So Officially Begins the New Era in Penn State Football

So Officially Begins the New Era in Penn State Football

By now you have heard about how Penn State is turning the page to a new chapter in their football history this weekend. That could not be farther from the truth. Penn State is starting a brand new book altogether when it hosts Ohio on Saturday (12 p.m. / ESPN).

You do not need me, or anyone else, to remind you just how much has changed at Penn State, but I will do it anyway. Former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien steps in to the middle of one of the biggest reconstruction projects of all-time, following in the footsteps of a fallen icon in Joe Paterno as the program receives a massive punch to the gut in the form of crippling NCAA sanctions – a four year postseason ban, massive reduction in scholarships and a $60 million fine – and the entire university and community continues to search for answers amid a lack of responsible leadership.

The NCAA has granted free transfers to any Penn State player choosing to leave, and some have taken that rare opportunity, including running back Silas Redd (USC), wide receiver Justin Brown (Oklahoma), linebacker Khairi Fortt (Cal) and kicker Anthony Fera (Texas). A few others have left the program, including some recruits, which was to be expected, and O’Brien will have a tough job ahead of him to keep more players from leaving in the off season.

Yes, it is a brand new era for Penn State football. They even have names on the jerseys now. But Saturday afternoon will serve a larger purpose for many. It will be an opportunity for the community and fans to come together and get a release from the real life issues that loom larger than football. While the conduct and statements of some in the Penn State community appear to do more harm than good, everybody at this point deserves a couple hours to have nothing more to worry about than a football game, even if that does play in to the culture argument that has been widely discussed.

So, what can we expect from Penn State as it opens the 2012 season? That’s an excellent question, because it’s nearly impossible to answer at this point.

The defense should be in solid condition, with Marple Newtown’s Pete Massaro back from another ACL injury and looking to see some time on the defensive line. As expected from Penn State, the linebackers will also be in good form, with last year’s three starters back for another fall, including Michael Mauti. Mauti is also coming back from an ACL injury, but he has worked hard to be ready to go this season and his senior leadership will be vital for keeping this team together. Mauti will be joined by Glenn Carson and Gerald Hodges, who turned down a chance to enter the NFL Draft to come back for his senior season.

The name fans around the Big Ten will likely get to know from Penn State’s defense will be defensive tackle Jordan Hill, who looks to follow in the footsteps of Devon Still and Jared Odrick. Hill is a monster in the trenches but will be in for a tough test against Ohio’s offensive line, who does as good a job protecting quarterback Tyler Tettleton as any line in the country (well, except for Alabama, perhaps). The success of the front seven will be key because Penn State must replace all four starters in the secondary. Sophomore Adrian Amos looks to be the young player to watch this season, as he can move from defensive back to safety if needed. 

The concerns are clearly on the offense. Matt McGloin is far from Tom Brady, although he has joked otherwise, and with a new crop of wideouts looking to replace the three leading receivers from last season (Derek Moye graduated, Brown transferred and Devon Smith was cut and transferred to Marshal), who knows what to expect from the passing game. Further complicating things could be the fact that McGloin and everyone on the offense will be looking to pick up a new style. Of course, with new players stepping in to the receiving game perhaps the offensive philosophy change may not be as much a detriment as it could for most teams. Allen Robinson, Shawney Kersey and Alex Kenney will be some of the names to watch step in to the receiver spots.

With Silas Redd moving to the west coast, O’Brien is not being shy about hyping up sophomore Bill Belton, who was used as a wildcat option late last season under interim head coach Tom Bradley. O’Brien quickly made sure he was moved to running back and was prepping him to back-up Redd. Now O’Brien says Belton is a guy he can count on for a good number of carries each week.

O’Brien is breathing new life into the Penn State football program in more ways than one, but now he needs to find a way to win some football games. Or at the very least, prove he knows how to be a head coach. Success for Penn State now will not be measured in wins and losses on the field, but how the team sticks together on and off the field.

Whatever lies ahead for O’Brien and Penn State, it begins Saturday afternoon at noon, against the Ohio Bobcats.

Follow Kevin’s college football coverage on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.

NBA Notes; Dion Waiters signes one-year deal with Heat

NBA Notes; Dion Waiters signes one-year deal with Heat

Two people with knowledge of the situation tell The Associated Press that the Miami Heat have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with free agent guard Dion Waiters.

The two sides came to agreement on Monday. Waiters will make $2.9 million. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the deal.

Waiters averaged 9.8 points for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, but had several big games in the playoffs. He played particularly well against Dallas and San Antonio in the playoffs before his role was reduced in the seven-game loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

Waiters will give the Heat another scorer off the bench (see full story).

