October 31, 2014 |
Bill O'Brien feels at home again. That probably sounds like a silly thing to say about a guy from New England who left a job in State College, Pa., for one deep in the heart of Texas. Home for O'Brien, however, is not so much about location as it is the level of football he is coaching. He showed a lot of courage in January 2012 when he left his job as the New England Patriots offensive coordinator to take over a storied college program that had shockingly spiraled out of control.
October 29, 2014 |
STATE COLLEGE - Former defensive coordinator Tom Bradley spent more than 3 decades at Penn State. About one-third of that time was spent with Larry Johnson by his side. In their time on the staff, Bradley, now an assistant head coach at West Virginia, and Johnson helped forge dominating defenses. "When we worked together, it was always about the team," Bradley said. The same remains true for Johnson, even though that team is no longer Penn State. From 1996 to 2013, Johnson roamed the Beaver Stadium sideline as an assistant coach.
October 22, 2014 |
Larry Johnson earned a reputation as an outstanding recruiter, an elite defensive line coach, and an excellent role model for college football players during his 18 seasons as a Penn State assistant - 16 to Joe Paterno and two to Bill O'Brien. But when the athletic administration of the university looked to hire a new head coach, officials twice passed over him in favor of O'Brien in 2012 and James Franklin last January. Johnson then said goodbye to Happy Valley, not knowing where his next job would be. A new job, however, surfaced almost immediately when Ohio State coach Urban Meyer asked him to become assistant head coach and defensive line coach, meaning fans of Johnson over the years will be shaking their heads Saturday night to see him on the visitors sideline at Beaver Stadium wearing the scarlet and gray of the Buckeyes.
October 18, 2014 |
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The first time his father made the trip for a spring football game, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen warned him about the drive, that it would be a rural one from the airport in Jackson up to Starkville. Mullen told him it would be like traveling in the hills of Pennsylvania "past the Main Line. " The 42-year-old coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, the improbable top-ranked college football team in the nation - after the fastest rise to the top in the history of the sport, from unranked to No. 1 in six games - is a Drexel Hill native and Ursinus College graduate.
September 26, 2014 |
STATE COLLEGE - Last season, heralded true freshman Christian Hackenberg started every game under center for the Nittany Lions, enduring the ebb and flow that comes with an 18-year-old calling the shots. Fortunately for the Virginia native, there was experience on offense, like wide receiver Allen Robinson and a senior-heavy offensive line, to guide him. Now, leading one of the youngest teams in major college football, Hackenberg feels like roles have reversed. "Last year, everyone was being patient with me," Hackenberg said.
September 24, 2014 |
Pat Fitzgerald last led his Northwestern football team into Beaver Stadium in 2012, only a few months after the NCAA slapped Penn State with harsh sanctions that could have left the players and coaches in disarray. But Fitzgerald saw the focus of the team firsthand, led by the Nittany Lions' strong senior class and coach Bill O'Brien. The Lions rallied from 11 down with a 22-point fourth quarter and defeated the Wildcats, 39-28, for their fourth straight win after an 0-2 start. Penn State finished the season 8-4. The Wildcats return Saturday to State College to meet an undefeated and happier Penn State team that now can play in the postseason and will get all of its scholarships back next year.
September 19, 2014 |
Penn State fans knew at the start of the 2014 football season that they would have to wait for the Nittany Lions to develop their running game before it became somewhat proficient. The Lions are entering Week 4 Saturday against Massachusetts, and the fans are still waiting. However, the advice from senior tailback Bill Belton is basically: Don't despair, we're going to get this right very soon. "I don't think we're that far away at all," the former Winslow Township High star said Wednesday.
September 11, 2014 |
When football recruiting experts, real or imagined, attach a ranking or stars to a recruit, they're really setting odds. The more stars, the better the odds of a payoff for the school that lands the recruit. That's all it is. In football, more than most sports, evaluating 15- and 16-year-olds, trying to figure what kind of player they'll be at age 21, is a tough and risky business. In addition to the inherent danger of the sport, that's why Division I football teams get so many scholarships.
September 10, 2014 |
Former Penn State cornerback Stephon Morris recalls July 23, 2012, the day the sanctions were laid down on the program, as if it occurred just yesterday. "I remember we were in the players' lounge, and when they announced it, you just saw so many faces look so distraught," said Morris, a senior that season. "But we were just thinking, 'How are we going to get out of this? What are we going to do to make this situation better?' " While the first two seasons of the "sanction era" under coach Bill O'Brien resulted in better finishes than many expected (a combined 15-9)
September 6, 2014 |
To say that Sam Ficken has seen it all in his four seasons at Penn State is not an overstatement. NCAA sanctions thrust him into a starting role. He missed four field-goal attempts in a game and received death threats. He made a school-record 15 consecutive field goals. He had some rough sledding late in the 2013 season. And on Saturday, he went 4 for 4 on field-goal attempts, including the game-winning 36-yarder that saw him run like a frightened jackrabbit away from the celebratory hordes of teammates but not a crushing bear hug from coach James Franklin.