenberg will be the starter.
What else would I ask.. Ur take on Jared Wrangler? Will he stick with us? Something is telling me that he is going to stick with us.
Ajay, I wish I could offer you some reassurance here ... but I think he's gone. I haven't talked to Wangler recently but, based on previous conversations, I just can't see him staying at Penn State. You guys asked me before if I saw anyone decommitting -- and I often answered that I only thought Wangler would decommit ... if he received a UM offer. If it was Alabama, LSU, OSU or any other team in the country, he remains a PSU commit. But it's Michigan, the family school. It would kind of be like Richy Anderson deciding to stay at Maryland when PSU offered last year. Anderson's lifelong dream was to head to PSU so, when that opportunity presented itself, he ended up decommitting from the Terps. I expect the same thing to happen here with Wangler. Can't really blame him, in my opinion. I'd expect to hear of his decision soon; no point in putting off the obvious.
do you think Tyler will start? does he have good arm strength and mobility?
Nope. I think he lost his chance when he decided to spend a month outside of voluntary workouts. He's pretty mobile, definitely moreso than McGloin, and he has pretty good arm strength. I know our scouts thought his accuracy on those longer throws needed a little work, but he has a stronger arm than McGloin. One of the DBs told me how impressed they were during 7-on-7s when Ferguson first joined the team. A DB just stopped in his tracks when Ferguson threw to the other side of the field and just wanted the ball streak down the field. If there was one weakness McGloin had, it was completing that long pass -- and I will say this: Hackenberg and Ferguson are much bigger threats for finding that big play. The big question with them, obviously, is decision-making.
is Donovon Smith healthy? I believe he can be the best Oline man if healthy.
Donovan Smith is healthy, and I absolutely think he's a future first- or second-round pick. So I'm right there with you when you say he can be the best on the OL. It's probably between him and John Urschel, and Urschel sung Smith's praises back in February when he said he believed Smith was even more talented than Stefen Wisniewski. Coming from Urschel, that's saying a lot. If Smith can remain healthy, he should have a breakout year.
I believe we have a good shot at going 5-0 when Michgan comes to town..do you expect Whiteout if that is the case?
I believe they already scheduled a White Out for Michigan. The PSU staff is telling some of the bigger-name recruits to come to that game, so I expect that'll be the White Out even if the team's 3-2 heading into that contest. That's definitely the hot ticket this year, with the Nebraska game coming in at a close No. 2. In my opinion, at least.
when do ESPN shooting All-Access? when will it air on TV?
Here's the link: http://espn.go.com/blog/bigten/post/_/id/80360/psu-to-be-featured-on-espn-all-access Basically, you can see some sneak peeks starting Aug. 16. There'll be a one-hour special 7 p.m. Aug. 20 on ESPN or ESPN2.
How worried should we be about Wagner dropping PSU for the Maze and Blue? Do recruits typically show any loyalty for programs that show early interest?
I take it you mean Wangler. And, yeah, like I said before, I think he's gone. Recruits do show loyalty for those programs that show early interest -- every guy I've spoken with said that means so, so much when a school is the first to show interest or offer you. BUT dream schools and family history typically play a bigger role than the first school to offer. Like I said before, take a look at Richy Anderson. Sure, Troy Vincent's father went to Wisconsin -- but that's different. Vincent didn't grow up dreaming of playing for the Badgers. (Actually, I was told he grew up kind of idolizing Stephon Morris.) But Anderson did grow up dreaming of playing for PSU. And Wangler grew up dreaming of playing for UM. That might be the hardest dynamic to overcome.
any chance Akeel overtakes ZZ as a starting RB?
Hmmm ... that's a good question. But I don't think that'll be the case. I think we'll see O'Brien going with the hot hand from week to week. That's basically what he aimed to do last season; it just so happened that Zwinak was the better option over Belton every week. In other words, I wouldn't be surprised if Lynch saw more carries than Zwinak in a game or two, but Zwinak is definitely the workhorse here -- and he'll finish the season with the most overall carries. Zwinak's been complimented a lot this offseason, and I have the feeling that last year was just a warm-up for him. Having Lynch as a complementary back only helps matters; I just don't think he's ready to be the featured back just yet.
Just came over twitter that Wangler has decommitted, just an FYI
Wrangler has decommited
Again, Wangler has officially decommited per his twitter account.
Well ... I figured he'd do it soon. But I didn't think it'd happen this soon -- during our chat. Hard to monitor Twitter and do this!
Its amazing, two questions on Jared Wangler and neither spells his name correctly, that should be a qualification to having your question posted Josh...
Haha ... it's a tricky one. I have the most problems with Irvin Charles; I keep apologizing for calling him Charles Irvin. Can't keep it straight.
Who's hot on Penn State in the rest of the 2014 prospects?
