After what was arguably the most turbulent offseason in the history of college sports, the Penn State Nittany Lions have finally opened fall practice.
"It's a new Penn State," said head coach Bill O'Brien about the first post-Paterno football season (via SI.com). "It's a new Penn State football program."
The team, and the University, look to recover after the fallout of a scandal and the NCAA sanctions imposed upon them—sanctions that continue to have repercussions.
The severity of the NCAA penalties has caused nine players from the 2012 roster to transfer to other programs in the hopes of playing in postseason bowl games or for a national championship—something Penn State fans will be unable to enjoy for at least the next four years.
“We do have some restrictions, but we all know why they’re there,” said O'Brien (via WashingtonPost.com) on the sanctions.
The transfers of the program's current players have been well publicized, but the hidden damage is the toll the scandal and the sanctions have already taken on recruiting. Players from both the 2012 recruiting class as well as the 2013 class have decommitted, and there may be no way to effectively calculate the lasting effect on the program's ability to draw top players in the future.
Most recently (as reported by Scott Brown of TribLive.com), wide receiver prospect Will Fuller pulled out of his verbal commitment to Penn State and chose instead to join Notre Dame. Along with the earlier decommitments of defensive end Greg Webb and defensive back Ross Douglas, Fuller's decision brings the total number of decommited 2013 prospects to three.
As for the 2012 Nittany Lions, the program has seen three more recent transfers. The latest players who have opted to leave Penn State are kicker/punter Anthony Fera (Texas), offensive lineman Ryan Nowicki (Illinois) and wide receiver Justin Brown (Oklahoma).
Brown accounted for two touchdowns last season and Fera accounted for 62 points as the kicker. Add to that the loss of running back Silas Redd (seven touchdowns), and the scoring drain on the 2012 Nittany Lions has been tremendous.
As the calendar has turned to August and college football camps are beginning to open, the likelihood is that Penn State has seen the last of its transfers, as players cannot wait much longer if they expect to assimilate with new programs.
That, at least, is the hope of the head coach, who feels that the players who have stayed will not be making the jump to perceived greener pastures.
"I'm very confident that the guys out here today are committed," said O'Brien (as quoted by the WashingtonPost.com), whose resolve was tempered with a touch of uncertainty. "Again, it's day to day, but I'm confident in these guys."