'Supa' good news for Penn State football

Posted: November 28, 2012

STATE COLLEGE - Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

No, it's the "Supa Six," and it could save the future of Penn State football.

This upstart group of young Nittany Lions - namely, running back Bill Belton, wide receiver Allen Robinson, defensive end Deion Barnes, cornerback Adrian Amos, offensive tackle Donovan Smith and tight end Kyle Carter - all made big in-game contributions to a resilient 8-4 Penn State team this season.

But more importantly, perhaps, the six seem committed to Penn State for the long haul, which could play a huge role in keeping Penn State football afloat through sanctioned times.

When asked if he knows of the existence of the group that has dubbed itself the Supa Six, coach Bill O'Brien accompanied a firm head nod with an, "Oh yeah." So while they aren't clandestine superheroes, they could be to Happy Valley football what Batman is to Gotham.

Because of NCAA sanctions, Penn State will have only 15 scholarship players per class from the 2013-14 academic year through 2016-17 and can only have 65 scholarship players on its roster from 2014-15 through 2017-18. To make the Lions' situation even more tenuous, players have free rein to transfer and play immediately from now until 2013 training camp begins in August.

Barnes, Carter and Smith are redshirt freshmen, while Amos, Belton and Robinson are sophomores, meaning the six all have the same class standing. Penn State will need as many players of Supa Six caliber as it can get to have winning seasons under those rules.

Though things always could change given the circumstances, the members of the Supa Six (@TheeSupa6 on Twitter) haven't given any indication that they are thinking about taking their talents elsewhere.

"There's no question that we're committed," Barnes said. "We all talked about it already. You know, we basically said we're comfortable with it as long as we're still making plays and being nationally known, so there's no reason for us to leave."

And make no mistake, the six made plenty of plays this season.

Robinson had 1,018 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 77 catches, the best single-season total in Penn State history, and was named the Big Ten Wide Receiver of the Year.

Barnes had 10 tackles for losses and six sacks, both the best on the team, with three forced fumbles to boot, winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

Carter had the most yards (453) of any Penn State tight end and the second-most of any receiver despite playing in only nine games, getting named to the All-Big Ten first team by the media.

Amos had two interceptions, the best of Penn State's secondary, and was noted for his fierce tackling.

"They're good players in the program," senior quarterback Matt McGloin said. "They're impact players so they're definitely going to need to be leaders in that group next year with the younger guys. And a lot of guys appreciate what they do and respect the way they play the game."

The only member of the Supa Six who didn't exactly have a breakout season was Belton. Though he started the season No. 1 on the depth chart, he would eventually be replaced by 1,000-yard rusher Zach Zwinak.

Still, after he had a three-touchdown game against Iowa earlier in the season, Belton expressed confidence in the program.

"We are definitely committed to this program and we believe in coach O'Brien and the coaching staff," Belton said.

Again, anything could happen, and to the outsider, Belton has the most reason to transfer after only receiving one carry in Penn State's last four games.

O'Brien said he isn't worrying about whether the Supa Six stays.

But he certainly knows that it's a special group.

"Do you know what I worry about? I worry about my son, I worry about my kids, I worry about my family. Those are things to worry about. I don't worry about things that are out of our control," O'Brien said.

"I will tell you this about that group of players - they have great camaraderie. I think they love playing for Penn State.''

|
|
|
|
|