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New Penn State coach James Franklin landed two more commitments for the Nittany Lions on Monday. Once again, they came at the expense of Vanderbilt as quarterback Trace McSorley (Ashburn, Va./Briar Woods) and defensive back Grant Haley (Atlanta/The Lovett School) flipped from Vanderbilt to Penn State.

Haley, a three-star cornerback, committed only a few days after defensive back Troy Vincent Jr. (Baltimore/Gilman) withdrew his pledge to Penn State. Haley will help fill the void where Vincent was, and he might not be the only defensive back target remaining.


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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- James Franklin finally appears to be finished with his coaching staff.

According to numerous reports -- and by family members and other assistants on Twitter -- former Temple wideouts coach Terry Smith will join the Penn State staff, as will former Vanderbilt offensive line coach Herb Hand.

We already offered an overview on seven of Penn State's assistant coaches; you can find that right here. So here's a closer look at the two newest members of the Penn State staff:

Defensive backs OR wide receivers coach Terry Smith: He's a former Penn State wideout and co-captain of the 1991 team. He was a longtime high school coach at Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway, where he helped build the program into a WPIAL powerhouse, until he was forced out and took an assistant coaching job at Temple for one year. It's not yet completely clear what position Smith will coach, although some reports have pointed to cornerbacks. Josh Gattis is currently Penn State's receivers coach, although he played safety in the NFL. Smith is Franklin's only assistant without any Vanderbilt ties and is expected to be a big boon to PSU recruiting western Pennsylvania.

Offensive line coach Herb Hand: He has aspirations to become a head coach someday, and he's widely regarded as a solid assistant. He was a co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Tulsa from 2007 to 2009, mentored the nation's top-ranked offense for two seasons and was a finalist for offensive line coach of the year in 2008. He moved up to Vanderbilt, and Franklin decided to keep him on staff when he arrived. His line helped NFL draft pick Zac Stacy establish several of Vanderbilt's single-season rushing records, and he basically played the role of Larry Johnson by keeping Vanderbilt's recruiting class together. His philosophy doesn't seem to be a huge departure from Mac McWhorter, as he likes his linemen to play multiple positions.
CHICAGO -- Some of the top prospects in Illinois and the Midwest were in Chicago on Monday for the Core 6 Showcase. The event featured some of the top junior, sophomore and even freshman recruits from all over.


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Lunchtime links

January, 21, 2014
Jan 21
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Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up, it's bobsled time.
It's Senior Bowl week, so you should be following our draft experts as they track the 15 Big Ten players suiting up for the North squad on Saturday in Mobile, Ala. Before turning the page toward the Senior Bowl, let's review how the Big Ten groups performed this past weekend in the East-West Shrine Game and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.

East-West Shrine Game

Players who registered statistics:
  • Michigan WR Jeremy Gallon led the East team with four receptions for 55 yards
  • Purdue CB Ricardo Allen ranked second on the East team in tackles with five. He also had three punt returns for 56 yards, including a 30-yarder
  • Purdue DT Bruce Gaston Jr. had two tackles for the East team, both on run plays that went for one yard
  • Penn State LB Glenn Carson had four tackles for the East team
  • Penn State S Stephen Obeng-Agyapong had three tackles and a pass breakup for the West team
  • Indiana TE Ted Bolser had two receptions for eight yards for the West team
  • Michigan State LB Max Bullough had three tackles for the West team
  • Minnesota S/CB Brock Vereen had one tackle for the West team
  • Nebraska WR Quincy Enunwa had one tackle on special teams but no receptions for the West team
NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

Players who registered statistics:
  • Ohio State QB Kenny Guiton completed 1 of 4 pass attempts for nine yards. He also lost a fumble for Team American
  • Wisconsin TE Brian Wozniak had two receptions for 25 yards for Team American
  • Nebraska OT Brent Qvale registered a tackle on the play where Guiton fumbled for Team American
  • Ohio State S C.J. Barnett had a tackle for Team American
Signing day is inching closer and closer, which means there are questions out there. The Big Ten has plenty of top targets remaining.

Here are five things to watch within the conference as signing day approaches:


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Matt Sandusky in 'Happy Valley'

January, 20, 2014
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[+] EnlargeMatt Sandusky
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarMatt Sandusky, the adopted son of Jerry Sandusky, said he appeared in the "Happy Valley" documentary because he wants to speak out to help other survivors of sexual abuse.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The son of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky participated in a documentary about his father's sexual-abuse case and hopes to become an advocate for child victims.

