Chat with Josh Moyer
Welcome to NittanyNation! On Friday, reporter Josh Moyer stops by to chat about the state of Penn State football.
Moyer joined ESPN.com in 2012 after previously working for The Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Send your questions now and join Moyer Friday at 1 p.m. ET!
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (12:59 PM)
Hey everybody! Thanks for joining us this week. We'll get started in just a minute here.
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:00 PM)
OK ... and we're off. Who has the first question this week?
Any surprises coming from the Spring Practices? Good or Bad?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:02 PM)
I've heard good things so far about Adrian Amos. Apparently, he's done a lot so far to turn a lot of heads and looks like one of the defense's top players right now. He seems to be well ahead of where he was in November. Austin Johnson has also impressed a lot and is practicing with the first team. I've probably heard the most praise/surprise about those two guys on defense. As far as bad surprises, it seems like the QBs are still trying to find consistency and no one's standing out all that much right now. Practice wasn't open this week, but hopefully I'll have updates next week.
Dave (Winston-Salem, NC)
This week BOB said that Zayd Issah will not be with the team this season, but could possibly be part of the team in the future. What exactly does this mean? I've read in one source online it could possibly mean military/prep school for a year. If so, how would that route affect the number of years he is eligible to play for PSU?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:06 PM)
According to reports -- The Daily Collegian has an article today and actually spoke with Issah; I recommend reading that -- Issah had his scholarship temporarily pulled. He'll have to go to a prep school/military academy for a semester or two and then he could rejoin PSU. He won't be playing this fall at any rate. He's still not sure what he's going to do yet. He could leave PSU altogether if he wanted. Still, I imagine they'll find a place what won't affect his eligibility. He's not going to a junior college, so he should still have four years of eligibility left when he gets back. Jordan Lucas is a PG guy, and he still has all his eligibility, for example.
Dave (Winston-Salem, NC)
In the past week there seems to be an increasing number of people who believe Emmert should step down, or will be asked to step down. What do you think the chances of this happening are and how will this affect the possibility of reducing PSU's sanctions?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:09 PM)
It will be hard to fire Emmert after the organization recently released a statement saying they have the utmost faith in him. So, no, I don't think he will. I see the odds being very low right now. But should he be fired? I think so. Let's face it, the man's a walking contradiction. And, while he can't be directly blamed for all the problems coming out from teams and schools, he's certainly mismanaged just about all of them. Or if he hasn't, his team of staff members has. Talk about a lack of institutional control.
Andrew (Highland Park)
With the Issah decision, does another LB become a necessity for the next class? What happens with Issah's scholarship?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:12 PM)
I don't think it does. At least not yet. It seemed like PSU was already intent on adding another outside linebacker (paging Chase Winovich ...), and I don't think they'll have to pick up two quite yet. If Issah decides to come back and join the team in 2014, then PSU won't have to pick up two more LBs out of necessity. Now if he decides to head to some other FBS program? Then, yeah, PSU has to fill that void. Once Issah decides, I'm sure PSU will.
John Vanderpool (Springfield, Va)
With depth issue's at LB looming, what do you see PSU doing to remedy the issue? Are there any Run-On's that are being considered for playing time at the position?Also, I loved the story of Brent Smith (USMC) last year walking on to Penn State. When I was in the Air Force, I served with a lot of really great Athletes. Since these guys all have the Post 9/11 GI Bill to pay for their school, why doesn't O'brien make a National Plea to our service members who are separating, to come try out for a potential Run On spot? They already have their school paid for so it seems like a perfect fit!
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:16 PM)
They absolutely have to turn to their run-ons. There'll be close to a dozen non-scholarship linebackers on the roster once the season rolls around -- Adam Cole is a name I've heard pop up a few times -- and they'll be hoping one or two guys stands out there. And, as far as what you're suggesting, maybe they will cast their net a little wider next season. They really focused on Pennsylvania run-ons when there's quality guys to be found other places, like Fork Union's PG program, for instance. But great athletes don't always make for great football players, so I imagine that's why O'Brien hasn't just picked on the kinds of players you mentioned.
who is lined up to start opposite of Deion Barnes
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:18 PM)
Right now, C.J. Olaniyan is the guy practicing with the first-team at practices. I've seen Anthony Zettel practice some with the third team ... which really surprised me. I don't know what's going on there. But, right now, it looks like Barnes and Olaniyan will be at DE, while Johnson and Jones will be at DT. Right now, that's your starting lineup. Olaniyan is the more athletic DE over Zettel. I still remember one play last season when he leaped a couple feet in the air to make a deflection and almost made the INT. Can't really go wrong with Zettel or him -- and Brad Bars told me he expects to be ready this season. His goal is to start.
