A week after the NCAA made it possible for Penn State players to transfer freely to other football programs, the roster could continue to be gutted of some key offensive players.
The NCAA hit Penn State with some heavy sanctions last week including a four-year postseason ban, $60 million fine and reduction in scholarships. In addition, the NCAA provided all Penn State players a rare opportunity to transfer to another FBS program and receive immediate eligibility for this season, as opposed to the one-year penalty forcing them to sit out and, in some cases, lose a year of NCAA eligibility.
Running back Silas Redd remains the biggest loss in the fallout of what was thought to be a mass exit from State College. Redd was recruited heavily by USC, with Lane Kiffin flying from California to Redd's Connecticut home along with six assistants who practically dropped all they were already doing to gather and offer a 3.5-hour presentation on how Redd could fit in to the Trojans' offense this season. On Tuesday Redd made the transfer to USC official.
Wide receiver Justin Brown is also reportedly considering his options. According to a report by ESPN.com, those options include transfers to Illinois, Cincinnati and Oklahoma. Brown is projected to now be Penn State's top offensive weapon with the loss of Redd in the backfield. Brown's role figured to increase following the graduation of Derek Moye but also received more focus following the removal of Devon Smith from the roster prior to the NCAA sanctions.
Brown was second on the team in receiving last season with 517 yards and two touchdowns. Losing Brown at this point would put the Penn State offense in a real tough situation for the fall and would mean Shawney Kersey (108 yards, five receptions) would be Penn State's leading returning receiver this year.
Linebacker Khari Fortt will join Redd in the Pac-12 after transferring to California. Rob Bolden could potentially face off against Redd in the BCS National Championship Game after transferring to LSU. Fortt will likely receive more significant playing time at Cal. If he had stayed at Penn State, Fortt could have pushed for a starting job but would have to compete with last year's starter Glenn Carson.
The two were listed together as potential starters at middle linebacker. Bolden will likely remain a backup behind Zach Mettenberger, who is the leading candidate for starting quarterback at LSU this season after instability under center was the lone hole in the BCS title contenders last fall.
Safety Tim Buckley decided to move back closer to home and transferred to North Carolina State. Penn State's depth in the secondary was thin already coming in to the 2012 season, but Buckley may have a chance to play a more vital role with the Wolfpack with four years of eligibility remaining.
Incoming freshman defensive tackle Jamil Pollard was the first to commit to Penn State after the news of the scandal hit last fall, but he is already switching up and heading to Rutgers instead. It is expected he will redshirt this season and begin competing for a starting job next season.
Tight end Kevin Haplea also decided to follow through on a transfer when he opted to move to Florida State. Haplea is a decent blocker and is expected to be used more as a blocking tight end for the ACC favorites this fall.
More transfers could be on the way. Kicker and punter Anthony Fera could make a decision to transfer to Texas as early as today. The move is something that has been discussed for a week now and is expected to be just a matter of formality at this point.
If Fera does transfer to the Longhorns, Penn State would likely look to Sam Ficken to handle placekicking responsibilities and hope that Alex Butterworth can handle the punting duties. Butterworth was one of the first to publicly confirm his status at Penn State following the NCAA sanctions.
He punted eight times last season in three games, averaging 37.50 yards per punt. Ficken attempted two field goals last season, converting one. He also successfully kicked his lone extra point attempt of his freshman season.
The good news for Penn State is that the defense will largely stay in place, with key players like Jordan Hill, Sean Stanley, Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges all staying put. But if the offense loses its top two offensive options, the role of the defense will be under a little more pressure than expected.
Kevin McGuire is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast, managing editor of Nittany Lions Den and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
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