Matt Sandusky told the Centre Daily Times that he took part in "Happy Valley" because he has become strong enough to tell his story and wants to speak out to help other survivors. The 100-minute film, debuting this week at the Sundance Film Festival, explores whether it was an open secret that Sandusky was molesting boys.

"For me and all survivors, it is important to have control over the timing and setting of [the] disclosure," Matt Sandusky told the newspaper.

Sandusky had been listed as a defense witness at his father's 2012 trial, but he instead disclosed through lawyers that he had also been abused and didn't take the stand. Jerry Sandusky, convicted on 45 counts involving 10 boys, maintains his innocence and is appealing his conviction. He is serving a 30- to 60-year prison term.

Matt Sandusky declined to elaborate on his comments in the film, but he said he discusses his childhood, the abuse and his relationship with family. He is one of six children adopted by Jerry and Dottie Sandusky. He petitioned last year to legally change his name and that of his wife and four children.


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Big Ten lunch links

January, 20, 2014
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I'm the best lunch linker in the game.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

January, 20, 2014
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As usual there is a ton of action happening around signing day. The Big Ten has had commitments, decommitments, offers and everything in between.

Here is a look at what took place within the conference on the recruiting trail this past week:


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Big Ten Friday mailblog

January, 17, 2014
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Wishing you a good weekend. We'll wrap up the East-West Shrine Game and NFLPA Bowl on Monday.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter.

To the inbox …

Brent from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, writes: So Iowa blasts Nebraska in Lincoln on the final Friday in November, plays a more difficult bowl opponent in LSU, and Nebraska finishes higher in your power rankings. That's par for the course.

[+] EnlargeZaire Anderson
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesIt was impossible to ignore what the Cornhuskers did to Georgia in the Gator Bowl when it came time to do the power rankings.
Adam Rittenberg: Both teams played SEC teams playing without their starting quarterbacks. LSU wasn't the same team without Zach Mettenberger. We do power rankings after the bowl games to factor in what happened in the bowl games. Otherwise, there's no point in doing another version. Nebraska improved during bowl practice and played well against a heavily favored Georgia team. Iowa couldn't mount a scoring drive of more than 5 yards against LSU. You can't solely do power rankings based on head-to-head results. Otherwise, Michigan would be ahead of Minnesota and Indiana would be ahead of Penn State. It's a what-have-you-done-lately type of deal.

Kellen from Duluth, Minn., writes: Given Nelson' transfer, do you see the Gophers trying to pick up JUCO or potentially a graduate transfer (Brewer from Tech?) to help fill in the depth and push the QB competition?

Rittenberg: Kellen, it's possible the Gophers try to add another quarterback. They could be fine with Mitch Leidner and Chris Streveler, who generated some positive buzz during his redshirt year, but you'd like to have more than two options at quarterback. Incoming recruit Dimonic McKinzy, who has enrolled early, could have the skill set to run Minnesota's offense. "They want a playmaker at the quarterback position," McKinzy told the (St. Paul) Pioneer Press. I'm not sure Michael Brewer is a great fit as he'd be going from a pass-heavy offense at Texas Tech to one built more around the run game at Minnesota.

Jeremy from the Cornfields of South Carolina writes: Adam, we are already hearing how stacked the future East Division is going to be compared to the West and how the West programs will need to step up to match. I do not claim to be a conference fan, I am a die-hard Husker fan born and raised in the cornfields. That being said Nebraska has fared very well over the course of the last three years against our new conference rivals; 3-0 vs PSU, 2-1 vs Michigan, 2-1 vs MSU, 2-1 vs NW, 2-1 vs Iowa, 1-1 vs OSU, and 1-2 vs Wisconsin. The losses didn't look good for sure, but under Pelini Nebraska has found ways to beat the elite teams within the conference. To me the West needs to look to Iowa, Northwestern and Minnesota to step up and Nebraska and Wisconsin to at least maintain. There is no guarantee that Michigan or PSU contribute to the strength of the East in the near future. I don't see the potential imbalance that people are talking about.

Rittenberg: I agree with some of your points, Jeremy. There are no guarantees that Michigan or Penn State boosts the East Division, as both programs face some challenges right now. What works against the West is a lack of historic powers. Although Wisconsin has been very good in the past two decades, Nebraska is undoubtedly the most decorated program in the West Division. The Huskers have fared well against Penn State and Michigan, but it's debatable whether Nebraska can get it done in the biggest games. It beat a very weak Ohio State team in 2011 and flopped against Big Ten champ Wisconsin in 2011 and 12-0 Ohio State in 2012. I don't think Nebraska belongs with Wisconsin yet but could soon get there. The bigger point is that Iowa, Northwestern, Minnesota, Purdue and Illinois must elevate their play and sustain it to improve the strength of the division.

