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 (NittanyNation) (12:59 PM)
Hey everybody! Welcome to another edition of our bi-weekly chat here. We'll get started in just a minute here; so send in those questions!
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:00 PM)
OK ... and we're off. You guys know the drill. Who's got the first question this week?
Bob (Happy Valley)
I saw on another site that PSU has 17 scholarship offers right now. Is that true? How do they have more now? Is somebody leaving?
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:02 PM)
Well, I'm afraid I was in Chicago this past week for Big Ten media days, so I haven't touched base with my sources for a little while. So I can't yet confirm that. Fifteen was always something that was fluid -- that number used to be 13 -- so it wouldn't surprise me. Taking at least 16 would make sense now because of Issah no longer going there. And I'll say this, too, since it kind of goes hand in hand with that: But I spoke with Qadree Ollison's coach Monday or Tuesday, and he told me that the staff had just talked with Bill O'Brien and that the running back does have a committable offer now. According to the coach, O'Brien had mentioned something about early enrollees making room. Wasn't sure what to make of that news but, if PSU has more room now, that'd certainly tie in and make sense.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
When will be the First Penn State Non Conference College Football Game of 2013?
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:03 PM)
Syracuse on Aug. 31. It should be a decent game, and there's definitely enough question marks on both teams. PSU's about a 6-point favorite at this point. Seems pretty fair to me.
How hard is it for penn state to recruit?
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:06 PM)
Not nearly as hard as most people thought it would be. PSU had one of the top 2013 recruiting classes last year and currently has the 19th-ranked class this season. The biggest problem isn't quality, it's just quantity. O'Brien said at Big Ten media days that getting these guys on campus and showing them what PSU has to offer is the priority, and he's done incredibly well with impressing guys who arrive. To reel in a guy like De'Andre Thompkins, who chose PSU over Notre Dame, and to have a 2015 DB like Minkah Fitzpatrick saying how highly he thinks about PSU ... that's pretty impressive. This staff isn't taking recruiting for granted, and they're hitting the trail hard. I obviously don't follow all the other Big Ten teams as closely as Penn State, but I'd be really surprised if any other team put as much work in recruiting as PSU did.
Do you see any players leaving early for the NFL draft after this season? I've heard speculation of this, but I do not see any PSU players on any 2014 mock drafts, including mock drafts that include 2-3 rounds.
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:09 PM)
It wouldn't surprise me to see Allen Robinson or Adrian Amos inquire about their projected draft grade ... and, maybe, if they were first- or second-rounders, they'd choose to take off. But a lot has to happen for that and it's a long way off. I'm not saying either guy will leave, but I would be surprised if they didn't at least think about it. Those are the two guys that I think have a shot at being drafted as juniors.
For a team like PSU with not a lot of depth, how much focus will BOB put on safe tackling with the new ejection rule?
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:12 PM)
That's a good question, and it's one that no defender is particularly happy about. BOB said he'd probably adopt the Belichick way and how he handled the new rules in the NFL that basically cut back on hitting. Belichick showed some video clips and explained what was wrong with the technique and also showed video clips with the right way, so guys were able to have a visual point of reference. Honestly, there's not much else you can do. Personally, I don't like the new rule either. You just know it's going to affect at least one huge, nationally televised game in the wrong way -- and fans are going to be ticked. It's inevitable.
Chris (Dunmore, Pa)
Hey josh. I love reading these weekly chats. I wanted to ask you a question regarding recruiting / sanctions. With all the recent chatter about the NCAA and Emmert being on the hot seat, do you think PSU will see a reduction of these unprecented sanctions? It seems to me like their may be something in the works behind the scenes. Also, if PSU would be able to the full amount, do you see O'Brien pulling in top 15 classes year after year?Thanks
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:17 PM)
Chris, I don't have inside info on whether the NCAA will reduce the sanctions. But I do honestly feel as if PSU will get some reduced. That's my opinion. If PSU can't get these sanctions reduced, then nobody should ever be able to get future sanctions reduced. PSU's done everything that's been asked of it -- it fulfilled nearly all 119 Freeh recommendations (115 so far, I believe), it hasn't challenged the NCAA like other teams, and Sen. Mitchell has given PSU glowing reports every quarter. Dave Joyer said Wednesday he wasn't sure if Mitchell could recommend the NCAA rescind some sanctions or not but, if he can, Mitchell will almost certainly do so. And PSU's reputation now with O'Brien is pretty darn good; Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald told me as much saying that BOB does it the right way.
