Penn State Nittany Lions: Tanner Hartman

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- We’re inching closer to the top spot of this week’s countdown involving the top spring position battles at Penn State.

Up today is a spot that will be forced to plug in a new starter ...

No. 2 position battle: Offensive guard/center

Departures: Ty Howle (12 starts), John Urschel (12 starts), Tanner Hartman (one game; transferring at end of semester)

Returning players: Miles Dieffenbach (12 starts), Angelo Mangiro (11 games played), Wendy Laurent (five games played), Brendan Mahon (redshirted)

Breaking it down: There are a few other players who could also compete inside such as Anthony Alosi, but this position battle should really come down to two names: Mahon and Laurent.

Dieffenbach is the only returning starter on the interior, so he’ll reclaim his spot at left guard with ease. Mangiro, a strong sub the past two seasons, is also nearly a lock to start. But where he plays -- guard or center -- will be dependent upon Mahon and Laurent. If Laurent excels, then he’ll start at center, Mangiro will move to right guard, and Mahon will be a sub. But if Laurent falters, then Mangiro will likely move to center and Mahon will start at right guard.

Those are the two most likely scenarios right now. The chemistry of the line will be greatly increased if one of those two players can quickly separate himself. The incoming freshmen are all projected to be tackles since there are only two returning players on scholarship there, so this position battle could really be decided in the next two months.

Pre-camp edge: Laurent. He’s a redshirt sophomore who gained just six pounds, from 278 to 284, between the 2012 and 2013 seasons. He has experience, so he has the slight edge on Mahon right now -- but there’s no doubt that 305-pound Mahon has the higher ceiling. As a result, this is somewhat akin to the Brandon Felder-Geno Lewis dilemma at receiver last season. Mahon appears to be the long-term answer, but it’s not yet certain if he’s ready. If he’s not, Laurent will take over -- it's his job to lose.

More position battles to watch:

No. 5: Kicker
No. 4: Tight end
No. 3: Defensive tackle

Big Ten lunch links

February, 20, 2014
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The links would like to be back in Indianapolis, but they're never going pro.
  • After picking up some new hardware, Braxton Miller talks about his decision to return to Ohio State for one more season.
  • Is there really a quarterback competition on tap for Michigan this spring? Opinions are somewhat divided ahead of the start of camp for the Wolverines.
  • Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard is fighting to be the first cornerback taken in the draft, and a strong showing at the NFL combine could put him in that position.
  • Reserve guard Tanner Hartman is leaving Penn State, dropping James Franklin's roster down to 78 scholarship players. The Nittany Lions eventually need to get down to 75 by August.
  • Bo Pelini has a new administrator to report to as Nebraska made a personnel change in the football operations department.
  • At the top of the list of questions for Indiana's offense: Who is the top quarterback heading into spring practice?
  • The Northwestern hearings continued on Wednesday as the debate focused on whether or not players could be considered employees.
  • With a presence in nearly half of the nation's top 15 media markets, Pat Caputo calls the Big Ten a "demographics dream."
  • There's no question about Melvin Gordon's talent, but the next step is proving the Wisconsin running back can flourish in a featured role.
  • Quarterback transfers appear to be on the rise, and players are both coming and going in the Big Ten.

OG Hartman to transfer from Penn State

February, 19, 2014
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State offensive guard Tanner Hartman has left the team and will transfer at the end of the semester, according to a Penn State spokesman.

Hartman, a redshirt freshman, was considered a long-term project when he signed last year and wasn’t expected to contribute this season. The current roster puts him at 6-foot-6 and 256 pounds, the same measurables he had when the 2013 season began.

His high school football coach at Lynchburg (Va.) Liberty Christian Academy, Frank Rocco, said last February that Hartman was hovering around 260 pounds. So, obvious questions arose as to whether he would ever gain the weight necessary to contribute as a Big Ten offensive lineman.

It’s not yet known where he’ll consider transferring. Hartman did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Hartman was a two-star prospect who decommitted from Maryland in favor of Penn State in September of 2012. He was the 11th commitment of the 2013 class.

Penn State positions to improve: No. 2

February, 13, 2014
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- We've arrived at the top two in our countdown of the positions with the biggest question marks for Penn State.

The top pick will be unveiled Friday. But up today is a group that wouldn't be a bad choice for No. 1 either ...