Kenny from Hastings, Neb., writes: Am I missing something with Wisconsin this year? How is a 9-4 Wisconsin team better than a 9-4 Nebraska team? Wisconsin lost its final two games while the Huskers went 1-1, winning their bowl game (one of only two Big Ten teams to do so) and being the only team in the Big Ten to beat an SEC team. What gives?

Rittenberg: Don't push your luck, Kenny. You're somewhat fortunate to be ranked ahead of Iowa. Wisconsin ended the season poorly but had a better, more consistent squad than Nebraska for much of the season. If the two teams played after the bowls, I'd still take Wisconsin (and so would Brian). Nebraska is where it should be after a nice bowl win, but the Huskers weren't the Big Ten's third-best team this year.

[+] EnlargeC.J. Brown
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyC.J. Brown provided a lot of excitement for Maryland in 2013.
John from Washington D.C. writes: Adam; I know this was the "final" Big Ten Power Rankings for the year, but any chance of getting an 'amended' rankings with Maryland and Rutgers? Just a glimpse of what's to come, so to speak?

Rittenberg: John, we'll almost certainly have Rutgers and Maryland as part of the first 2014 power rankings, as they'll soon transition to the Big Ten blog. I need to study both teams a little more closely, but both are going through some staff turnover, especially Rutgers, which must replace both of its coordinators. Neither team was overly impressive in its bowl game, and both will be transitioning to a new league and a very tough division. Both teams struggled with turnovers this past season and will have to limit mistakes entering 2014.

Jason from B1G West writes: I think it is kind of interesting the amount of players from the SEC leaving school early for the draft, compared to the Big Ten. Would it be the different recruits the Big Ten gets, or more of a commitment to education from our conference, or maybe it's just the way things went down this year?

Rittenberg: Jason, several Big Ten fans have mentioned this to me after seeing the discrepancy in early entries between the leagues. There are certainly some Big Ten draft hopefuls like Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah who could have jumped to the NFL but wanted to finish his degree. But the SEC has players like that, too. It's too simplistic to argue that all SEC players only want to go pro and all Big Ten players care more about education than the NFL draft. There are examples of both in each league, but the bottom line is the SEC has more players who are capable of making the jump early than the Big Ten. That speaks to talent.

Ben from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Adam,In 2016-1019, the first four years the Big Ten will have a nine-game schedule, Michigan plays Wisconsin four times, Nebraska once, Northwestern once, and Minnesota once. I get that this is the result of parity based scheduling, but even so, wouldn't Wisconsin, the obvious top program in the West, then play Michigan State or OSU four times?

Rittenberg: Ben, keep in mind the Big Ten is trying to satisfy multiple objectives with the schedule. There's the parity-based component, which will pair teams like Michigan and Wisconsin more often than not, but the league also wants to make sure every matchup takes place once every four years. Michigan and Wisconsin haven't played since 2010, and the fact they'll play in four consecutive seasons won't be the norm for parity-based scheduling. Wisconsin plays both Michigan State and Ohio State twice between 2016-19, which is a little more typical of what you'll see with parity-based scheduling.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- James Franklin said he wouldn't announce his coaching staff until he filled every position, but that goal is nearly completed.

Seven assistant coaches -- all but one traveling straight from Vanderbilt -- have already joined the Nittany Lions' staff, according to both reports and the coaches' respective Twitter accounts. Franklin needs just two assistants now to complete his staff, and he'll likely hire an offensive line coach and defensive backs coach.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
AP Photo/ John BealeJames Franklin is close to filling out his staff at Penn State.
In the meantime, here's a closer look at who's currently part of the Penn State staff:

