As we all know by now, college football has become a year-round business and Penn State is certainly no exception. This week’s recap begins in Pittsburgh. The nation’s top-ranked running back and longtime Penn State commit, Miles Sanders, reaffirmed his commitment as a future Nittany Lion after a brief flirtation on Twitter with Michigan State last week. The prospect of having him and freshman sensation Saquon Barkley, not to mention redshirt freshman, Andre Robinson (who broke all of LeSean McCoy’s high school records) is more than enough to put all of our minds at ease. At least a little. The reappearance of former commit, highly ranked defensive back Lavert Hill, from Detroit, caused a brief social media stir on Saturday night. In town for a somewhat unexpected official visit, Hill was introduced to the crowd in Pegula during the hockey game versus Wisconsin. Normally, that would constitute a violation with the dreaded NCAA, as many pointed out on laptops and phones from Happy Valley all the way to Michigan. BUT, since Hill was a one-time candidate as an early enrollee, he had already signed a financial aid agreement and was able to bypass the rule. Chalk one up for the good guys in blue and white for a change. Whether Hill ends up in State College or not, only time will tell, but our chances seem much better than they did a week ago.
On Monday, James Franklin announced the hiring of former Illinois co-defensive coordinator Tim Banks to fill the spot left vacated by Bob Shoop’s jet sweep back to Tennessee. Banks represents the final addition to the staff shakeup and will coach the safeties. Franklin and Banks worked together at Maryland in the early 2000s, with some guy named Bill O’Brien. He brings with him a strong recruiting presence in the much coveted region known as the DMV (Northern Virginia, DC, and Maryland). The addition of Banks, offensive line coach Matt Limegrover, offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead and most importantly with the retention of Brent Pry and Sean Spencer, the staff has been met with widespread approval. Change is never easy, especially for a fan base that is used to so little change, but since the dust has settled, this season of change seems to be better moving forward.
In other news, former Lions Anthony Zettel and Kyle Carter have spent the week in St. Petersburg Florida practicing for this Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game. Austin Johnson, Carl Nassib, and Jordan Lucas (unable to play due to his shoulder injury) head down to Mobile, Alabama for next week’s Reese’s Senior Bowl on January 30th. Akeel Lynch found a landing spot after graduation in May. Fondly known to us all as Big Maple, Lynch will return home to Canada and spend his senior season playing for the University of British Columbia. Coincidently or maybe not, Akeel will reunite with another former Nittany Lion, quarterback Michael O’Conner who led the UBC Lions to Canada’s version of the National Championship in 2015. Sean Lee, of the NFL Dallas Cowboys has earned a long-overdue spot in this year’s Pro Bowl, joining Allen Robinson, NaVorro Bowman and Tamba Hali. Jordan Norwood (Denver) and AQ Shipley (Arizona) are the last two Nittany Lions standing this week in the quest for a spot in Super Bowl 50. Two time All-Academic Big Ten nominee Ben Kline found a job working for Braddock, Pa mayor, John Fetterman, on his bid for a spot in the U.S. Senate. Last but not least, after years of trying, Matt Zanelatto was officially selected to represent SAAB (Student Athlete Advisory Board) as a dancer in THON 2016.
On a final note, today marks the four-year anniversary of the passing of Joe Paterno. Times have surely changed and memories have slowly faded away, but one thing is certain…no matter which side of the fence you sit on, the storm has been weathered thanks in part to the foundation that the man, affectionately known as JoePa, left behind. They say time heals all wounds, yet this one has been a little harder than most. We have spent four years in search of a legacy that has always been there from the start. Look no further than Matt Zanellato who does it all, For The Kids. Or Ben Kline and Adam Breneman, as they both trade in life on the gridiron for a new start in politics. Joe’s legacy lives on in Sean Lee, the first-time Pro Bowler, who passed up a two million dollar bonus because he did not think he could give it 100%, and Tamba Hali who continues to represent one of the finest hours of the Grand Experiment. After four years of searching, I have come to the realization that Joe’s legacy does not rest upon a statue, or a plaque and it does not sit within a blade of grass. I have come to understand that Joe’s true legacy lives within all of us and continues to flourish every day. That, my friends, should give us all a reason to feel a small sense of calm.