Hey Josh - what was your impression of how the Nittany Lion players were received at the B1G media days? Was there a big difference from last year?
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:20 PM)
HUGE difference. Could not be bigger. Carson said he was nervous that all the questions were going to have something to do with the sanctions, just like last year, but he was pleasantly surprised that he was mostly talking about football. Sure, there were some questions about the one-year anniversary and all that -- but he really enjoyed himself. As far as how the guys were received, John Urschel definitely seemed like a media favorite. He had a big smile on his face during roundtable interviews, where guys basically just hang out at a table for two hours and different media guys come back. The BTN was basically camped out at Urschel's table, and he showing everybody his math app and everything. And Urschel's speech was very well received. I watched it, got upstairs to the media room about 10 minutes after it ended, and Rittenberg asked me how it was. I told him I thought it was pretty darn good; said he had heard it went over really well. I was surprised word spread that fast ... that he already knew how it went down. I think Urschel represented PSU about as well as PSU fans could've hoped. Thought it was funny when BOB reminded reporters that "he's just as good at football as he is at academics." You don't hear that too often.
Rob P (Morristown, NJ)
Josh, have you heard any updates on some of the more notable former PSU players that have transferred? Bolden? Jones? Fortt? Anyone going to be making an impact this year?
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:23 PM)
Bolden is battling for the No. 3 job, and he could end up the No. 4 guy. He'll be lucky to see the field at LSU, and rumors were swirling back in May that he might transfer. Paul Jones is at Robert Morris, and I believe he'll be starting at QB for them since their senior QB graduated. And Khairi Fortt, I think he's starting this year ... but he could've started for PSU this year, too. Cal finished 3-9 last year, if memory serves me correctly. So I don't think they'll be going to a bowl anytime soon either.
Rob P (Morristown, NJ)
Josh, I was thinking about the impact that the prior recruiting classes will have on the 2013 team, I think its interesting to go back and look at who the top recruits were from 2009 (John Urschel's class) through the 2012 commits (BO'Bs first recruiting class) to see what guys are still on the team and to see where the 2013 starters were rated, seems like a lot of our top guys were lower rated prospects while a lot of our higher rated players are either not starting or no longer with the program...any comments on this?
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:27 PM)
Yeah, take any and all recruiting ratings with a grain of salt. It's not an exact science. It's not that the scouts aren't good; it's that you can't account for a lot of things. It's like trying to pick the winner in a football game. You might know who the favorite is, you may know a lock, but you never know when an Appalachian State is going to upset a Michigan. That's why guys like Ryan Leaf are drafted in the NFL and guys like Warren Moon and Kurt Warner have to prove their mettle before heading to the big league. I think one thing all those sleepers have in common is a solid work ethic and, I can tell you from covering PSU recruiting, that that's one thing BOB is big on. He's finding the hard workers, and that's something echoed by both Willis and Carson. They said they could tell that pretty easily.
Do you think BOB "flirting" with the NFL last January was at least partially done to show incoming recruits, and current players considering transferring, that he is a legit NFL caliber head coach?
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:30 PM)
No. Absolutely, most definitely, 100 percent -- no. He coached Tom Brady and was just about everyone's coach of the year. What does he have left to prove? Plus, if that was his gameplan for whatever reason, it would've totally backfired because recruits' primary concern at that point was whether he would still be the coach when they arrived on campus as freshmen. I don't think BOB interviewing with NFL teams helps recruiting; I think it hurts it. And if he does interviews again this offseason, I think it's going to turn off a fair number of guys. Maybe he gets a pass this year ... but doing it back-to-back years after a considerable raise? That's going to cause a lot of recruits to worry. And rightfully so.
If Dravon Henry's former teammate whose name currently escapes me choses WVU instead of Kentucky, does that pretty much guarantee that Henry will be a WVU commit sooner or later?
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:33 PM)
I hate the word guarantee, so let me put it this way: It does greatly, greatly help WVU's chances. I talked to Henry a month or two ago, back when Rushel Shell was considering UCLA, and Henry told me he was considering a visit there just because of Shell. Those two guys talk. So if Henry was considering a school on the West Coast because of Shell ... I think it's safe to say he'll give his favorite school an even closer look. That favorite becomes a bigger favorite, for sure.
Mike Hawk (Intercourse, PA)
Who will be this years breakout player(s) (ie. Allen Robinson last year) that not many people are talking about? Also, what kind of game do you expect the Syracuse matchup to be? What advantages do each of the teams have going into the game? Other than a new coach for the Orange. Thanks.
