Penn State Nittany Lions: West Virginia Mountaineers

Texas and Texas A&M might not be playing one another anytime soon.

But other schools around the league are interested in the prospects of rekindling rivalries that were destroyed by two rounds of conference realignment.

While the Longhorns and Aggies remain at odds, Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt told ESPN.com this week he’s optimistic that he’ll be able to get Texas A&M on the Red Raiders’ schedule down the line again. Hocutt said there has been interest from Texas A&M’s side, as well.

“Hopefully that’s a series that at some point in time that could start again,” Hocutt said. “Is that a game that won’t happen again? No. We’ve had discussions about it. Hopefully we can reengage that in the coming years.”

Oklahoma and Nebraska already have an agreement in place to play a home-and-home in 2021-22. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has reportedly said he thinks his school will play Kansas again someday.

And West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, who has already added Penn State and Virginia Tech to future schedules, told ESPN.com he's hopeful he'll be able to revive the “Backyard Brawl” with Pitt at some point, as well.

“At some point we’ll get Pitt back on the schedule,” Luck said. “What I’m trying to do with our nonconference games is stay as regional as possible and rekindle some of our historical rivalries. Penn State is back on the schedule. Virginia Tech is back on the schedule. That game meant a lot to southern West Virginians. The Pitt game meant a lot to northern West Virginians. We’ve continued to play Pitt in many of the sports.

“We’ve both gone through transitions, so it’s tough schedule-wise for both of us. But I think at some point we’ll get Pitt back on the schedule. I see [Pitt athletic director] Steve Pederson every now and then at various conventions. And we’ve had some discussions about that. We just haven’t been able to really eyeball the proper time to get it going again.”
CLIFTON, Va. -- Five-star defensive tackle Tim Settle, No. 10 in the ESPN 300, will not be making an early commitment, that much has been known from the start. What is also known about Settle is that he intends to go through the entire process and take all five of his official visits.

What wasn’t known is that Settle has started to think about what schools will make the cut.

“I’m going to trim it down in August to 14,” said Settle, who earned an invitation to The Opening Saturday after a stellar performance at the Nike Football Training Camp at Centreville High School in Clifton, Va. “The reason I’m going to trim it down in August is two-a-days and getting ready for the season. I don’t want a lot of pressure on me. I just want to play and have fun my senior season.

ASHBURN, Va. -- If there was an award given out for the most physically gifted quarterback at Friday’s Elite 11 regional camp at the Washington Redskins' practice facility, Brandon Wimbush would undoubtedly be a runaway winner.

The No. 107-ranked prospect in the ESPN 300 showed impressive arm power, a strong frame that can carry 225 pounds, and the feet and balance that have earned him offers from the likes of Penn State, Virginia Tech, Miami, Ohio State, LSU and a host of others. The news of the day Friday was the offer list might soon be growing, and one could be a game-changer.


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3-point stance: Texas two-step

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1. Duane Akina became the seventh assistant from Mack Brown’s staff at Texas to get another job when Stanford hired him as secondary coach. Co-offensive coordinators Major Applewhite and Darrell Wyatt, the two highest-paid assistants, remain on the market. One interesting note: Most coaching contracts see to it that a fired coach gets the agreed-upon amount. If he is hired elsewhere for less than that amount, the first school makes up the difference. Not Texas. If you take another job, Texas is done.

2. Dr. Joab Thomas, the former president of the University of Alabama and Penn State University, died last week at age 81. While at Alabama, Thomas endured the controversy of hiring Ray Perkins and Bill Curry to replace the legendary Paul Bryant. In 1990, Thomas went to State College, Pa., where the equally legendary Joe Paterno turned 65 the following year. When someone asked him about Paterno retiring, Thomas said, “You can't ask one man to replace both Bear Bryant and Joe Paterno.”

3. Jake Trotter’s post Monday described the desire of West Virginia players to turn the program around after a 4-8 record last season. Injuries contributed a great deal to the Mountaineers’ troubles. But the physical and mental burden of traveling to the Big 12 footprint will be an annual drag on West Virginia football. The good news is that in this season’s nine-game conference schedule, the 5/4 split tips to Milan Puskar Stadium. The bad news is that the season opens with a neutral-site game against Alabama in Atlanta.
1. West Virginia hired Tom Bradley as assistant head coach, and for the first time since the Penn State scandal erupted, a majority of Joe Paterno’s assistants are working again. Has it been the taint of the scandal or a commentary on Paterno’s staff? The two assistants Bill O’Brien kept -- Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden -- have moved to Ohio State and Air Force, respectively. Galen Hall and Dick Anderson retired. Jay Paterno is running for lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania. Mike McQueary, a big witness in the Jerry Sandusky trial, has yet to resurface.