Owen Brown (Pittsburgh, PA)
Do you think BOB stays at PSU for the length of his contract?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:20 PM)
Several of the commits mentioned to me that O'Brien told them he'd stay throughout their careers. He told that to 2014 MLB Troy Reeder before he committed, so that takes us to at least 2018. I think he eventually leaves for the NFL ... but I don't think he'll be leaving before then.
Aaron, VA [via mobile]
I saw in the last PSU AP article Coach BOB hasn't "yet" decided to swap somebody over to LB from another position. Do we know any potential candidates, like Brad Bars perhaps, or is Vandy putting his money on the run-on program?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:22 PM)
I'll be able to answer this question better next week when we see who's practicing with the linebackers. I don't know if Bars quite has the speed for LB -- he's 250+ pounds -- but they do have a lot of run-ons to pick from. There's about 8 on the roster right now, and another four will be joining the team in spring. It's not like there's no one; it's just that there's a bunch of unproven players here who probably aren't ready to play B1G football. You can bet O'Brien will be keeping his fingers crossed when it comes to injuries. If one LB goes down this season, it could be catastrophic for PSU.
Max (Chevy Chase, MD)
Hi Josh. Thanks for doing these chats. I was wondering if you thought the scholarship restrictions could make it easier to get highly rated players to come to PSU moving forward. Would the greater chance of playing time sway recruits more than the chance to play in a bowl game?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:25 PM)
Well, Max, that helps with some players. Marcus Allen mentioned to me he likes the idea of playing early, but I think it works against PSU more than anything. The main concerns recruits have with PSU right now are 1.) bowl games and 2.) wondering if they'll be on a winning team because of those sanctions. That's why PSU didn't nab David Williams and Tyler Boyd last season, and I think that's also a big reason why Jabrill Peppers is such a longshot. It gets to the point where those elite players are going to be able to get playing time anywhere ... so why go to PSU? Obviously, O'Brien's done a good job emphasizing academics, playing inside Beaver Stadium, etc. -- but that's not enough for a lot of those elite guys. The good news is recruiting's only going to get easier with each year.
Ajay Devaraj (Lincoln, NE)
I'm a nittany lion deep inside husker territory.. my question is since Zyad Issah is not to be ere in the spring do you think Bill o Brien and Co might go after some committed guys to MAC schools or other conference for that matter to sign up with the lions? if so does that incoming recruit has to sit out one year since he signed the LOI?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:28 PM)
Can't do that. If those guys signed with teams already, PSU can't contact them because it's against NCAA regulations. And, even if someone who signed would want to transfer, they'd still have to sit out a year ... and it's 2013 where PSU really needs somebody. If they could do that and the player could suit up right away, I'm sure they'd love to give George Vinson a call. He loved PSU and was really hoping for a late offer. Committed to App. State.
Aaron, VA [via mobile]
Lakitsky is a nice surprise as a late pickup, any more possible high-school run-ons or transfers out there from the prep or JUCO ranks? Lackawanna CC does seem to have yearly, viable, local talent and was ignored by previous staff
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:29 PM)
Actually, despite Lackawanna actually releasing a report on Lakitsky, that's not 100 percent official yet. I'm told he's still awaiting acceptance to the school. I haven't heard any rumblings of any other juco players, but they have good connections now at Worcester and Fork Union, too. (FUMA also has a PG team.) So I wouldn't be surprised if you see more players in the future come from those schools -- or if they decide to add another run-on right before the summer. Haven't heard anything yet, but you have to think they're debating that right now.
which run-on looks to be the best player? Seymour?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:31 PM)
That's a good question. I think Seymour is the headline of this run-on class because he had the most impressive offer sheet. He turned down at least two MAC offers to go to PSU. He's a QB who played on a losing school more known for tennis championships, and the fact he was able to stand out there shows a lot. His coach said he's kind of made in the Tim Tebow-mold, and I think he could eventually rise to the No. 2. Obviously, I'm not banking on him surpassing Hackenberg. If you have Insider, you can get a good idea of the run-ons and their offer sheets and abilities right here: http://insider.espn.go.com/blog/colleges/psu/tag/_/name/meet-the-run-ons
Dave (Plainfield, NJ)
Good afternoon Mr. Moyer. I was hoping you could update us how many scholarships we currently have to give out for the 2014 class. I assume the number will go up after players see where they stand on the team post spring practice.