Blazers: Ink C.J. McCullom to four-year extension
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A person familiar with the deal confirms that guard CJ McCollum has agreed to a four-year, $106 million contract extension with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Monday because the deal hadn't been formally announced by the team. It was first reported by Yahoo Sports.

McCollum, who was named the NBA's Most Improved Player, averaged 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the Blazers during the regular season. He raised his scoring average by more than 14 points over the previous season.

As the 10th overall pick for the Blazers in the 2013 draft, McCollum bided his time on the bench for his first two seasons. He became a starter in the backcourt with Damian Lillard last season after four of the team's starters departed in the offseason (see full story).

Michael Jordan donates $2 million to ease racial tensions
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Jordan is trying to help ease tension between African-Americans and law enforcement.

The NBA great and Charlotte Hornets owner said Monday he's giving $1 million to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The aim is to help build trust following several shootings around the country.

Jordan says in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday that "as a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers (see full story)."

Phillies Phodder: On injuries, trade possibilities, more roster moves

Phillies Phodder: On injuries, trade possibilities, more roster moves

MIAMI — The Phillies will be without their best utility man and bat off the bench for at least six weeks.

Andres Blanco needs surgery to repair his broken left index finger. He suffered the injury making a tag play at third base during Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh. According to manager Peter Mackanin, Blanco will have a pin inserted in the finger during surgery on Wednesday.

“That’s a shame,” said Mackanin, who has called Blanco the best utility man he’s seen in his 47 years in pro baseball. “He was one of our best players. Maybe in six weeks he can come back. But it’s going to be a while.”

With the trade deadline a week away, Blanco would have been a nice fit on some contending teams. Now, he will stay put. 

Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and outfielder Peter Bourjos remain strong trade possibilities. Hellickson started Monday night against the Marlins, who are interested in his services (see story). A source confirmed a Fox Sports report that the Phillies have been scouting the low levels of the Marlins farm system in preparation for a potential deal. The Marlins are considering other pitchers, as well. Some industry insiders view Hellickson and Bourjos as back-up targets for teams looking for pitching and outfield help. Translation, the fate of bigger names on the trade market might have to shake out before the Phillies know if they can strike a deal. The trade deadline is next Monday.

The Phillies recalled infielder Taylor Featherston from Triple A to take Blanco’s roster spot (see story).

Mackanin gave a succinct answer when asked whether the team considered bringing up top prospect J.P. Crawford.

“None,” he said “No talk about him.”

Crawford could still see time in the majors later this season.

The Phillies are expected to make another roster move later this week when Aaron Altherr’s minor-league rehab assignment expires after Wednesday’s game. Altherr, who suffered a wrist injury that required surgery in March, is playing at Triple A. The Phillies could bring him up Thursday. To clear a roster spot for Altherr, the Phils could trade Bourjos or subtract a player such as seldom-used Jimmy Paredes.

Altherr was on target to be a starter in the Phillies outfield before he went down in spring training. He will play a corner outfield spot when he arrives.

“I'm sure he'll be here sooner rather than later,” Mackanin said. “I'm anxious to see him. He's important for us to get a good look at. I'd like to see two months' worth if I could.”

Roob's 25 Random Points: Kenjon Barner, Freddy Galvis, Father John Misty and more

Roob's 25 Random Points: Kenjon Barner, Freddy Galvis, Father John Misty and more

Chase Daniel vs. Carson Wentz. Lehigh vs. the NovaCare. LeSean McCoy vs. Ryan Mathews. Freddy Galvis vs. Cookie Rojas. Joan Jett vs. Todd Rundgren. Andy Reid vs. Doug Pederson. Tim Showalter vs. Father John Misty.

Whaaaaaaaat???

It can only be a another edition of … Roob’s 25 Random Points.

1. I understand why more and more NFL teams are holding training camp at their year-round facilities and leaving their long-time summer homes on college campuses in small towns across the country. The logistics of moving operations to a remote location combined with the elimination of two-a-day workouts has really rendered remote training camps anachronistic. I get all that. But that said, I really miss it. Training camp was my favorite part of the season, for a few reasons. I loved how kids could interact with their favorite players before and after practice. Chatting, autographs, photos, whatever. I loved seeing a player as accomplished as Dawk spend 30 minutes after practice on a blazing hot day, standing by the fence signing autographs for whoever wandered over. I loved stuff as corny as a little 6-year-old kid walking with a hulking offensive lineman, carrying shoulder pads that were bigger than they were. But I also loved the connection between big-time NFL teams and small-town America. The way the Eagles would settle into Bethlehem for a month every summer and become part of the fabric of the community. And watching every morning as the parade of cars filled with Eagles fans wound through the mountain roads toward a day watching free football. And just the action on the football field. Seeing unknown rookies blossom into NFL players in front of our eyes. Watching superstars like Randall and Donovan and Michael Vick make unbelievable plays while a few thousand fans watched in amazement from just a few feet away. And just watching and listening to personalities like Asante Samuel, who was just as intent on making the fans laugh as he was on beating his man. It was a unique atmosphere, and I loved every minute of it, and it’s a shame it’s gone.