No. 2: Offensive line

[+] EnlargeMiles Dieffenbach
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarMiles Dieffenbach (65) is one of Penn State's veterans along the O-line.
The players: Donovan Smith (10 starts), Miles Dieffenbach (11 starts), Angelo Mangiro (11 games played), Andrew Nelson (redshirted), Brendan Mahon (redshirted), Wendy Laurent (five games played), Anthony Alosi (six games played), Tanner Hartman (one game played), Chasz Wright (early enrollee), Noah Beh (incoming freshman), Brendan Brosnan (incoming freshman), Chance Sorrell (incoming freshman)

Last season: This group started off slow and struggled picking up the heavy blitz, but it really improved as the season wore on. Tailbacks Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton combined for just two 100-yard rushing performances in the first seven games but finished the last five games with five -- and Penn State even outplayed Wisconsin's mammoth line in the finale. John Urschel was a first-team All-Big Ten selection, while three substitutes -- Garry Gilliam, Eric Shrive and Mangiro -- saw considerable time.

What's missing: Experience and depth. Eight players saw a lot of time last season and five are now gone. PSU has just one returning offensive tackle on scholarship with any kind of game experience, and new coach James Franklin will be forced to plug in two rookies on the starting line. Health is obviously paramount here.

Moving forward: Former coach Bill O'Brien raved about Nelson, who redshirted last season as a freshman, and Nelson will almost certainly take over the starting right tackle position. There's really no one else to consider, outside of incoming freshmen and walk-ons. But the big question comes from the interior. At guard and/or center, Dieffenbach and Mangiro will be a part of some kind of combination, but there's no telling who else fits into Franklin's plans. Laurent could be the center. Or Mangiro could take over that position and Franklin could slide in Mahon at one of the guard positions. Or maybe Franklin decides to move a defensive tackle to the offensive side of the ball. There are a lot of moving pieces right now, and a lot has to go right for this group to start off smoothly. The question marks surrounding this position likely won't be answered by Week 1.

Looking to the past & future: OL

December, 24, 2013
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It's never too late -- or too early -- to see what we learned from this season and also look ahead to next season. So, we've started breaking down each position on the Nittany Lions.

Up today: Offensive line.

REWIND

Expectations entering the 2013 season: OL coach Mac McWhorter's group was expected to start fast, as it returned three primary starters and several other players who saw significant time in 2012.

[+] EnlargeDonovan Smith
AP Photo/Kevin TanakaOffensive tackle Donovan Smith was expected to be a breakout star, but he didn't quite live up to his potential this season.
LT Donovan Smith was a favorite on projected breakout lists, and John Urschel often said that center Ty Howle was the most underrated lineman on the team. The real question mark surrounded right tackle, and whether Adam Gress or Garry Gilliam could step up. With an extra year under McWhorter and strength coach Craig Fitzgerald, many believed this line would be as good -- or better -- than 2012.

How they fared: They didn't quite get off to the start they wanted -- even Urschel admitted that. Consistency was difficult to come by early in the season, and Smith certainly didn't live up to his potential. Bill O'Brien didn't start him for a game -- and that certainly appeared to send a message -- but this line played its best football at the end of the year.

Zach Zwinak rushed for 563 yards in the last four games. And, overall, PSU allowed 22 sacks on the season -- which isn't too bad considering a rookie was standing in the pocket and sometimes taking too long to throw the ball. This line played as expected in the second half of the season, but it was a different story in the first half.

What we learned: This line is pretty versatile. Left tackle and right tackle were relatively interchangeable, Angelo Mangiro could play anywhere along the interior and Eric Shrive could play anywhere outside of center. We saw this in 2012, but 2013 just reinforced it. When some players found themselves injured or in slumps, this line showed it was pretty flexible and able to adjust.

Grade: B. This a little tricky because the grade in the first six games would've been markedly different than the last six games. Overall, though, this line played above-average. Urschel was an All-Big Ten player who was selected as a third-team All-American by the AP. Gilliam was a pleasant surprise, Smith a disappointment, and everyone else played close to as expected.

FAST FORWARD

Key losses: OG Urschel, C Howle, OT Gress. Gilliam still hasn't made up his mind on whether to stay. First, he was staying, then leaving ... and then he wasn't sure. His decision will have quite an impact on this group, however. If he leaves, PSU has to plug three openings on the line -- and right tackle will be the biggest concern of all since three of PSU's top four tackles would then graduate.

Position stock watch: Trending downward. Even if Gilliam stays, the offensive line is going to have a lot of question marks to overcome. Mangiro will be able to fill one spot along the interior, but who else will start? Wendy Laurent, who played in five games? And just think about that hole at right tackle if Gilliam does leave. It seems as if freshman Andrew Nelson might have to take over out of necessity. Depth is a thing of the past for this group.