  • Offensive coordinator John Donovan: He has spent quite a bit of time in the northeast, as he grew up in New Jersey and spent 10 seasons with the Terrapins. Vanderbilt's offense didn't exactly take off under Donovan's direction, but he didn't exactly have a lot to work with either. The Commodores were No. 110 in total offense in 2010 and, under Donovan, were ranked 98, 80 and 93. He called runs on 57 percent of offensive plays last season, but the passing game wasn't a strength.
  • Quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne: He was Cornell's quarterback and a three-time team MVP in the early 2000s, so he's obviously familiar with the position. He even helped mentor current NFL QB Josh Freeman back when he was with Kansas State. But, without graduated quarterback Jordan Rodgers this season, Vanderbilt finished with just 15 passing TDs and 16 interceptions.
  • Running backs coach Charles Huff: So far, he's the only assistant not to come straight from Vandy, as he spent one year as the Buffalo Bills' assistant running backs coach before joining Western Michigan last season as its running backs coach. (And, before those two jobs, yes, he was with Franklin as his assistant special teams coordinator at Vanderbilt.) Huff graduated from Hampton in 2005 and played center, guard, fullback and tight end.
  • Wide receivers coach Josh Gattis: He turned 30 years old earlier this week, and he's a former safety who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL draft. He spent one year at Western Michigan, before moving over to Vanderbilt in 2012. He coached All-American receivers at both schools.
  • Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop: Before Shoop took over Vanderbilt's defense, the Commodores ranked No. 93 in yards allowed. In the last three years? Each defense has ranked within the top 25, and his opportunistic secondaries have been solid. He already has spoken with several current Penn State players, such as Mike Hull and Jordan Lucas, and he has been busy on the recruiting trail. He visited Philadelphia on Thursday and planned to be in Pittsburgh on Friday.
  • Defensive line coach Sean Spencer: His players call him "Coach Chaos," and he calls his players the "Wild Dogs." He doesn't have the track record of Larry Johnson -- few assistants do -- but his line finished with 47 tackles for loss and 23 sacks last season. By comparison, Penn State's line finished with 41 stops in the backfield and 18 sacks. Spencer tends to utilize a lot of linemen in his schemes.
  • Linebackers coach/co-defensive coordinator Brent Pry: He started his coaching career at East Stroudsburg (Pa.), at the same time Franklin played there. He gradually moved up through the ranks -- Western Carolina, ULL, Memphis, Georgia Southern -- before landing at Vanderbilt. Earlier this year, he turned down a chance to be Georgia Southern's new head coach. He helped two Vandy sophomore linebackers, Darreon Herring and Jake Sealand, have solid campaigns last season.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- More than 15,000 fans filed into Beaver Stadium for Bill O'Brien's first-ever pep rally. Most stood and chanted for 45 minutes before the head coach finally appeared.

As they watched in rapt attention, O'Brien paced with a hand in his pocket and asked for the crowd to be "loud and proud" before the 2012 opener. Then he left. The speech clocked in at 64 seconds.

"I'm not the pep rally coach," O'Brien said later.

[+] EnlargePenn State coach James Franklin
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesNew coach James Franklin is engaging the community in a much different fashion than predecessor Bill O'Brien.
O'Brien's successor is nearly the polar opposite -- and that's why his personality is a better fit for Penn State. James Franklin took the dais for nearly an hour at Saturday's introductory news conference and seemed to treat it more like a talk show. While a stonefaced O'Brien tried to remind the media he was "not the coach of unity," Franklin took the opposite approach and excited fans with exclamation marks at the end of every sentence.

"The healing process is why I'm here," Franklin said. "It's why we're all here, to bring this great university back together and try to unite the former players, the current players, the alumni, all the people."

Franklin hasn't been the head coach for a full week yet, but he already has garnered a lot of good will in Happy Valley. Some alumni lamented in the moments after Franklin's hire that he wasn't a Penn State guy -- even former QB Todd Blackledge admitted that Miami (Fla.) coach Al Golden was his first choice -- but Franklin quickly won over fans with his high energy and his promises to "dominate the state" and pack the stadium.

Fan sentiment can change in a hurry if winning doesn't follow all the impassioned speeches and promises. But, if this is the first quarter in Franklin's Penn State career, he certainly has seized an early lead.

Franklin embraced the role of ambassador; O'Brien was a throwback coach who wanted nothing more than to lead the football team. He shied away from bold statements -- "Dominate the State" never would've flown as a mantra under O'Brien's staff -- and he certainly never said anything remotely close to accepting every speaking engagement, like Franklin did.

On the contrary, O'Brien once matter-of-factly explained his disdain for "birthdays, weddings, theme parks, and the beach." That was in stark contrast to Franklin's first message.

"People ask us to come speak at social events, we're going to be there," Franklin said. "People ask us to blow up balloons at their kid's birthday party in the backyard, we'll do that as well."

Franklin rotates between hyperbole and truth so often that sometimes it's hard to know where the line is. Sometimes, there isn't one. The Pennsylvania native once called a stranger's boss to get him out of work so he could watch a Vanderbilt game. He has stopped at fraternities to see what he'd need to get them cheering in the Commodores' stands.

O'Brien was a great college coach who commanded respect and loyalty from his Nittany Lions. But that's all he was -- a coach. He dug PSU out of sanctions that some initially labeled as a fate worse than the death penalty, and he left the university in much better shape than he found it. Franklin's mettle hasn't yet been tested in the most important arena of all -- on the field -- but he quickly has surpassed O'Brien in the public relations front. And he certainly has a head-start on winning over Nittany Nation.