2. If Sam Bradford gets benched or hurt and Chase Daniel replaces him, I will be extremely disappointed.

3. He’s a grizzled veteran and an older guy and has been in the league a while and backed up Drew Brees and Alex Smith and spent time in K.C. with Doug Pederson. But let’s be honest. What has Chase Daniel accomplished that Carson Wentz hasn’t? He’s 29 years old and has one career touchdown pass. So in six years, he’s built a one-TD lead over Wentz in career touchdown passes. Come on. Wentz has to be No. 2. Has to be.

4. I’m not exactly sure why I have faith in Kenjon Barner, but I do. He’s got only 34 career carries and he’s fumbled twice, so that’s a concern. But I think the kid runs hard and runs tough and we know he’s fast. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry in limited action last year, but I’m very curious to see him in action this preseason. We all know Ryan Mathews’ injury history, and we all know that Darren Sproles is 33 and coming off a season where he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry, his lowest since 2009. So Barner could have a seriously expanded role this year. If he does, I think he’ll be just fine.

5. One encouraging thing about Mathews: Just looking at his career, when he’s healthy, he rarely has a bad game. Like a total dud of a game. He’s had 20 or more carries 17 times and rushed for at least 90 yards in 14 of those 17 games. In the other three, he had 65, 74 and 78 yards. When he gets 20 carries, he’s averaged 105 yards. Just for the sake of comparison, when LeSean McCoy gets 20 carries, he’s rushed for 90 or more yards just 18 of 31 times. But he’s averaged 118 yards in those games. So McCoy is more likely to get you 130 yards. When getting 20 carries in their careers, McCoy has rushed for 90 yards only 58 percent of the time but 130 yards 29 percent of the time. Mathews has gotten 90 yards 82 percent of the time but 130 yards only 12 percent of the time.  

6. Among 18 active running backs who’ve had at least 15 games with 20 or more carries, only Jamaal Charles (86 percent) and Arian Foster (84 percent) have rushed for 90 yards on a higher percentage of their 20-carry games than Mathews. Only two have a lower percentage than Shady – Frank Gore (57 percent) and Matt Forte (54 percent). Interesting.

7. Since 1983, 31 quarterbacks have been taken with a top-five pick. Only two of them haven’t started at least one game as a rookie — Philip Rivers (behind Drew Brees) and Carson Palmer (behind Jon Kitna). In fact, the last top-five pick who didn’t start at least 10 games his rookie season was JaMarcus Russell in 2007. The last 11 all started double-digits.

8. Hey, has anybody had any luck redeeming those free Ticketmaster vouchers? Every time I log on, everything is unavailable. Somebody is getting free tickets to something but it’s not me!

9. I don’t think it’s a good thing when 100 games into the season, Freddy Galvis is second on your team in RBIs.

10. But he is. Galvis has 37 ribbies, second-most on the Phils. That puts him on pace for 60 this year. Maikel Franco is on pace for 89 RBIs, but the Phillies are on pace to have just one guy with more than 60 RBIs for the first time in a non-strike-shortened season in nearly half a century — since 1968, when Dick Allen led the Phils with 90 RBIs and Cookie Rojas was second with 48.

11. Tommy Keene. Write down that name. Look him up. Check out his music. He’s brilliant. There is no reason he’s not as big as Tom Petty. Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you. But listen.

12. I honestly would not be surprised if Caleb Sturgis beats out Cody Parkey. Why? Because kickers are weird. They can look like Hall of Famers one year and inept the next year. Remember Paul McFadden? Alex Henery? The stats say Parkey wins the job and it’s not close. But when we’re talking about kickers, nothing ever surprises me.

13. Before we send rookie seventh-round corner Jalen Mills to Canton based on an impressive series of minicamps, remember … minicamp equals no pads. And no pads equals not really football. The kid certainly has skill and speed and confidence. But nothing counts until the pads go on this week. And we’ve all seen minicamp superstars who quickly come back to earth when the real stuff starts. That said, it will sure be fun watching Mills and all these other young cornerbacks sort themselves out over the next few weeks. With Mills, Eric Rowe, JaCorey Sheperd, Randall Evans and Denzel Rice, the Eagles have a promising group of young corners behind veterans like Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and Ron Brooks. I still think Carroll and Rowe are your opening-day starters. But fair to say every spot at corner is up for grabs.