I think PSU's in pretty good shape with Dravon Henry. Thomas Holley is still a possibility, too -- and those are definitely PSU's top-two priorities. As far as other guys, Qadree Ollison is definitely a player to keep an eye on. I think PSU was his favorite a few months ago, but getting that offer late hurt PSU a bit. I think Ollison will commit to either PSU or Wisconsin. Wants to decide by Sept. 8 which, if I remember correctly, is his birthday.
Now that Wangler flips to Michigan, who are some Linebackers PSU will target?
Syracuse commit Jason Cabini was one guy who impressed PSU's coaches at camp last month. I think he'd flip to PSU ... but he's mostly a middle guy. Honestly, I'm not sure who PSU will go after now. The UM flip just happened; I'm sure PSU's been looking at film of guys in case something like this happened. But I don't know where their heads are at right now. I just looked at the list of LBs they've already offered scholarships, and I just don't see anybody there that they can realistically get.
Any guys favoriting PSU CO 2015, 2016?
CB Kareem Ali Jr. is at the top of the list, in terms of guys with offers who have PSU interest. I think he might be the first commit of the 2015 class. Jake Cooper is an LB who doesn't hold an offer yet, but he's a lock to commit when/if he gets one. (If he does get one, it'll probably be by midseason.) DE Darius Fullwood likes PSU a lot, too. Those are the three names that immediately come to mind -- and they're all 2015 kids.
Have you heard anything on Qadree Ollison lately? If he will be visting any schools other than Wisconsin before his September announcement?
He'll also be visiting Pitt. I'm sure PSU would love to get him back on campus ... but Ollison really wants to decide ASAP. He wanted to get it out of the way before his senior season, and I think he's a little upset he has to wait until September already. It might be difficult getting him to push his Sept. 8ish decision back another week. If I had to guess at his top three, I'd probably go Wisconsin-PSU-Pitt. He scheduled an official to Pitt before his PSU offer was committable.
He'll be on the third team, behind Amos and Obeng at strong safety.
Josh, I think right now would be a great time to remind everyone not to harass recruits on twitter, don't you?
Absolutely agreed. It's the Richy Anderson situation from the other side.
Due to the injury of Wilkerson, does Breneman lose his redshirt?
I think so. I was surprised at Big Ten media days when O'Brien said he believed Breneman would see playing time this season. That surprised me because, let's be honest, he's a great player and PSU could use him -- but it definitely doesn't NEED him. O'Brien talked about using four TE sets before, so Breneman would have to be involved in that conversation now. I just wonder if he'd be the No. 3 TE ahead of Matt Lehman by the time the season starts. But, yeah, it's looking like he might not redshirt. Still not a foregone conclusion, but that's the way it's looking.
Do you know if the staff had interest in Zaire Franklin ? Trying to think of linebackers we could go after now.
O'Brien visited his school before and checked him out. I remember Zaire describing it like a rock star came to the school, like teachers milling around the hallways and taking pictures with their phones and stuff. It was pretty funny; Zaire said he'd never forget it. I can't tell you just how interested the staff is at this moment ... but I know Zaire was interested. And the staff at least looked into him before.
Josh, I have heard that PSU might be able to take 16 or 17 recruits in this class due to some early enrollments, do you know anything about that? Can you offer any insight as to what recruits might be on the radar as a result of that info?
Well, that's a big reason why Ollison's offer became committable. So that's definitely one guy. From there, a lot of it's still best player available. They need a DT who can play right away, so that's also why they're looking at juco DTs like Joe Keels.
What have you heard about Zettel and Baubllitz? Have they fallen behind Olaniyan and Austin Johnson?
C.J. Olaniyan is the projected starter, but Zettel should still see plenty of time since he's really the only other experienced DE that PSU has left. Austin Johnson and Kyle Baublitz is a bit of a toss-up right now. Baublitz was listed as the starter on the post-spring depth chart, but he's just 281 pounds now. I think Johnson is like 302. Johnson has the higher ceiling, and I think that'll be the closest position battle during camp.
How do you think Hackenberg would feel if Tyler Ferguson beat him for the #1 QB job?
Well, he obviously wouldn't be too happy ... but two things with that. One, I don't think he's going to have to worry about that. And, two, his father said almost a year ago that he would prefer his son redshirt to better get acclimated and everything. So he could always try to look on that bright side. But, honestly, the reaction I'd expect to see is him training a little harder afterward and overtaking Ferguson a few weeks into the season. It took Bench -- what? -- like two weeks into the season to unseat Paul Jones? So, if Hack doesn't start Aug. 31, I think he'll still start somewhere down the line this season. That'd have to be his new focus.
Josh, first question today, is it official that Antoine White has been given the greenlight to enroll early? Thus opening up a few more scholarship spots for 2014?
Yup, it's official. White confirmed it with Shanker yesterday, I believe.
What players would the staff like to redshirt this season? Seems like the depth alone would make it hard to redshirt more than the O and D linemen.