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:37 PM)
Hmmm ... guys no one else is talking about? Well, that cancels out Mike Hull. I'm sticking with Donovan Smith as my No. 1 guy then; I think he's in for an All-Big Ten kind of season. (Maybe second team since UM has one of the best OTs in the country.) I think Austin Johnson, Jesse James, Nyeem Wartman, Akeel Lynch and Eugene Lewis are all good sleeper picks, too. But I think this is the year Smith makes a name for himself. When he was a recruit, the staff showed him film of Levi Brown and compared Smith to him. I think he could be just as good as Brown; I really do. I think this is the year we see a glimpse of that. As far as Syracuse, those guys lost the entire left side of their offensive line and three-quarters of the DL will be first-year starters. I think that means run defense will be a bad spot for Syracuse ... which also means Zach Zwinak and Co. could pound the middle all day. On the flip side, Syracuse has a good stable of running backs and PSU doesn't have the greatest depth when it comes to the front-seven, so I'm interested to see how many rush yards PSU allows in the second half. That being said, quarterbacks will obviously be the biggest storylines heading into that game ....
Brett (Conshohocken, PA)
Is Nyeem Wartman essentially locked in at the weakside spot? It sounds like it's almost a definite from most articles I've seen on the LB situation.
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:38 PM)
BOB didn't put an "OR" next to Wartman's name on the spring depth chart ... so it seems like a lock to me. You never know what will happen in camp, but it does certainly look like Wartman. I'm sure Kline will still see plenty of time as the No. 4 guy, though.
Pat (New York)
Hey Josh, What are your thoughts on the Nittany Lions playing in Ireland to start next season?
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:41 PM)
It's really a win-win for everybody. It would've been an away game for PSU anyway -- and it gives the players something to look forward to, it's a bonus to the recruits, and I've talked to just about every 2014 commit about this, but they all say this is the next-best thing to a bowl. It hasn't been an easy answer when I asked these guys what they'd prefer -- a mid-rated bowl or Ireland. Most take a few seconds and then go with the bowl, but this is basically the king of consolation prizes. Even the 2015 recruits, whom this technically doesn't affect, told me it's a plus -- because now they're thinking it's possible that, if they'd go to PSU, that the Lions could so something like this again down the road. If there's one negative I see about this, it's just how the team is able to rebound from the stark change in time zones and be just fine for Game 2. I'll have to look more into the history of teams doing that -- maybe it's not a big deal -- but that's really the only conceivable negative I can see doing this. Overall, it's definitely a big plus.
Rob P (Morristown, NJ)
Good afternoon Josh, just wanted to continue the discussion on PSU Scheduling in coming seasons, wondering if any season ticket holders or even casual fans in the chat have any opinions on the question you answered in your last mailbag...thinking there are probably some differences in opinions between the casual fan and the season ticket holder...
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:42 PM)
I'm also curious what you guys think about future opponents. Is the schedule too weak? Who would you like to see as a nonconference opponent?
Chris (Mullica Hill, NJ)
With the Pitt series coming up in 2016, I think it's great that PSU is making attempts to revitalize some of our old rivalries while at the same time strengthening our out-of-conference schedule. I've heard internet rumblings of possibly playing Miami down the road, which I think PSU fans would love to see. Is that actually something in the works? What other strong out-of-conference teams could we see on the PSU schedule in the future?
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:43 PM)
I mentioned this last week, but it's picked up steam now: It looks as if PSU is working on a home-and-home with WVU. I definitely think PSU's on the right track here with improving their nonconference games ... but I think it's still a little while away before we hear anything solid on Miami. That being said, I think that would be an excellent game to schedule.
By my count we currently have 66 scholarship players. If we are somehow able to get down to 65 do you know if we could start that portion of the sanctions early?
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:47 PM)
Two things with that. One, PSU does have 66 players on scholarship -- O'Brien said he's pretty sure that's the number -- but PSU has 68 scholarships that count against it right now. Luke Graham and Anthony Stanko are no longer with the team, but their 'ships still count againt PSU's total. Regardless, even if PSU manged to get down to 64 this season, that still wouldn't allow the sanctions to start any earlier.
What true freshman do you expect to get playing time this year and not redshirt?