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:32 PM)
I think you'll see PSU sign about 12 players in this class -- so maybe about nine more. It's still kind of fluid at this point, but I'm told it should be around that number. The main reason they can't sign more is that they have to be careful not to go over that 65 cap that starts next season.
any national award candidates in your mind? A-Rob for Biletnikoff, Mike Hull or Barnes for Bednarik?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:35 PM)
I think you hit the nail on head, but I'd add one more player: TE Kyle Carter for the Mackey Award. He made the watch list at one point last season, and he should be on it again.
Which run on linebacker of the four coming in this year do you expect to have the greatest impact this year. With lack of depth they will get fair shots
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:38 PM)
Brandon Smith is the biggest name of the incoming run-on LBs, I'd say, because I believe he's the only one to have turned down offers at the FBS or FCS level. He could've gone to Penn or another Ivy, but opted to go with PSU. So I think he has a lot of potential. And, like I said before, Garth Lakitsky's move to PSU isn't 100 percent official yet. But the juco LB will likely also be in good position to make an impact. So, at this point, I'd have to go with those two names. As far as getting fair shots, I definitely think they will. At Run-On Day, O'Brien told the group that somebody in that room would be running downfield on the opening kickoff ... so some run-on should at least be contributing on special teams come Week 1.
Gene (State College,PA)
This offseason there have been a lot of stories about players switching positions. Do you view this as a good sign that we have enough athletic players that can make these switches or as an ominous sign that we don't have enough talent which is forcing the coaching staff to move guys around?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:41 PM)
It's definitely a negative. Definitely. Most guys aren't moving because, "Hey, you'd actually be 10x better at this position and we never thought about putting you here before." It's because PSU has limited depth, and they have to make sure their scholarship players are utilized. Trevor Williams didn't move to DB because he's better there -- he pushed for playing time as a true freshman -- but, with Eugene Lewis stepping up, he probably wouldn't have seen as much time at wideout. That's one position that doesn't have a depth problem. But DBs? You know they need more bodies. I'm not saying it's time to panic or anything; it's not like they're moving Zwinak to linebacker. But I do think these moves say more about the lack of depth than they do about PSU's athleticism.
Rob P. (Morristown, NJ)
Hey Josh, another busy day in the office, apologies if this has already been brought up, haven't yet read through all of the chat yet, any thoughts to having a Nittany Nation tailgate at the Blue & White game in two weeks so all of your readers can meet you in person? What are you most looking forward to seeing at the game? I'm just hoping for nice weather, finally!
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:42 PM)
Hey Rob, actually, that sounds like a pretty good idea ... but I don't think we'll have anything this year. I'd have to be inside the stadium by like 10 a.m., so guess I couldn't host much of a tailgate if I was there from 7-9:30 a.m. As far as the Blue-White, I'm looking forward to 1.) seeing Bench and Ferguson perform in a game-type atmosphere, 2.) Akeel Lynch, 3.) Eugene Lewis, 4.) Adam Breneman and 5.) Nyeem Wartman. Fans will be able to get a good glimpse of PSU's future on that day, and I'm really interested to see how those guys perform.
Makes sense, I like Olaniyan's ability; who all do you see getting drafted from this past senior class?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:45 PM)
Jordan Hill and Gerald Hodges are locks to be drafted, and they'll probably go around the third round. Michael Mauti should also be taken somewhere, and he's the big wildcard obviously. He could've been a second-round (maybe even first-round?) pick if he was healthy. Now, I wouldn't be surprised to see someone take a chance on him late in the third or see him have to sweat it out until the sixth. Matt Stankiewitch is another player to keep an eye on; he'll either be a priority FA or a 6-7 round pick. Stephon Morris and Matt McGloin are hoping to surprise people by being drafted, but they're both likely FAs.
Aaron, VA [via mobile]
Again on the OLB topic, we have Cothran, Cothren, and Hartman coming in the fall, could this allow Sickles a look at OLB? His film doesn't show much dropping back but he clearly played some LB in high school. There is plenty of time before Syracuse for him to mentally/physically prepare to play LB instead of DE, at least in his freshman year. Kid is a player.
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:47 PM)
I didn't think about Sickels before, but that is possible. He did play some outside linebacker, but -- and I'm thinking out loud here -- do you really want to risk a kid's development if you recruited, signed and think he's best at DE because your LB depth might be shallow for one season? I don't know if it's worth the short-term payoff to move him to LB if you're just going to move him back to DE one season later. He does have the size to play LB and, if they move any incoming freshmen there, it seems like Sickels would be the one. But I have to think they'd only do that if there were no other options, and the run-ons really disappointed.