Key to next season: Finding key contributors to add depth. For the last two seasons, PSU hasn't had to search long to find players who could give the starters a quick breather. But it's going to be a bit more difficult this offseason. Laurent, Anthony Alosi and Tanner Hartman have to add weight to their frames before they become viable options. (No lineman under 290 pounds saw significant time last season, and those three are all under 290.) And players who look the part -- such as 6-foot-4, 305-pound OG Brendan Mahon or 6-5, 297-pound OT Nelson -- haven't yet played a single snap. PSU is likely going to have to play some linemen who aren't quite ready, so they're ability to overcome the obvious learning curve will be paramount.
From commitments to official visits to offers tendered, the Big Ten is never at a loss for headlines.

Here’s a look at the latest from an always busy conference:

Bill O’Brien serving pancakes

Urban Meyer has been known as the master in flipping committed prospects in his time at Ohio State and rightfully so with more than a dozen pledged targets becoming Buckeyes. O’Brien is catching up after flipping Jason Cabinda (Flemington, N.J./Hunterdon Central) from Syracuse to Penn State on Wednesday.

Cabinda marks the sixth pledge to change stripes and join the Nittany Lions since O’Brien took over the reins in Happy Valley.

He’s raided Maryland three times in landing running backs Richy Anderson and Johnathan Thomas as well as offensive guard Tanner Hartman. O’Brien has also plucked quarterback Steven Bench from Rice and landed defensive tackle Parker Cothren from Purdue.

Buckeye leafs

Ohio State’s biggest target is headed to Columbus this weekend for the game against Penn State as the top-ranked linebacker in the nation regardless of position comes to town on an official visit in Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County).

McMillan isn’t the only one slated to take an official visit as East Mississippi Community College teammates Avery Gennesy at offensive tackle and A.J. Stamps at safety are coming along. ESPN 300 wide receiver Josh Malone (Gallatin, Tenn./Station Camp) will be on an official visit, too as will commit and defensive end Jalyn Holmes (Norfolk, Va./Lake Taylor).

By the way, Gennesy and Stamps went to the same community college current Ohio State junior and 2013 signee Corey Smith went to.

ESPN Junior 300 standouts Jauan Jennings (Murfreesboro, Tenn./Blackman), Lorenzo Nunez (Kennesaw, Ga./Harrison), Brandon Wimbush (Jersey City/N.J./St. Peter’s Prep), Minkah Fitzpatrick (Jersey City N.J./St. Peter’s Prep), Jacques Patrick (Orlando, Fla./Timber Creek), Anthony McKee (Columbus/Walnut Ridge), Shy Tuttle (Lexington, N.C./North Davidson), Larry Scott (Hubbard, Ohio/Hubbard) and Kelly Bryant (Piedmont, S.C./Wren) have all said they are coming.

As always, the list is fluid and could change at any time. There are a good collection of commits coming to the game as well.

Lee getting close

ESPN 300 linebacker Brandon Lee (Indianapolis/Lawrence Central) cut his list down to Cal, Louisville, Missouri and Virginia Tech on Wednesday night. He will be announcing his decision on Nov. 8, and has already taken an official visit out to Cal and will be out to see Virginia Tech this weekend.

The No. 242 ranked prospect had Northwestern and Penn State in his top list, so those two schools are now obviously out of the running.

It’s still a bit of a mystery as to where he will end up, since Lee has kept everything close to the vest. He is keeping everyone in suspense and taking it down to the wire right up to his announcement date.

London has a top five and a timeline

Running back Madre London (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) is a highly coveted senior among Big Ten teams. With limited options remaining, plenty of teams are hoping to land the three-star back.

On Wednesday, London tweeted that his top five is Nebraska, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Illinois and Pitt and that he will be making his final decision in two weeks.

The Spartans might have the edge here, but it could go either way since he has taken a few visits recently to various programs.

At 6-foot-2, 202 pounds, he would be a great fit for most programs, so landing this Florida athlete will be a big deal for whichever program gets his commitment.

Michigan coaches on the road

Welcome to NittanyNation's mailbag! We asked you to tweet or email your questions, and we've selected three to answer in-depth this week.

Jim Murphy (@JimMurphy13) writes: Jabrill Peppers could have left PSU off his list and only made a top three. That leads me to believe we have a real shot with him. I know Michigan is the front-runner but, with a visit coming up and a decision soon, don't you think PSU can land him?

