Scandal-weakened recruiting class for PSU

583742.jpg

Scandal-weakened recruiting class for PSU

Bill OBrien, Penn States new football coach, is withholding judgment on his teams recruiting class. But no one else is.

Nineteen players committed to the Nittany Lions on National Signing Day Wednesday, comprising a class that was ranked 47th in the nation by Scout.com, 50th by Rivals.com and unranked by ESPN.com. This comes in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal, the firing of legendary coach Joe Paterno on Nov. 9, OBriens hiring nearly two months later and Paternos death Jan. 22.

Some recruits who made verbal commitments to PSU, notably cornerback Armani Reeves, linebacker Camren Williams and defensive tackle Tommy Schutt, opted out. So too did St. Joes Prep quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg, son of Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

Others who were strongly considering the Lions, like defensive end Noah Spence, turned their attention elsewhere.

Reeves, Williams, Spence and Schutt wound up at Big Ten rival Ohio State. Mornhinweg is headed to Florida.

Penn State was on the way to having a Top-10 recruiting class before the scandal, said Tom Lemming, national recruiting expert for CBS Sports Network.

What theyre trying to do now, Lemming added, is keep their head above water.

Given the circumstances, they did a great job, said Brian Dohn, recruiting analyst for Scout.com. But the circumstances were near-impossible, to be honest.

Lemming compared the Lions haul to that of lower-echelon Big Ten schools.

Its not what Penn State is used to, he said.

But OBrien doesnt put a lot of stock in the rankings.

My thing is, you never judge a recruiting class until two years into it, he said via conference call Wednesday from Indianapolis, where in his guise as the New England Patriots offensive coordinator he is helping the Pats prepare for the Super Bowl.

O'Brien said that if you were to scan the Patriots' roster, You would find plenty of guys who were ranked pretty high coming out of high school, and youd find guys that werent ranked at all.

OBrien, introduced as the new head coach Jan. 7, said he and his staff which includes two holdovers in defensive line coach Larry Johnson and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden, two of its best recruiters did the best it could to retain the players who had verbally committed. Interim head coach Tom Bradley had done the same.

But in many ways the Lions were fighting an uphill battle.

When CNN and 60 Minutes are setting up on your campus, it usually doesnt mean good publicity, Dohn said. It usually doesnt bode well for you.

And Dohn noted that bad news is pounded into kids by recruiters from other schools.

Theyre allowed to e-mail links and everything, he said. Penn State had no way to combat it. A huge thing was the negative recruiting that took place.

OBrien insisted that the coaching transition went really well, in no small part because of the assistance offered by Larry Johnson. He also said that he and his staff were trying to find players who were the right fit for Penn State good students, good citizens and good football players.

He expanded on that later, saying that they were looking for smart, tough, instinctive players, and guys who were going to come in and do the right thing, on and off the field.

It is widely believed that the players most likely to make an immediate impact are Eugene Lewis, a wide receiver from Plymouth, Pa., and Akeel Lynch, a running back from Attica, N.Y.

Lewis, said Dohn, is a phenomenal talent.

He doesnt play in a very good area or a very good league (in Northeastern Pennsylvania), Dohn added, but his athleticism is off the charts. Hes so smooth. Hes a 'wow' kid.

Lemming was similarly impressed, saying Lewis has great hands, speed and production.

He can stretch the defense, but he can also make the hard catch look easy, he said.

And OBrien said Lewis is a really sharp guy, and a guy who loves football.

Hes going to do great off the field, the coach said. Hes got a good skill set for what were going to try to do.

Lynch, who reminds Lemming of former Michigan star Mike Hart, fills a need for depth behind holdover tailback Silas Redd.

Its very difficult to say you have enough running backs, OBrien said, with the pounding the position takes. We wanted to make sure we went out and secured a running back.

As for Skyler Mornhinweg, he only recently de-committed.

Its a loss, Lemming said, but not a big loss.

He was a kid they identified for the offense they were going to run, Dohn said. Bill OBrien wanted something different for his quarterback.

And late in the process the Lions swooped in and grabbed another QB, Steven Bench of Camilla, Ga., who was originally bound for Rice. OBrien said he likes Benchs accuracy and decision-making.

The darkhorses in this class, it is believed, are tight end Jesse James, a 6-7, 248-pound tight end who enrolled at Penn State earlier this month; Wendy Laurent, a defensive tackle from Princeton, N.J.; and Malik Golden, a two-way athlete from Cheshire, Conn.

Another interesting name is that of Jonathan Warner, a wide receiver from Camas, Wash. His dad, Curt, was one of the greatest running backs in Penn State history.

But in general, Dohn said, Penn State fans have to look at it from the aspect of it may not be the greatest class this year. But one class doesnt kill a program.

E-mail Gordie Jones at gwjones11@gmail.com.

Baylor to fire football coach Briles, re-assign president

us-art-briles.png
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

052516-josh-hart_720x405_692914755873.jpg

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-martin-ingelsby.jpg
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.