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:50 PM)
Let's see here ... Well, in talking to BOB the last few days, he mentioned he would ideally like to redshirt all offensive linemen, so I'm not going to mention them. I think Hackenberg, Richy Anderson, Brandon Bell and Garrett Sickels have the best shots to see some time. And, somewhat surprisingly, BOB said he could see Breneman getting immediate playing time this season. I didn't expect to hear that because, with the loaded corps of TEs, I thought it'd be best to redshirt him ... but BOB said he's made tremendous strides.
I don't think the schedule is too weak when we are trying to show recruits that we can still win games. I would love to see Boise State as a nonconference opponent.
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:50 PM)
I've heard Boise State mentioned by a few other fans. I think that'd be an easy one to schedule; think that'd be an interesting matchup.
Ryan (Blacksburg, VA)
Josh, I think Virginia Tech would be a great series with PSU. Penn State actively recruits VA and wants to recruit more in the south. VT is top 25 or relatively close so this would be a good series both ways. Thoughts?
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:52 PM)
I mentioned this in the mailbag but, if I were scheduling, Virginia Tech would definitely be one of the top-five teams I'd want to schedule. Think it would be better than a Maryland, Rutgers or Virginia game.
I know it's early for the 2015 recruits, but do we realistically have a chance with some of the top recruits we are targeting?
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:53 PM)
Oh yeah, most definitely. I talked to one recruit briefly before my flight yesterday -- sorta-spoiler alert: Check out NN Tuesday for an update; plan to talk to him more -- and we talked about PSU a good amount with all of his other big offers. Said PSU's still one of those schools at the top of his list. Honestly, I wasn't sure that would still be the case. And, like I said earlier, Minkah Fitzpatrick is also big on PSU. Kareem Ali Jr. has PSU as his favorite, and Ryan Bates has seen his interest increase considerably over the past few months. As long as PSU keeps winning, this 2015 class isn't going to be a letdown.
More concern for linebacker depth or starting cornerbacks?
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:55 PM)
I'd go with linebackers. At least with cornerbacks, there's currently 3 guys seeing decent time -- Da'Quan Davis, Trevor Williams, Jordan Lucas -- and Amos can always slide back over to CB if there's an issue. So, really, it's two-deep there. Linebacker ... not so much. Granted, the CBs aren't proven -- but the depth is there. It's not as big of a problem as last season. Malcolm Willis said he's been pleasantly suprised by the guys in the secondary. And, if Amos moved to safety, then I have to think the staff has been pretty surprised -- in a good way -- as well.
With SOA and Amos poissibly playing some weakside LB, do you see them only doing so in passing situations?
Josh (NittanyNation) (1:58 PM)
Keep in mind, this linebacker talk is just that right now -- talk. It's something they're thinking about, but a lot of that depends on two things: 1) Just how quickly Nyeem Wartman and some of the backups (Kline, Wooten, Bell) come along and 2) Just how well SOA and Amos could play the position. O'Brien emphasized that Amos is a safety through and through ... but John Butler has often said he likes to attack, keep the offense on its toes and mix around personnel. So, if PSU were to use those two guys, I would definitely think it'd only happen on passing downs. Last season, PSU used Mike Hull in place of Glenn Carson on passing downs. But, this year, Carson can't come out -- and he can't cover as well as Hull, or graduated LB Gerald Hodges for that matter. So PSU needs to think a bit on how to replace that roadrunner package. Maybe this is the answer.
Chris (Cherry Hill, NJ)
Hi Josh, I got the impression that BOB brought Urschel, Willis, and Carson to the Big Ten Media Day because he felt they were 3 of the top senior leaders on this year's football team. What kind of leaders are these guys and will they be able to step into the shoes of last year's senior class?
Josh (NittanyNation) (2:00 PM)
That's a good question, Chris. I asked one of the PR guys about that -- why not bring A-Rob, for example? -- and they told me that O'Brien wanted his seniors to experience Chicago and Big Ten media days. But I think you're absolutely right about the leadership aspect, too. Those three guys are routinely the names I hear when we're talking about 2013 leaders. (O'Brien also mentioned A-Rob stepping up as a leader, for what it's worth.) Carson is more of a lead-by-example type of guy, but it seems like Urschel doesn't mind being vocal when he has to. That being said, there's no replacing last year's special group. McGloin was the heartbeat of the offense, and Mauti was the soul of the team. I feel there's definitely less leadership on this squad, but that's because last year was just so special. I've said this before, but it reminds me a bit of the 2006 team and how they had to replace a special class that was headlined by Michael Robinson.
Josh (NittanyNation) (2:00 PM)
OK, guys, that's all the time we have for this week! Thanks a lot for joining us -- have a good weekend!