Monday, June 3, 2013
Notebook: PSU camp surprises & more
By Josh Moyer
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden pulled one player aside several times during Saturday's advanced skills camp, gesturing and smiling while offering some tips.
That player, 2014 linebacker Jason Cabinda (Flemington, N.J./Hunterdon Central), nodded along with Vanderlinden and appeared to take the instruction well -- especially for a recruit whose film mostly showcases him at tailback and defensive end.
"They wanted to see if I was comfortable playing at linebacker," Cabinda said. "Any mistakes I made for the most part were just mental mistakes, because of me not playing linebacker and not me physically being unable to do something. So that was a really good sign. They feel like I just need some coaching up, and I'll be fine."
The Nittany Lions have recruited Cabinda since his sophomore season, but teams' interest has especially picked up since April. His offer list increased from just one to more than a dozen, mostly from FCS schools. He now counts several FBS schools -- Boston College, UConn, UMass, Navy, Syracuse, Temple -- on that offer sheet.
The 6-foot-2, 221-pound athlete visited campus a few months ago, after junior day, to watch spring practice. And, although he doesn't yet hold a PSU offer, he thought he greatly improved his standing with the staff after his camp performance.
"They said they think very highly of me, and they definitely want me to come back," Cabinda said. "They said if they didn't think highly of me, then they wouldn't have asked me to come back. So I hope I'll be hearing from them soon.
"I've just always loved Penn State. I came here before, and I just love the campus. I visited the stadium; I was just laying down inside and taking it in. So, yeah, I really do like Penn State."
New offer out: 2015 CB Minkah Fitzpatrick (Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter's Prep) stood out as the top athlete at PSU's camp and earned an offer from PSU before the afternoon's second session started up.
Bill O'Brien talked to Fitzpatrick's father on the field for several minutes during the morning session, and the elder Fitzpatrick said he enjoyed the chat. His son already boasts nine offers, and he'll undoubtedly be receiving more as he attends more camps and his film trickles out.
His father, also named Minkah, told NittanyNation his son will be stopping at several camps this summer and is only looking at schools in which he has considerable interest. PSU was Fizpatrick's first stop, but he also plans to see Alabama next month and has a South Carolina visit scheduled.
Fitzpatrick also wants to see Ohio State, Clemson and Michigan before his junior season begins.
Jesse James lookalike? One tight end who caught a lot of on-lookers' eyes was 2014 TE Alec Bloom (Ligonier, Pa./Ligonier), who stands at 6-foot-7 just like sophomore TE Jesse James.
Bloom, whose primary sport was basketball until this year, showed nice hands on several passes. He holds no offers but appears to be primary run-on material. This was his first-ever football camp, and the tight end felt the coaches noticed him Saturday.
And, of course, he was well-aware of those inevitable James comparisons.
"You ever hear of Jes--," someone asked.
"Jesse James," Bloom interrupted, laughing. "Yeah, I watched tape on him, and he's very good. He's a role model, so to speak."
On a lighter note ... : As soon O'Brien entered Holuba Hall, PSU's indoor practice facility, it was pretty easy to see just how starstruck some of the recruits were.
For those facing the recruits, away from O'Brien's entrance, it was a pretty curious sight to see smiles suddenly appear on half of the recruits' faces and a handful of kids whispering to their neighbors. O'Brien commanded the room, and strength coach Craig Fitzgerald was a strong follow-up.
Fitzgerald turned down the use of a microphone, and his booming voice carried across the facility. Several recruits remarked afterward on Fitzgerald's energy and said he's the type of strength coach they'd hope to work with in the future.
"I think I got more motivation during that strength and conditioning guy's opening," said 2015 DL Casey Bernard (Leonardtown, Md./St Mary's Ryken). "He's fiery."
Standout efforts: Two other athletes who seemed to impress the staff included 2014 wideout Zeccheus Roberson (East Stroudsburg, Pa./East Stroudsburg South) and 2015 TE Kenneth Wright (Mt. Holly, N.J./Rancocas Valley).
Roberson blew past several DBs during 7-on-7s. One pass, about a 35-yard floater that hugged the sideline, appeared to be well overthrown -- but Roberson somehow caught up to the pass. Granted, it just drifted past his fingertips, but it was an impressive effort. He still made several other nice deep catches, but his speed and agility at the camp stood out more than this hands.
"I love the jump balls," he said. "I love when they throw the ball up there so I can go get it."
Assistant coach Charles London pulled Wright aside on one occasion, as the tight end showed the ability to make consistently nice catches on cross routes during indoor drills.
Other standouts: The Dowell Bros. out of Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward, 2015 prospects Andrew and David, both impressed and David reeled in a 35-yard, over-the-shoulder grab that raised some eyebrows. ... 2014 DB Eric Haggadorn (Westerville, Ohio/Westerville North) also showed great awareness and athleticism during one-on-ones when he came down with a leaping interception in the end zone. Both he and the wideout seemed to grab the ball simultaneously, but Haggadorn won out ... 2015 RB Devell Jones (Jersey City, N.J./Lincoln) came into Saturday's camp hoping to lower his 40, and he succeeded by running in the 4.6s. Could be preferred walk-on material ... 2015 OL Kevin Feder (Ramsey, N.J./Don Bosco) also earned some attention from the staff.