Josh Moyer: I don't. He's kind of like the reverse of Daquan Worley. Worley was a heavy PSU lean, had PSU and RU as his top two, but figured he might as well check out Georgia Tech since his decision was approaching. The Yellow Jackets had a chance to really impress him but still didn't make an impact in the end, just two weeks before his commitment.

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Coach talk: OG Tanner Hartman 

February, 20, 2013
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What kind of player is Penn State getting here in Tanner Hartman? And what can fans expect?

NittanyNation turned to one of the people who knows most what Hartman is capable of on the field -- Frank Rocco, his high school coach at Lynchburg (Va.) Liberty Christian Academy -- and asked what separates him as a player, how he first noticed Hartman's ability and when he especially showcased his potential.

OG Tanner Hartman, Lynchburg (Va.) Liberty Christian, 2 stars, No. 113 at position
6-foot-4, 265 pounds


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How '13 commits want to be remembered 

February, 7, 2013
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Now that Penn State's Class of 2013 is officially in the books, we decided to ask the commits about their future with the Nittany Lions.

NittanyNation posed the same question to everyone: How do you think -- or hope -- your class will be remembered in four or five years?

Here's what they had to say:


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Larry Johnson Sr. makes difference 

February, 7, 2013
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- He rarely addresses the media. He doesn't opine for the spotlight. Heck, Bill O'Brien didn't mention his name once during Wednesday's 33-minute national signing day press conference.

But don't be fooled here. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr. has played one of the most important roles in piecing together this 2013 recruiting class.


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Penn State has signed larger and more decorated recruiting classes than the 2013 version, and brought in more big names. But the program has never faced NCAA sanctions, including scholarship reductions and postseason probation. Under the circumstances, the 17-member recruiting class PSU signed Wednesday might be one of the most impressive in team history. Penn State brought in star power like quarterback Christian Hackenberg and tight end Adam Breneman, retained most of its top recruits and addressed several needs. Head coach Bill O'Brien and his assistants have received a lot of praise for their first recruiting class of the sanction era, and deservedly so.

ESPN.com caught up with O'Brien on Wednesday to discuss the class.

(Read full post)

NittanyNation signing day recap

February, 6, 2013
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Signing day has gone smoothly in Happy Valley.

Here's a recap of how the letters of intent came in and how the class came together in Penn State's Class of 2013.

Follow the live blog after the jump.

(Read full post)

Polling the commits: Why choose PSU? 

February, 6, 2013
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Christian HackenbergMiller Safrit/ESPN.comThe nation's No. 1 pro-style quarterback, Christian Hackenberg, felt a special bond with Penn State. Sixteen other prospects have also made that bond with the Nittany Lions.
Penn State's Class of 2013 ranks among the top 25 in the nation, and it's been one of the more surprising stories of the recruiting season. These prospects could've gone elsewhere -- some could've attended anywhere -- but they stuck with the Nittany Lions.

They'll officially become part of Penn State today. So, we asked them, why did you want to commit Penn State? Here's what they had to say this week:

  • QB Christian Hackenberg, Fork Union, Va./Fork Union, four stars, No. 15 in ESPN 150: "You know, I just got this gut feeling that it was home for me. Everything fell in line for me moreso than the other schools. I liked a lot of other schools, but I loved Penn State."


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Lions spotlight: Tanner Hartman 

January, 17, 2013
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Every weekday until signing day, NittanyNation will break down a commitment from Penn State’s 2013 recruiting class.

Vitals: Offensive guard Tanner Hartman, Lynchburg, Va./Liberty Christian, 6-foot-4, 255 pounds

Committed: Sept. 25, 2012

ESPN.com grade: 69. Two-star prospect.

ESPN.com rankings: No. 109 at position. No. 212 in region, No. 46 in state.

Picked Penn State over: Maryland, Richmond, Liberty and Temple.


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PSU commits react to lawsuit vs. NCAA 

January, 2, 2013
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Penn State commit Jordan Smith (Washington, D.C./H.D. Woodson) relaxed on his couch, his eyes fixed to the TV screen during Tuesday's Capital One Bowl, when a few words on ESPN's ticker caught his eye -- something to do with NCAA sanctions and a lawsuit.

The three-star cornerback stopped watching the Georgia-Nebraska game and focused on that scrolling bar at the bottom. His eyes remained on that spot for what felt like 5 or 10 minutes until he spotted the news again and fully grasped what was happening:


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Instant Awesome: Franklin's Daughter Dominates
Penn State football coach James Franklin posted a video of his daughter taking on the sleds and yelling, "We are Penn State!"
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