2. Speaking of Penn State, new head coach James Franklin might be the first sitting SEC head coach to leave the conference for a Big Ten school since the SEC began playing football in 1933. I say “may” because I haven’t found one in my research, but I am not positive I have run down every single lead. In recent years, two prominent head coaches, Nick Saban (Michigan State to LSU) and Bret Bielema (Wisconsin to Arkansas), have left the Big Ten for an SEC school.

3. Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys 25 years ago today, catapulting his University of Arkansas teammate Jimmy Johnson out of college football after a three-year run in which Johnson’s Miami Hurricanes went 34-2, winning one national championship (1987) and losing to the eventual No. 1 team in the other two years (Penn State, 1986; Notre Dame, 1988). Another of Jones’ Razorbacks teammates, Barry Switzer, came out of retirement and joined Johnson as the only head coaches to win a college football national championship and a Super Bowl (until Pete Carroll joined them earlier this month).

Analysis: Who Scott likes, how he fits 

November, 12, 2013
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HUBBARD, Ohio -- Fresh off a 42-14 Division III playoff victory, ESPN Junior 300 L.J. Scott (Hubbard, Ohio/Hubbard) had plenty to say about his recruitment.


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PSU-WVU to meet in 2023, 2024

September, 19, 2013
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State has certainly been getting a head start on its future schedules lately.

The Nittany Lions announced Thursday afternoon that they have scheduled a home-and-home with West Virginia for the 2023 and 2024 seasons. PSU will host the Mountaineers on Sept. 2, 2023, and will then travel to Morgantown on Aug. 31, 2024.

The move comes just a month after PSU scheduled Virginia Tech for the 2022-2023 seasons.

"As we prepare to move to a nine-game Big Ten schedule [2016], I am very pleased that we have been able to schedule old rivals like West Virginia and Pitt and Virginia Tech in upcoming years," PSU athletic director Dave Joyner said.

It's far into the future -- today's third graders will wind up playing as freshmen in the game -- but it sure beats another round of lower-tier MAC opponents. Someone might even want to send ESPN.com reporter Brian Bennett a nice housewarming gift after he suggested in June that the Hokies and Mountaineers "would be fun and easy trips for Lions fans."

(Bennett also mentioned Alabama, Miami (Fla.) and possibly USC. Maybe we'll hear about those matchups in time for the 2037 season?)

PSU's nonconference opponents haven't elicited a lot of excitement lately. It played -- and lost -- to Alabama in 2010 and 2011, but other opponent mainstays have included the likes of Eastern Michigan and Temple.

This is another step in the right direction for Penn State. And, at this rate, it will have all its schedules through 2025 filled out before the new year.

Baker cooking up something great 

September, 5, 2013
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A year ago, Jerome Baker Jr. (Cleveland/Benedictine) toiled in obscurity.

Now, the 6-foot-1, 202-pound junior can’t move an inch without someone asking about him.

Such is the life of an ESPN Junior 300 standout that has burst onto the scene as a can’t-miss prospect in the 2015 class.


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ACC recruiting mailbag 

August, 30, 2013
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ACC recruiting reporters Corey Dowlar and Jared Shanker took time Friday to answer questions in their weekly mailbag. You can send questions to them on Twitter with the #AskACC hashtag and mentioning @cdowlar and @JShankerESPN. Or reach them via email at cdowlar@gmail.com and JShankerESPN@gmail.com.

@fsurock38: How is FSU's offensive line recruiting going? Why does this always seem to be an issue every couple of years for Coach Trickett?
Corey Dowlar: Right now, it's adequate. They've got a couple of offensive linemen on board now, most notably four-star guard Corey Martinez. Ethan Frith, a three-star offensive tackle, is a good-looking prospect. He performed well at camp and proved he belongs in Florida State’s class. Finally, Alec Eberle is a tough interior offensive lineman who probably will end up at center. What FSU needs, and what I think they will get (as of now anyway), is a big-time offensive tackle. Four-star Roderick Johnson is said to be favoring the Seminoles and would be just what the doctor ordered.

