Archive: January, 2009
Here's the second part of our look at the schedule along with an educated guess of what Paterno will say about the opposing team the Tuesday before:
Oct. 3 at Illinois: If Larry Johnson had taken the defensive coordinator position with the Illini this might have been a game with a little added cache. Instead it'll have to settle for being the Lions' first road game of the season. The Nits haven't exactly wowed on the road over the last few years. You got to wonder if all the home games isn't ample enough preparation. Joe's take: "We had a heck of time going into Champaign two years ago. If it wasn't for those Illini defenders catching Morelli's second half passes we might have pulled that game out."
Oct. 10 Eastern Illinois: With 12-game schedules, almost every major program seems to have a Division I-AA opponent on its card. Penn State is no different. This year's patsies are the Panthers. Seems worth the price of a ticket, $500 for a hotel room over two mandatory nights, gas, food and parking fees to see the Lions clobber a JV squad. Joe's take: "We're going to roll all over Eastern Illinois! I can't wait to run it up on the Panthers to improve our BCS ranking! Hey, how's 100-0 sound, boys? Book it. Whoo-hooo!"
It's 29 days since the Rose Bowl, 86 days until the Blue-White game and 217 days until the opener on Sept. 5. Does that mean it's too early to talk about next season's schedule? Nah.
Penn State released the 2009 schedule and while most hardcore Lions fans pretty much knew the slate by heart, yesterday marked the official announcement. Some had hoped that the opener -- rumored to be Akron -- would turn into a more attractive opponent. Say, one with a pulse. But it was not to be. Penn State's four non-conference foes all had losing records last season. Eastern Illinois managed a 5-7 mark at the Division I-AA level. Egad.
To put it bluntly, the schedule is pathetic. The Lions have eight home games against four on the road and only two Beaver Stadium tilts quicken the pulse. Ohio State visits on Nov. 7, Iowa on Sept. 26. The rest is dunk: Akron, Syracuse, Temple, Eastern Illinois, Minnesota and Indiana. I can't wait to hear Joe Paterno defend this schedule. Actually, I can hear him already. Here's a look at the first four games of the schedule (the final eight to come) along with an educated guess of what Paterno will say about the opposing team the Tuesday before:
Penn State has officially announced its football schedule for the coming season. It was essentially set in stone, but the first game against Akron was still up in the air. There was some talk that Fran Ganter, who handles the schedule, was looking to switch that game or the Eastern Illinois game for a more attractive opponent. North Carolina was one team discussed. But that idea has obviously been tabled.
Too bad. What remains is of the cupcake variety. If the Lions don't finish with at least nine wins, next season would have to be deemed a disaster. Here's the full schedule. Times are to be announced. I'll be back later to break it down game by game.
Sept. 5 Akron
Sept. 12 Syracuse
Sept. 19 Temple
Sept. 26 Iowa (1)
Oct. 3 at Illinois
Oct. 10 Eastern Illinois
Oct. 17 Minnesota (2)
Oct. 24 at Michigan
Oct. 31 at Northwestern
Nov. 7 Ohio State
Nov. 14 Indiana
Nov. 21 at Michigan State
At the risk of sounding like a pollyanna, Penn State has reason to puff out its chest this week and "Lion Eyes" figures it'll hop on the bandwagon and help spread the good news.
With National Signing Day a week away, Penn State's recruiting haul is looking like a solid group. The Lions have addressed many of their needs -- in the defensive secondary, at wideout and quarterback -- with some of the better prospects in the nation. Still, Penn State needs that cherry on the top and it could come in the form of Olney, Md. linebacker Jelani Jenkins. Ranked as the best outside linebacker in the nation by scout.com, Jenkins has reportedly narrowed his list to Penn State and Florida. My guess is the Gators, but stranger things have happened (see: Derrick Williams).