"Both of them seem similar as coaches on the field, as far as I've seen," linebacker Mike Hull said Wednesday. "But, off the field, Coach O'Brien, he just liked what his job entailed on the field -- whereas Coach Franklin is really involved in the community and really likes the Penn State spirit and atmosphere."

During O'Brien's first day on the job, a police escort helped whisk him away to the Bryce Jordan Center. During Franklin's, he grabbed an umbrella, walked over a muddy patch of grass and introduced himself to a pair of girls ages 5 and 9 at the airport.

O'Brien won over his team and that, in turn, earned him the fans' support. But, at this early point, Franklin already has earned both.

Big Ten lunchtime links

January, 17, 2014
Jan 17
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I need my football fix. Someone should consider resurrecting the XFL ...

2014 Heisman contenders: Big Ten

January, 17, 2014
Jan 17
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The most famous statue in college football has been awarded to seven guys since somebody from the Big Ten has lifted it and been recognized as the best player in the country.

But plenty of candidates are already emerging to snap that skid and become the league's first winner since Troy Smith, starting with another Ohio State quarterback who has already figured prominently in the voting over the past two seasons. Starting with that candidate, we'll take a closer look at five Big Ten players capable of breaking through in 2014.

[+] EnlargeBraxton Miller
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesBraxton Miller, who already has a pair of top-10 Heisman finishes, could earn a trip to NYC with another big year leading the Buckeyes' high-scoring offense.
QB Braxton Miller, Ohio State: If not for his September injury last season, Miller may have already made an appearance in New York for the trophy presentation. Perhaps with the numbers he missed out on, he may have even won it. With a pair of top-10 finishes already to his credit, Miller elected to return for his senior season and will make one more run at the top prize. If he can take another step forward as a passer, he could easily become the favorite if he leads the high-scoring Buckeyes on another unbeaten run through the regular season.

RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin: For pure explosiveness out of the backfield, few players provide more firepower than Gordon. While he may wind up splitting some of the workload for the Badgers, with James White out of the picture Gordon isn't likely to finish second on the team in carries, which can damage an individual's case for hardware. Gordon rushed for 1,609 yards and 12 touchdowns while sharing time, and boosting those numbers could make him an appealing option for voters.

QB Connor Cook, Michigan State: The statistical résumé isn't all that impressive, but Cook clearly developed as the season progressed, proving it in two outstanding performances to cap the season in the Big Ten title game and the Rose Bowl. In both of those big wins for the Spartans, Cook had the numbers of a Heisman-caliber passer, throwing for more than 300 yards in each with five total touchdowns. Plus, he is the leader of a likely top-five team in the preseason polls, which will get him on the radar early.

RB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska: The model of consistency, only two teams kept Abdullah from hitting the 100-yard mark as a junior -- and he came up short by just 17 combined yards. The centerpiece of the Nebraska offense decided to come back for one more season, and if he can match the prolific pace from last season when he finished with 1,690 yards, he could emerge as a legitimate threat for the trophy. The Huskers may need to spend longer in championship contention, but featuring Abdullah is probably the best way to do it.

QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State: The Nittany Lions are still locked out of the postseason, and while that probably shouldn't matter for individual awards, it has seemingly been a voting deterrent in the past. Hackenberg will have that uphill battle to fight as he tries to follow up his fantastic freshman season, but he has already proved he has the talent to insert himself in the national conversation and now has a new coach in James Franklin who surely won't hesitate to campaign for his quarterback. He threw for nearly 3,000 yards in his first season at the college level, and he figures to get better with experience.

Key recruiting visits -- Big Ten 

January, 17, 2014
Jan 17
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Now that the dead period has ended, prospects will continue taking visits to schools before signing day. The Big Ten has several top targets traveling all over the country this weekend, so here is a look at some of the bigger visitors for the conference.

1. DT Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes)
Visiting: Ohio State
Nnadi, who is ranked No. 253 in the ESPN 300, has Ohio State, Penn State, Florida State and Virginia Tech in his top group. The nation’s No. 21 defensive tackle visits Ohio State this weekend and with new defensive line coach Larry Johnson now officially hired by the Buckeyes, we’ll see where Ohio State ranks after this trip.


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Penn State 2015 Class Debuts At No. 3
Craig Haubert discusses recent additions to the Nittany Lions' 2015 class and first-year coach James Franklin's success on the recruiting trail.Tags: Adam McLean, Ryan Bates, Penn State Nittany Lions, James Franklin
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