Penn State Football: Where Do They Go from Here?
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According to the Fujita Scale, which is used to rate the intensity of a tornado by examining the damage it has caused after it has passed, the storm of unprecedented sanctions levied by NCAA president Mark Emmert on Monday could quite possibly be rated somewhere along the lines of a F-6.
Following storms of lesser magnitudes, as there has never been an actual F-6 recorded, the first few questions that always seem to arise after assessing the damages are: Where do we go from here? or What are we going to do now?
These are just two of the $60 million questions that rushed to the frontal lobes of most Nittany Lion fans minutes post announcement, and unfortunately for the fans, these questions will most likely remain unanswerable for quite some time. Fans will cogitate until they are blue and white in the face, the fact remains, only time will tell.
If these same fans were to believe all of the so-called experts who have inundated the media for the past several days, (television, radio and print) and verbally disparaged the Penn State program and its future, they would surely be in a dark place for years. It would seem as if USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan and ESPN college football analyst Mark May have already established citizenship in that dark place, and are trying desperately to lure new residents into their pathetic hamlet.
I guess misery does love company. However, Penn State fans should refuse to be miserable, as believe it or not, things are not as bad as people say.
The scandal that has rocked Penn State is one of great magnitude and maybe the most reprehensible in the history of sports, and that I understand. But horribly, it is what it is. We can not journey back and wondrously erase the criminal transgressions of the immoral, nor can we dip the victims in beautiful waters and have their innocence and lives magically restored. We all must progress on.
It is not that I see out of those rose colored glasses that May spoke about. I am just a glass half full type of person (actually the cup is now running over type of guy) and that optimism towards Penn State's football program has increased in the last few days, thanks in large part to an outsider.
Bill O'Brien, a New Englander with absolutely no head coaching experience, whom Nittany Lion fans were reluctant to accept back in January after replacing the legendary Joe Paterno, has ostensibly gained the trust of the Blue and White Nation moving forward as the cleanup process begins.
My how things have changed.
O'Brien, blessed with plenty of time (contract now runs through 2020) and confidence, now has the seemingly Herculean task of guiding the Lions into the future with a ton of sanctions that are expected by most to cripple the program. Since the future of the program starts now, the first task at hand is to maintain the core of current players.
The NCAA is allowing any current player the opportunity to transfer without penalty, and running back Silas Redd (1,241 yards rushing and seven touchdowns last season) seems the most coveted and most likely to defect, as he recently met with USC for nearly three hours (per ESPN). Linebacker Khairi Fortt, (33 tackles last season) and punter/kicker Anthony Fera have also been mentioned as players who will take part in the allowed exodus (from PennLive.com).
These departures will in no way leave the cupboards bare for O'Brien and staff, as nearly three dozen players, including quarterback Matt McGloin, linebacker Michael Mauti, tackle Jordan Hill and running back Michael Zordich displayed their loyalty to the Penn State Football family and announced their intentions of staying put shortly after the sanctions were levied. This dedicated core should lead the Lions to a very respectable record during the upcoming campaign.
Recruiting is the lifeblood of any football program and maintaining that quintessence would seem to be a monumental task for O'Brien and his staff. However, one must take into consideration what type of athlete this Penn State staff is recruiting and where a great deal of players are going to be coming from since there is expected to be bevy of walk-ons due to scholarship limitations.
Prized recruits, quarterback Christian Hackenberg and tight end Adam Breneman are the glue that is needed to keep this class intact and are both still committed, although ESPN reports Hackenberg plans to re-visit the Penn State campus in the near future with a number of questions. As of this writing, only two of the Nittany Lions' 14 recruits have decommitted. Four-star defensive tackle Greg Webb and 4-star cornerback Ross Douglas recently switched allegiances to North Carolina and Michigan respectively (ratings from Rivals).
Just as Pennsylvania was established and built by hard work, from the longshoreman of the Delaware Valley, through the miners of the coal regions and onto the steel workers of western Pennsylvania, so will the football program be restored to national prominence. Pride, hard work and a determination to succeed are qualities that have been instilled in young men here for generations and these are the same types of qualities that the Nittany Lions' coaching staff will be searching for.
The storm of the century has passed and Penn State has plenty of qualified and assiduous clean-up crew members willing to pick up the debris and restore things as quickly as possible.
I pray that the victims can do so as well.
Joe Rogers is a college football writer and operates the website The College Football Bowl Report
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