14. Weird that Billy Davis doesn’t have a job. Anywhere. You’d think he’d at least be a college linebacker coach somewhere. But maybe after the experience of the last three years, he just needed a break. I don’t think he coached very well here, especially last year, but I also don’t think last year’s defensive collapse was all his fault. He didn’t have a ton of talent to begin with. And the Eagles did have a top-10 defense halfway through the season. But nobody can coach a defense that’s forced to play 36 minutes a game.

15. Crazy that Brandon Graham, a draft pick in 2010, has now played under five defensive coordinators — Sean McDermott, Juan Castillo, Todd Bowles, Davis and Jim Schwartz. Five defensive coordinators in seven years.

16. You guys hear about Father John Misty Friday night at the Xponential Festival at Wiggins Park? Father John Misty (real name Joshua Tillman) is a hot-shot singer-songwriter who sells out mid-sized theaters everywhere he goes and shows up all the time on every rock critic’s Best Of list. Father John was booked to perform for 55 minutes at Xponential, but instead of performing he lectured the crowd incoherently about the Republican National Convention and the “meaningless of entertainment,” then played two songs — one unreleased, one a Leonard Cohen cover — before walking off the stage to a chorus of boos. A few people, mainly rock critics, defended the guy and called his performance “brilliant,” praising Tillman for not performing when his heart wasn’t in it and saying that’s the nature of art. Oh please. I’m sorry. There’s a time and a place for that sort of thing. A time and a place to make a statement. This wasn’t it. A lot of people paid a lot of money to hear the guy play music for nearly an hour, and he left all of them sorely confused and disappointed. He owes a lot of people a sincere apology.

17. Tim Showalter of the fantastic Philly band Strand of Oaks went after “Father John” brilliantly in a series of tweets: “Furthering your entertainment career by calling entertainment stupid. … Shows have saved my life. The stage is a privilege more importantly FANS are a privilege. Go on a lecture tour if you have so much to say…. Start a charity, work for habitat for humanity, volunteer, whatever. Be productive…. That's it. I love your music so much. But don't come to my town and insult my peoples intelligence.”

18. Was sitting around recently with some friends and started to wonder who has seen the most Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers in concert. I finished last with 26: Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, BB King, Beach Boys (Brian Wilson), Black Sabbath, Bobby Blue Bland, The Clash, Donovan, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Gabriel, Genesis, the Kinks, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bonnie Raitt, Rascals, Lou Reed, REM, Rolling Stones, Linda Ronstadt, Santana, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, Muddy Waters, U2 and The Who. Go through the Hall of Fame list and figure out how many you’ve seen. I’ll bet it’s more than you think!

19. One thought on the credibility of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame: Joan Jett is in, Todd Rundgren is out. Get a clue, R&R Hall of Fame.

20. If it was up to me, smoking within a few feet of a child would be a crime.

21. Why is everything “curated” lately? What a pretentious word for “compiled” or “arranged” or “slapped together.” I mean … “Hey, I’m curating this week’s 25 Random Points today!” Who talks like that?

22. I like Sam Bradford more than most people. I think he’s a serviceable quarterback. My biggest issue with Bradford is his TD-INT ratio. He does a lot of things well but he doesn’t throw enough touchdowns and he throws too many interceptions. And those are really the two most-important stats for a quarterback. For his career, Bradford has thrown a touchdown every 29 pass attempts and an interception every 44 attempts. Among 156 quarterbacks who’ve thrown 1,000 passes since 1980, Bradford ranks 134th in TD percentage. So only 22 quarterbacks since 1980 have thrown touchdowns more infrequently. Among that group are Kent Graham, Steve Walsh, Rick Mirer, Dave Brown, Mike Pagel and Joey Harrington. Bradford has had three seasons (2010, 2012, 2015) where he’s thrown at least 500 passes and thrown 21 or fewer touchdowns. Only five other QBs in NFL history have had three such seasons.

23. This is kind of important. Because without getting the ball into the end zone, all the stats kind of don’t matter. There’s always been an excuse – new coach, new scheme, poor receivers – but the lack of TD passes has followed Bradford around his entire career, and I doubt it’s a coincidence.

24. One more Phillies point: After 51 of 81 home games, the Phillies are hitting .218 at Citizens Bank Park with an on-base percentage of .273 and an OPS of .627. Their home batting average is the worst by any MLB team since the Rangers hit .218 in 1972, their on-base percentage is the worst by any team at home since at least 1913 (as far back as baseball-reference.com goes), and their .627 home OPS is also worst by any MLB team since 1913. Barring a significant reversal in the last 30 home games, the Phillies could wind up as the worst-hitting team at home in the last 100 years.

25. I’ve always thought an Andy Reid press conference was just about the most boring thing imaginable. Then I started to see Doug Pederson press conferences and I’ve already changed my mind.