Off the gridiron -- yes! -- men's basketball is garnering some headlines. The Lions are 16-5 overall, 5-3 in the Big Ten and head to top-ranked Michigan State on Saturday and -- provided they pull off the upset -- the Lions could launch themselves into the NCAA Tournament picture. It's been a long time since those around the program have thought about March Madness -- eight years to be exact. There's still a lot of work to be done, however. Because of a weak non-conference schedule, the Lions have a not-so-impressive 72 RPI and need some help to get into the NCAA conversation. Let's put that aside for the moment and celebrate what has been.
Penn State landed three recruits when two high school seniors and one junior committed to the Nittany Lions today during visits, according to the Web site fightonstate.com.
Shawney Kersey, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound wide receiver from Woodbury, N.J. gave Penn State his pledge earlier in the day. John Urschel, a 6-3, 263-pound guard from Buffalo, was the next Class of 2009 recruit to select the Lions.
With signing day a few weeks away, Penn State now has 25 commitments for next year’s class.
In case there was any confusion, Penn State's Maurice Evans has officially declared for the NFL Draft. The junior defensive end had until yesterday to inform all pertinent parties that he was leaving college a year early. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson confirmed this last night and the team, through Director of Football Branding Guido D'Elia, announced he was gone today.
I'm not sure if Evans has hired an agent, though. If he refrains from accepting the services of a representative for 48 hours after declaring, he can rescind his decision and return to Penn State. I doubt if that's going to happen. According to many of the people I've spoken to, Evans is committed to leaving. In fact, I think he was gone before the season, even after the marijuana bust.
I'm not so sure it was the wisest move. Teams are really shying away from those types of transgressions and it wasn't like Evans blew everyone away with his play on the field last fall. I do think there is a lot of potential there. He's got the perfect build for an NFL defensive end and showed he had the motor as a sophomore.
In case you hadn't heard, Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson ain't goin' nowhere. You can scroll down to see my initial post. But I spoke to the man an hour ago so there's no further need for sourcing. Here's the transcript of my Q&A with LJ. The full story will be in tomorrow's newspaper or online for those too cheap (just kidding).
WILL YOU BE STAYING WITH PENN STATE?
That is true.
DID YOU SERIOUSLY ENTERTAIN ILLINOIS' OFFER?
I did. The offer came around the corner. I looked at it and it was a chance to move up to defensive coordinator and put your brand on it. I was intrigued by it and walked away impressed. It was flattering, to be honest. I said, 'I have to go think about it.' And I did. But when it came down to it, my love for my players, the university and the Penn State family kept me here.
Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson has decided not to accept a job offer from Illinois and will stay with the Nittany Lions, the Harrisburg Patriot-News reported this afternoon.
Inquirer sources confirmed the news.
This past weekend Johnson met with Illinois coach Ron Zook and was offered the defensive coordinator position along with a significant raise. According to a source close to Johnson, he mulled over the decision and seriously entertained the idea of leaving. The 57-year-old assistant then met with head coach Joe Paterno yesterday. Apparently, he chose to stay after that meeting.
I guess the information I got from the team about the three injured players in the Rose Bowl was incorrect. One of the three will miss spring practice and that person is running back Stephfon Green.
Green dislocated his right ankle and will miss 3-4 months, according to team doctor Wayne Sebastianelli. That should be enough time for the speedy tailback to be ready for the fall. It could impinge upon his development in the backfield. Green has lots of talent, but he has some learning still to do and could use the reps carrying to ball to cut down on his turnovers.
Evan Royster is expected to return as the starter at running back, but it's also nice to have a backup that can push a first teamer. Reserve Brent Carter is recovering from an ACL injury and should be close to 100 percent by the fall. Freshman Brandon Beachum is another option in the backfield.
And then there were two.
Could Larry Johnson be next?
Penn State defensive end Maurice Evans is following in teammate Aaron Maybin's footsteps and is leaving college early to declare for the NFL Draft, according to team sources. The 6-foot-2, 265-pound junior had until Thursday to make a decision.