Rob P. (Morristown, NJ)
Another question regarding Issah, well more of a comment. Penn State made a commitment to the kid, and the kid made a commitment to penn state in light of serious sanctions. BO'B has preached the family atmosphere and community to all his recruits. I see this as a prime example of the coaching staff's ability to show a recruit that they will stand by them, even after making mistakes (and this was indeed a HUGE mistake by this young man), but from what you know of this coaching staff, wouldn't you agree that the coaches will continue to have solid, consistent contact with Zayd to encourage him to get back on track and join this program, or at the very least become a PSU student in the near future so long as he can stay clear of trouble?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:50 PM)
Yeah. I was actually talking to a friend about this last night. Honestly, I thought it was a lose-lose situation for O'Brien. You kick Issah off the team before his trial and Joe Paterno admirers would say he was judged too soon. You leave him on the team, and PSU critics say he's putting football ahead of everything. This move seems like the best of both worlds; I honestly don't know how O'Brien could've made a better one. I mean, seriously, if any one has any better ideas, I'd love to hear them ... So, yeah, give credit where it's due here.
Who are the leaders of the 2013 team? Last year's group of Mauti, Zordich, etc. was fantastic, do we have any great leaders like those guys stepping up?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:51 PM)
I will say that one guy I've heard repeatedly is John Urschel. He's really become a vocal guy and has done a great job of leading by example, too. Players tell me he's the first one there in the weight room, and he's also done a good bit of mentoring with players like Donovan Smith. I watched him lift a month or two ago, and it was pretty impressive. He has all-conference honors written all over him.
Scott (Washington DC)
What assistant coach has stood out to you and why? Who seems particularly well suited to their position or area of recruiting?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:54 PM)
That's a good question, Scott. I guess a lot of you won't be too surprised by who I name ... but I don't even have to think about it: Larry Johnson. I always ask guys about their relationships with their recruiting coaches, and you immediately know when Johnson is the guy -- because the recruit immediately talks about him right away when I ask what they like most about PSU. He relates to recruits, has a good track record with getting players to the NFL, and he builds trust really quickly. So, yeah, Johnson is head-and-shoulders above everyone else. I also consistently hear a lot of good things about Mac McWhorter, John Butler and Charlie Fisher.
for the first time in...100 years I worry about our LBs.. I know starters will be good again but we have no depth. who has to step up this season?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:57 PM)
Well, the easy answer is Nyeem Wartman. Actually just posted a long feature on him a couple minutes ago over at NittanyNation if you want to take a look. (It's free.) But, outside of him, I think there are three players here who need to step up: Gary Wooten, Ben Kline and Adam Cole (non-scholarship player). At least two of those backups are going to be asked to contribute a lot -- and there's still a chance that Kline challenges for the starting job -- so they have to be on top of their game. There can't be any misses this season.
How has the 2014 recruiting been going, it's been pretty quiet as far as commitments go, but are they making progress?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (1:59 PM)
I think they've kind of set themselves up for a good weekend for Blue-White. Again, I think they're going to sign about nine more players, so only having three commits at this point isn't terribly surprising. If they grab two commits April 20, their class is nearly halfway finished. So, yeah, it has been pretty quiet -- but I think it'll pick up a bit more here in a few weeks.
What about Zordich, I thought for his size he could run and play special teams very well, any chance he gets signed?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (2:01 PM)
I think he gets signed somewhere as a free agent, but I don't think he has a shot at getting drafted -- whereas I think Morris might have a small shot because of his 40-time and the fact he nearly made the NFL training camp. And, McGloin, well, he's probably not going to be drafted ... but he trained at a pretty prestigious program, so you never know.
what is the most ideal QB situation for PSU? Bench plays 3 season and then Hack plays 2 season, or Tyler plays 2 and Hack plays 3, or Hack plays 4?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (2:03 PM)
Well, I feel like I have to state a disclaimer by saying starting the best guy would be ideal ... but, if Hackenberg meets expectations, I think the ideal would be Bench starts this season, Hack redshirts and then becomes a four-year starter.
What is the biggest obstacle for this years team in trying to match or exceed last year's sucess? Finding a quarterback? Linebacker Depth?
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (2:06 PM)
I still think the key this year is the quarterback position. I think the middle of the defense will also be key, but I really think QB's going to determine a lot. I know some of you have asked me about Steven Bench and if I'm still high on him and, yeah, nothing I've seen would lead me to put Ferguson above him on the depth chart right now. I still think Bench is the starter come Week 1. There's still a lot of football left to be played, but I think Bench is the best choice right now because he knows the playbook and fits the offense well. We probably won't find out who the starting QB officially is until sometime during the preseason.
Josh Moyer (NittanyNation) (2:07 PM)
OK, guys, that's all the time we have for this week. Thanks again for joining us -- hopefully I'll see you all for the next chat, on the eve of the Blue-White Game. Have a good weekend!