‘Tis the (Off) Season…
What began as a passing of the torch, a slice of hope, an eye towards spring practice and the Blue/White game in April, quickly morphed into a week of chaos and confusion. With an open letter to Penn State, Adam Breneman announced a premature end to his career as a Nittany Lion due to injury. Although not entirely unexpected, the news was no less devastating. Adam, along with Christian Hackenberg, is widely credited with saving the 2012 class of commits when the Camp Hill native decided to come to Happy Valley. Although unable to contribute on the field over the past two seasons, he was the epitome of “Success with Honor”. The junior already holds his degree and will be greatly missed by all.
Shortly after Adam’s announcement, or maybe somewhere in between (forgive me, it has all been a blur) four-star defensive tackle Karamo Dioubate of Philadelphia announced he was no longer committed to Penn State. Just as Dioubate began looking elsewhere, rumblings on social media stated that defensive coordinator, Bob Shoop, was being courted by Tennessee. Sure enough, on Saturday, the man who professed his undying love for Penn State and its great rebuild decided to call Knoxville home. A lateral move and one that reportedly took some money out of his own pocket as he agreed to pay his own 800k buyout. Again, “reportedly” being the key word. Altoona native and longtime confidant of Franklin’s, linebacker coach, Brent Pry, was immediately named as Shoop’s replacement. In my opinion, keeping Pry on staff is much more crucial to our long-term success. He is primed and ready for the position upgrade, but one must wonder why Shoop was so eager to get out of State College after only two years on the job. It might be an answer we’ll never know.
Shortly after the news of Shoop’s departure started to settle in, much maligned offensive line coach, Herb Hand, reunited with his good friend Gus Malzahn at Auburn. Known for his recruiting prowess, Hand came to Penn State with the deck stacked against him and the O-Line cupboard completely bare. He was expected to get at least one more year to show some kind of improvement with his unit, but this was again, a move that was not a complete shock. Already named as his replacement, Pittsburgh native and former Minnesota Gopher, Mike Limegrover, assumes the role and rebuild left behind by Hand. And that, my friends, is when the real fun began….
Monday afternoon began a flurry of player transfers starting with that of wide receiver Geno Lewis, who announced he was transferring to Oklahoma. His announcement was followed by those of defensive back Daquan Worley, linebacker Gary Wooten who is already enrolled at Dusquene, linebacker Troy Reeder who is headed to Delaware to play with his younger brother and finally, the announcement that running back, Akeel Lynch, was transferring after receiving his degree this coming spring. Each of these transfers comes with a reasonable explanation; although, it’s hard for me to justify saying goodbye so easily to a group of men who came to Penn State and stayed when most turned a blind eye to the program. Each and every one of them deserve our highest thanks as we are indebted to them all. As of this writing, which I delayed on purpose because, quite frankly, I’ve grown tired of saying goodbye, Lynch should represent the last of the transfers. On a side note, with his departure, we also usher in the age of retirement for the number 22, worn famously by Penn State’s only Heisman Trophy winner, John Cappelletti.
In other news this week, amongst all the goodbyes, we also officially welcomed our newest Nittany Lions into the family as early enrollees. The quartet of Connor McGovern, Alex Gellerstedt, Danny Dalton, and Jake Zembiec arrived on Sunday and began their journeys at Penn State. I for one, wish them all the best and truly hope they spend the next four years under a sea of calm, unlike the previous four. Also to be noted, Penn State’s all-time leader in tackles and former linebacker, Dan Connor, was named Head Coach at Archbishop Carroll a high school, a football powerhouse in suburban Philadelphia. His connection to Penn State should prove extremely beneficial down the road with recruits, as we try to maintain our presence in the region.
If you expected a calm and quiet off-season, we were both wrong. The news has been fast, furious and for the most part, has had us all hanging on the ledge, one step away from taking the plunge down Mount Nittany. I’ve been told over and over that this is simply college football. Nothing more, nothing less. At this point, I have no other choice than to believe that and take it for what it’s worth. That being said, I grew up learning that I could take a coach for his word. Joe Paterno told it like it was, whether you liked it or not. Watching a coach look the camera in it’s eye, profess his love for Penn State, and one week later tell the world he loved Tennessee, is not something I grew up with nor is it a world I care to live in today in regards to our home-away-from-home in Happy Valley.
Watching the events of the past week unfold has only made me appreciate what we all once had just a little bit more than I already did. Whether this was just the usual business of college football at work or not remains to be seen, but one thing I know is certain, gone are those wonderful days of trust. I guess we had to catch up sooner or later and that my friends, is the hardest goodbye of them all.