Penn State Nittany Lions: CJ Olaniyan

Notebook: QB race remains murky

April, 20, 2013
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Steven Bench and Tyler FergusonAP Photo, USA Today SportsThe quarterback battle at Penn State between Steven Bench and Tyler Ferguson will continue, and they'll be joined by top recruit Christian Hackenberg this summer.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Bill O'Brien crossed his arms and furiously chewed a piece of gum when the inevitable question was asked Saturday: Was the Penn State coach any closer to naming a starting quarterback?

He had to know the question was coming. That was the storyline of the Blue-White Game, the main topic fans discussed in the stands, and a topic that reporters have peppered him about every time O'Brien has made himself available.

"No, I'm not any closer," he said. "But I enjoy coaching both guys and, eventually, we'll have to make a decision. But I'm not ready to make that right now."

Inconsistency appeared to be theme of the day for junior college newcomer Tyler Ferguson and returning sophomore Steven Bench. O'Brien didn't use that term, but he might as well have. He said the pair obviously would've liked to have some plays back but also made some nice throws.

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Spring drills: 5 position battles to watch 

February, 28, 2013
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- With spring drills just a few weeks away, NittanyNation decided to break down several of the brewing position battles.

Notebook: A-Rob aiming for improvement

February, 17, 2013
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Allen RobinsonRich Barnes/US PresswireJunior wide receiver Allen Robinson, who set PSU's single-season record for receptions last season, is working to improve his size and strength.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Allen Robinson smiled and cocked his head to the left when asked how he plans to improve, how he hopes to follow up his record-breaking 2012 season.

It's not that he needed to search for words or that he didn't know the answer. The junior wideout just didn't know where to begin.

"I just want to improve all my weaknesses I had in my game last year," he said matter-of-factly.

After setting a school record with 77 receptions, Robinson's weaknesses might not be so evident. His route-running and leaping ability set him apart and made him one of the most dangerous wideouts in the Big Ten.

He finished his first year as a starter with 1,013 yards and 11 touchdowns, more than twice as many as Penn State's No. 2 target. But, on Saturday afternoon, he rattled off a list of improvements almost as long as his list of accolades.

First off, he said, he needs to increase his weight and improve his diet. He finished 2012 hovering around 198 pounds, so he felt tired and sore as the season wore on. He's now eating three meals a day --- instead of the usual two if he wakes up later -- and put himself on a 2,500-calorie diet.

"I'm at about 208 right now," he said. "So I just want to be more of a durable receiver, able to get across the middle and take those hits and be a better blocker in the run game."

He's also watching more film, trying to pinpoint cracks in his technique. He wants to throw more footballs with Steven Bench and the stable of young quarterbacks. And he's hitting the weight room -- early and often.

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Lions spotlight: Curtis Cothran 

January, 24, 2013
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Every weekday until signing day, NittanyNation will break down a commitment from Penn State’s 2013 recruiting class.

Vitals: Defensive end Curtis Cothran, Newtown, Pa./Council Rock North, 6-foot-5, 240 pounds

Committed: March 26, 2012

ESPN.com grade: 70. Three-star prospect.

ESPN.com rankings: No. 110 at position, No. 204 in region, No. 49 in state.

Picked Penn State over: Maryland, Rutgers, Syracuse and others.


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Next man up: Replacing Stanley, Massaro

December, 30, 2012
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Heading into next season, NittanyNation takes a closer look at holes left by departing Penn State players and the candidates who might fill them.

DEFENSIVE END
  • Who: The defensive line was a strength for Penn State, and Sean Stanley was the Nittany Lions' best end at stopping the run. He played in 46 career games -- starting 19 times -- and there was no controversy heading into 2012 over who would be starting there. Pete Massaro had limited action because of a slew of injuries but remained an above-average backup who played in nine games. He added quality depth to the ends.
  • By the numbers: Penn State boasted the nation's No. 23 rushing defense, and Stanley was second on the line with 35 tackles. He had 9.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and contributed toward three turnovers. Massaro had just eight tackles, broke up a pass and finished with one stop in the backfield.
  • Job description: If there was one weakness here, it was containing runs to the outside. The next defensive end must improve upon that, although none will be as seasoned as Stanley. At 6-foot-1 and 243 pounds, the next starter will undoubtedly be bigger and might even bat down a few more passes. PSU's starting defensive line didn't disrupt the throwing lanes too much and broke up just two passes the whole season. Massaro will be much easier to replace.
  • Top candidates: Rising redshirt sophomore Anthony Zettel and rising redshirt junior C.J. Olaniyan saw more time than Massaro, and both will be counted on even more in 2013. One will likely take over for Stanley, and the other will be the primary backup. Olaniyan is a very athletic end who can stop the run; Zettel is a strong, quick lineman who played basketball in high school.
  • One to watch: Zettel. At 6-5, he would be the tallest starter on the line, and he showed flashes of potential throughout the season. In a span of 14 plays against Navy, Zettel came away with six tackles and two sacks. He showed the ability to take over a game and finished third on the team with four sacks.

Position review: Defensive line 

December, 1, 2012
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Every day for two weeks, NittanyNation will take a closer look at each position and how Penn State fared over the course of the season.

Today: Defensive line

[+] EnlargeJordan Hill
MCT/ZUMA Press/Icon SMIJordan Hill started slow but finished with a flourish as a senior for Penn State in 2012.
The front seven has always been a strength of Penn State, and that continued in 2012. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill started slow, taking some time to adjust to double-teams, but finished strong and earned praise from other conference coaches, such as Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. He was the star of this line and one of the best in the conference.

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