Questions linger around Penn State's O-line


Questions linger around Penn State's O-line

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- So an offensive lineman, a safety and about a dozen other Penn State seniors walk into Joe Paterno's house.

Chima Okoli picks up the punch line.

"There's a picture with him, and the rest of his kids, probably in 1812 or something," the right tackle joked about the gathering this week at the home of his 84-year-old coach.

Laugh now, Okoli, because the pressure will fall squarely on the front five once the new season kicks off Saturday against Indiana State of the FCS.

Analyzing and rehashing offensive line play is a time-honored tradition for Nittany Lions fans, as much a part of autumn Saturdays in Happy Valley as tailgating and raking leaves.

Okoli, left tackle Quinn Barham and guard Johnnie Troutman are the three returning starters up front from a line that allowed just 12 sacks, statistically one of the best in the country.

Troutman, though, hasn't secured a starting spot at right guard, where sophomore John Urschel has made a push. They're in the mix to replace perhaps the biggest loss on the offense in standout right guard Stefen Wisniewski. The former three-year starter was selected in the second round of the NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders.

Barham reads blogs, message boards and web sites and expects to get external pressure as a lineman. Fan opinions, both positive and negative, for the most part have been fair, he said.

"There's nothing you're going to do about it," Barham said, "but prove people wrong."

Paterno must also find a new starting center, with junior Matt Stankewitch listed as the first-stringer heading into the season. Senior DeOn'tae Pannell, who started two games last season at left guard before being replaced by Troutman, is listed as the starter at the same position on the Week 1 depth chart.

Paterno is fine so far with the line, though he remains concerned about developing competent backups for the front five -- even more so than the unsettled quarterback derby between Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin.

"The quarterback situation is not one of my concerns right now," Paterno said. "My biggest concern right now is where we've got to get a little more depth."

The line will also be leading the way for a new featured back in sophomore Silas Redd, who's expected to take over for four-year starter Evan Royster. Redd is more of a shifty, explosive back than Royster, so offensive coordinator Galen Hall said the line may need to do more work in creating holes.

As it was, the running game struggled at times last year, too. The "get-tough" attitude that Paterno has been emphasizing in preseason camp has carried over to the line.

"The attitude to stay on your block until the whistle ends," Pannell said. "That's what we've been trying to do. Get guys on the ground, finish blocks.

"We're going to bring it to you, until you say you don't want any part of it."

They're not just tough guys up front, though. Barham and Okoli, in particular, are affable, vocal seniors who show promise of being effective leaders.

It was no surprise, then, that Okoli was among the group of seniors who visited Paterno's modest ranch home this week in State College to talk in part about leadership and team captains. Jokes aside, Okoli described it as walking into a "football museum" with so many mementos adorning the walls and tables.

If things work out this season, maybe Okoli will get his picture up on the wall, too.

"If you don't believe that you can be the best, then there's no point in doing it," Okoli said. "There's no one who thrives on mediocrity."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Baylor to fire football coach Briles, re-assign president

USA Today Images

Baylor to fire football coach Briles, re-assign president

WACO, Texas -- Baylor University's board of regents said Thursday that it will fire football coach Art Briles and re-assign university President Kenneth Starr amid questions over the school's handling of sexual assault complaints against players.

The nation's largest Baptist university said in a statement Thursday that it had suspended Briles "with intent to terminate." Starr will leave the position of president on May 31, but the school says he will serve as chancellor.

The university also placed athletic director Ian McCaw on probation.

Baylor asked a law firm last year to conduct a review of its handling of sexual assault cases following allegations that the football program mishandled several cases of players attacking women.

The university's statement said the review revealed "a fundamental failure."

Baylor has faced increasing criticism in recent months for its handling of reports of rape and other violent incidents involving football players and students. One victim has sued the university, saying it was deliberately indifferent to her allegations against a former player who was eventually convicted of sexually assaulting her.

Starr ordered an investigation last year but has been mostly silent amid mounting criticism over the school's handling of the complaints, which erupted under his leadership. He took over as the university's president in 2010, about a decade after the former prosecutor investigated former President Clinton's sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewisnky.

