April 21, 2012; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Bill O'Brien on the sidelines during the spring game at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE
By the time IU and Penn State play on the second-to-last weekend of the Big Ten season, however, the off-the-field aspects of the Penn State story will have faded a bit, I suspect, and the focus will be on how the severe NCAA sanctions are and will be affecting Penn State on the field. As I presume everyone knows, the consent decree entered by the NCAA and Penn State, which imposed sanctions that included a four year postseason ban, allowed any current Penn State players to transfer without penalty before practice began. Ten players took that option, including PSU's top returning running back, Silas Redd (USC), leading returning receiver Justin Brown (Oklahoma), backup quarterback Rob Bolden (LSU), tight end Kevin Haplea (Florida State), linebacker Kharti Fortt (Cal), and PK/punter Anthony Fera (Texas). Frankly, the exodus probably wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been.
Matt McGloin does return at quarterback. McGloin shouldered most of the QB last year but wasn't particularly impressive. He completed 54 percent of his passes and threw 8 TDs and 5 interceptions. Curtis Dukes, with 237 yards and 1 TD, is PSU's leading returning rusher, but he missed spring practice because of academic concerns, and converted receiver Bill Belton is listed as the number one running back.At receiver, with Brown's departure, things are a bit barren. According to this article, Penn State's top three receivers currently are Allen Robinson, Shawney Kersey and Alex Kenney. Robinson caught 3 passes for 29 yards last season. Kersey caught 5 passes for 108 yards. Kenney did not catch a pass last season. According to BSD, the Penn State offensive line returns only one regular starter and a total of 17 career starts.
On defense, LB Gerald Hodges (106 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 1 INT), LB Glenn Carson (74 tackles), NT Jordan Hill (8 TFL, 3.5 sacks), LB Michael Mauti (21 tackles, 3 TFL, and 1 INT before a torn ACL in game 4), and S Malcolm Willis (1 interception), DE Sean Stanley (6.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 1 INT) return, but there are plenty of losses, mostly related to graduation. As noted above, Penn State was one of the rare programs that used the same guy, Anthony Fera, as both a kicker and punter, but he transferred.
As I get deeper into this season with these previews, it becomes easier to say that we will know much more by the time the game rolls around than we know now. That is, to say the least, especially true of Penn State. They lose a bunch of talent, both to graduation and to 11th hour transfers made possible by the NCAA sanctions. They aren't eligible for the division title or for bowl games. Other than perhaps a handful of the freshmen, none of them ever will be so much as eligible to play in a bowl game for Penn State. Yet, nearly all of the guys who stayed were, as the guys who left, blue chip recruits out of high school, and while the Lions don't have much depth or experience, the talent is there. As I said when things blew up a few weeks ago, I would hope that IU finds a way to end its 0-for-forever streak against Penn State within the next four of five years, but given the talent still on hand for Penn State and the rebuilding status of IU at this point, I really don't expect this to be the year. But, who knows? Last year (albeit in Bloomington) IU was within a Hail Mary pass of pulling it off. Penn State could be 8-2 entering this game or 2-8, and neither would surprise me. It's a sad and ugly story but will make for an interesting subplot