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Best of the Midwest: Class of 2015 

August, 14, 2013
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Hjalte FroholdtBrad Bournival/ESPNHjalte Froholdt, the No. 14 player in the ESPN Junior 300, will be playing his junior season in his native Denmark but will have plenty of suitors waiting for his return to the United States.
There are currently 34 Midwest prospects -- 15 from Ohio -- within the ESPN Junior 300. Not a single one of them has pledged an allegiance to a school as of yet.

That means the dogfight is already on, as Big Ten schools and others around the country prepare for an 18-month battle for some of the best.

As is usually the case, the Midwest will bring some interesting storylines over the next few years as the focus will shift to the heartland for some of the biggest names at the high school level.

In keeping with Tuesday’s theme, here are the top 11 prospects out of the Midwest and where they’re at in the process.


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Four-star ATH Hooker names top six 

July, 26, 2013
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HOOVER, Ala. -- Recruiting was the last thing on Malik Hooker's mind this week. The New Castle (Pa.) High School athlete traveled with his team to Alabama to compete in the National Select 7-on-7 tournament. Even though he was from out of town, it didn’t take long for other players to figure out who he was.

“There are kids out here that are playing to try and outdo me,” Hooker said. “That’s what everybody out here wants to do -- they want to outwork the guy they’re against. I’m just out here trying to make myself better and make my team better as a whole.”

New Castle finished 2-4-1 in Thursday’s pool play before being eliminated on Friday. Before the trip, Hooker narrowed his list to six schools -- Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech.

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Chad Smith (Sterling, Va./Dominion) sat in front of his father's chalkboard over the spring as the two plotted out the five camps he'd attend.

"Cincinnati or Penn State?" his father asked.

"Penn State," Smith responded.

His father would give the 2015 linebacker/wideout two choices, mark down the favorite and narrow down the list that way. In the end, Penn State came out as the top choice for a camp. (UNC, Virginia Tech, Clemson and West Virginia were the others.) And a few weeks later, PSU assistant Larry Johnson stopped by Dominion to invite Smith to PSU's camp anyway.

So, the decision came full-circle, and his response to Johnson was an immediate "yes." The only thing he really needed to figure out was which position to focus on.


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Quips go to Pitt.

That is the expression in Western Pennsylvania. The elite prospects from talent-rich Aliquippa (Pa.) High almost exclusively go to nearby Pittsburgh to star for the Panthers. Jonathan Baldwin, Tommie Campbell and Darrelle Revis are all NFL players who came through Aliquippa and then Pitt.

So four-star athlete and ESPN 150 member Dravon Henry feels the pressure to stay close to home. In fact, Henry is related to Revis and former NFL lineman Sean Gilbert, who also went the route of Aliquippa to Pitt.


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Defensive tackle Jeremiah Clarke (Alexandria, Va./T.C. Williams) took the next step in the recruiting process Tuesday night by announcing his top six on Twitter.

The 6-foot-4, 272-pound lineman said the schools on his short list now include Penn State, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Virginia, Miami (Fla.) and Tennessee. Clarke said in a text he's not yet sure whether he'll visit any of those schools again.

The Virginia product is currently hoping to commit somewhere by the end of the month, so his top-six announcement was expected. He holds 17 offers, and some of the bigger schools left off his top six included Maryland, Nebraska, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.

He finished his junior season with 11.5 sacks despite playing six games with a broken left hand. He also had 38 tackles, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, one blocked kick and seven quarterback hurries through 10 games.

According to Clarke, Penn State's staff told him that his playing style was similar to third-round NFL draft pick Jordan Hill.
Regional recruiters are not the ones coming in to see a prospect the size of Sterling Jenkins (Pittsburgh/Baldwin). Colleges are sending offensive line coaches directly instead to size up the fastest-rising 2015 prospect in Pennsylvania.

There are not too many 16-year-old sophomores who stand 6-foot-8 and weigh 295 pounds, so coaches are the ones traveling to the Steel City to see Jenkins to properly gauge his stature. Baldwin coach Pete Wagner said colleges are surprised to see he is the real deal.


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