The football team, whose players were at the center of the upheaval, enjoyed unprecedented success under Briles' tenure, including two Big 12 championships in the last three years. That success brought a financial windfall, and in 2014, Baylor opened a new, $250-million on-campus football stadium. But Briles' program has also been criticized for recruiting or accepting transfer players without regard to the harm they might cause fellow students.

Starr rode the waves of the program's success, and often ran on the football field with Baylor students in pregame ceremonies. But as investigations began into the school's handling of sexual assault allegations against players, Starr provided only brief comments, even as criticism of the school mounted.

In a February statement issued by university, Starr said "our hearts break for those whose lives are impacted by execrable acts of sexual violence." And at a prayer breakfast last month, Starr told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "I am in favor of transparency. Stand up, take your medicine if you made a mistake."

Baylor's Board of Regents was recently briefed by a law firm hired to investigate how the school responded to assault incidents, and the school on Thursday released a summary of its findings. Starr initiated the review in 2015, after former football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of sexually assaulting a female soccer player.

Ukwuachu, who was convicted in 2015, transferred to Baylor after he was dismissed from Boise State. Ukwuachu's former girlfriend testified during his rape trial in Texas that he had struck and choked her when he attended Boise State.

Ukwuachu's former coach, Chris Peterson, now the coach at Washington, said he "thoroughly apprised" Briles about the circumstances of Ukuwachu's dismissal. Briles disputed that account, saying he talked with Peterson and there was no mention of the incident.

The school is also facing a federal lawsuit from a former student claiming the school was "deliberately indifferent" to rape allegations levied at a former football player Tevin Elliott, who was convicted in 2014 of sexually assaulting the woman.

The uproar following Ukwuachu's conviction caused Baylor to initiate the review by the Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton, and to announce a $5 million effort to improve efforts on how it responds to sexual assault, including adding another investigator and more staff.

But the Ukwuachu case was just the start of months of revelations of football players being involved in violent incidents with little or no repercussions. At least seven other woman have publicly come forward to say the school ignored their sexual assault allegations.

©2016 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

Josh Hart discusses NBA draft process, returning to Villanova


Josh Hart discusses NBA draft process, returning to Villanova

Josh Hart said the decision wasn’t easy.

But he’s happy with it.

After withdrawing his name from the NBA draft to return to school (see story), Hart is excited to focus on Villanova, graduation and then the NBA dream.

“I love the school, I love the teachers, the student body, the support, my teammates that we have coming back,” the 6-foot-5 guard said Wednesday on Comcast SportsNet’s Philly Sports Talk. “So it was a tough one and I just thought at the end of the day, I think going back for my senior year would be in the best interest of my parents and myself.”

As a junior, Hart helped Villanova win its second national championship in program history by leading the Wildcats in scoring with 15.5 points per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the field.

Hart received plenty of feedback from NBA teams. He said shooting and ball handling are what he hopes to improve.

As far as his draft stock …

“There were teams interested maybe in the first [round], and then there were teams that said they would take me in the second,” Hart said. “But there’s a whole month before the draft, a lot of teams didn’t know exactly what they were doing with their picks — whether they were trying to trade up for a pick, trying to trade down, trying to trade a pick for a player. Several teams said that they would take me.”

For more from Hart on the draft and Villanova, watch the video above.

Delaware hires Martin Ingelsby as new head basketball coach

USA Today Images

Delaware hires Martin Ingelsby as new head basketball coach

Delaware has its new head basketball coach in Martin Ingelsby.

Ingelsby, a native of Berwyn, Pennsylvania, comes from Notre Dame, where he played from 1997-2001 and coached for 13 seasons, seven as an assistant.

Ingelsby played his high school ball at Archbishop Carroll and is the son of Tom Ingelsby, who played for Villanova from 1970-73.

Delaware is coming off a 7-23 season and 2-16 mark in CAA play, which led to the firing of head coach Monte Ross.

The Blue Hens, who announced the hire Tuesday, will formally introduce Ingelsby in a press conference Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Bob Carpenter Center Auditorium.