O'Brien said before that he really likes to redshirt offensive linemen, that he'd ideally do that if he could. I think you'll see nearly all the DBs redshirt, too, since that corps is actually pretty deep now. (Maybe Jordan Smith sees time.) But players like DE Garrett Sickels, DE Curtis Cothran and LB Brandon Bell? I think at least two of those guys see immediate time. Richy Anderson should also see time. He's one of the potential kick returners, and Kenney isn't exactly lighting the conference on fire in the slot. PSU could probably use some new blood there
Do you think PSU has a shot at landing Sterling Jenkins in the 2015 class?
I do. I've talked to Sterling a lot, and he especially came away impressed with that BBQ. He's gotten along really well with RB coach Charles London, and you can bet that PSU's going to continue to go after him hard. PSU will roll out the red-carpet treatment every time he wants to visit, and his grandmother is big into Penn State because of its academics. Yes, he has a whole bunch of Pitt connections -- but he also had a family member (grandfather? great grandfather?) who played for PSU. So that's not out of the realm of possibility. I think PSU has a legitimate shot here.
Was watching the replay of Wisconsin PSU last night and it was funny to see Fitz on the sidelines in shorts and a tshirt when it was snowing out. Anyway, do you think BOB will try to exploit other teams lbs and safeties with our TEs? My guess is that will help with unproven qbs.
Haha ... yeah, that guy's done the worm before games. And players told us he once licked the weightroom floor to get the team pumped. Unique guy. Anyway, O'Brien will absolutely utilize those tight ends to create matchup problems. Jesse James is 6-7 and Lehman is 6-6 ... that's not easy to guard, especially when both guys are on the same field at the same time. In addition to that, I talked to quite a few wideouts who said they were all practicing at different positions. So I wouldn't be surprised to see the receiving targets lined up one way on one play and an entirely different play the next. With an inexperienced QB, BOB seems to be all about creating those advantages for those guys.
Once Ficken and butterworth graduate do you see the staff just bringing in run-ons to compete for those starting jobs until the sanctions end?
Yeah ... I don't think you're going to see PSU offering a scholarship to any kickers/punters unless Robbie Gould somehow finds he has one year of NCAA eligibility remaining. Gulla, the preferred walk-on who just joined the team, can compete at both kicker and punter. That versatility's important, so I'd expect to see more of that.
Do u think Hackenburg, will be red shirted this year?
Definitely not. I think he'll start ... but, even if he doesn't start Week 1, it'll be really difficult to envision him going the entire season without seeing time. If Steven Bench was still on the team? Yeah, a redshirt's possible. But with one other scholarship QB and three walk-ons? If Ferguson was injured, even for a handful of plays, is O'Brien supposed to send in DJ Crook? I can't see that happening. So much has to happen to Hackenberg to redshirt now that the probability is close to zero.
Do you think BO'B will REALLY burn Brenneman's red shirt with the depth they have at Tight End? Doesn't seem prudent...but thats why they pay HIM millions of dollar and not me...
Haha ... if it was me, I'd probably redshirt him. But I don't think my ps3 experience really helps me out. Like I said, I was surprised -- but that's what O'Brien told me during Big Ten media days. He said that he hasn't yet decided to redshirt Breneman and that he could see playing time this season. Said he's worked really hard and looked good over the offseason.
What do you see Bill Belton's role being this season? He has such talent and I'm concerned it will be underutilized this year.
He'll be a change-of-pace back who splits carries with Zwinak and Lynch. Make no mistakes about it; all three guys will see carries. But Zwinak will see the most, with Lynch and Belton splitting the left-overs. I think, by the end of the season, Lynch will likely have more touches than Belton. But Belton will be given a chance. If he doesn't see a lot of time, he's only got himself to blame. He really underwhelmed last season.
Chances PSU ends up being known as Tight End U under O'Brien?
Aren't they already? Seriously, though, it'll take some NFL draft picks for that name to stick. But the TEs on the team have already taken to referring to themselves as "TEU." No one utilizes the tight ends quite like O'Brien and Penn State so, if O'Brien decides to stick it out in Happy Valley for a while, I wouldn't be surprised if that TEU moniker stuck.
How many years of eligibility do the starting LBs have left? What are PSU's plans for recruiting more LB talent next year? Is this the end of Linebacker U status for a while??
Mike Hull has two seasons left while Glenn Carson has just one. On the plus side, though, Nyeem Wartman will only get better and has four years left. 2014 MLB commit Troy Reeder is a special player and should contribute. I don't think this is the end of Linebacker U, not by any means, but I do think PSU will experience a rough patch for maybe two seasons. It'll have to restock with 2015, and there's not guys waiting in the wings like previous seasons. Losing Wangler really hurts, but this group can still be a solid one.
OK, guys. That's all the time we have for this week -- but thanks to everybody for joining us! Have a good weekend!