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This is your Penn State Wake-Up Call for Thursday, Jan. 5. Let’s get started.
Next man up
The nature of college football is that every year you lose guys, and on Wednesday Penn State learned it had lost defensive end Garrett Sickels. The redshirt junior elected to enter the NFL draft despite having a year of eligibility remaining.
It is not a small loss, because Sickels led the team in tackles for loss (12.5) and tied for the lead in sacks (6). And besides being a productive player, he was by all accounts a hard worker and good leader.
That said, there are plenty of guys in the pipeline. Three other defensive ends saw action in all or most of the Nittany Lions’ games this season, and will be counted upon to fill in not only for Sickels but the other starter, Evan Schwan, whose career ended with Monday’s Rose Bowl.
The best of the bunch was redshirt sophomore Torrence Brown, who made 31 tackles, 6 for losses (though with only 0.5 of a sack). Then there are redshirt freshmen Shareef Miller (22 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 2 sacks) and Ryan Buchholz (16 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 3 sacks).
Three ends redshirted — Shane Simmons, Shaka Toney and Daniel Joseph — and of those, Simmons is the most highly touted, having earned 4 stars from the various recruiting services. The other two were regarded as 3-star recruits.
And arriving in this year’s recruiting class are two other 4-star ends, Yetur Matos of Fredericksburg, Va., and Damion Barber of Harrisburg, Pa.
The cupboard is not bare. Somehow the Lions have managed to patch and fill along the defensive front in recent years, even with NCAA sanctions hanging over the program like an anvil.
Recall that after last season, PSU lost three defensive linemen to the NFL — Anthony Zettel, Austin Johnson and Carl Nassib. It had a marginal effect on the team’s overall numbers; the Lions actually increased their tackles for loss from 106 in 2015 to 112 this season, while slipping in sacks from 46 to 39.
Where it was most noticeable, however, was in the big games. The Lions failed to record a sack in all three of their losses, to Pitt, Michigan and USC. The large majority of the time during the Rose Bowl, Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold had no duress at all on Monday, leading to a 453-yard, five-touchdown day.
So now the line forms at the rear, just as it did when stud defensive linemen moved on in other years — Devon Still after 2011, Jordan Hill after ’12, DaQuan Jones after ’13, Deion Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan after ’14.
Other guys have always emerged. It will likely happen again.
Rinse and repeat
After Minnesota fired coach Tracy Claeys on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that the Gophers reached out to Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, and were rebuffed.
To review (once again), Moorhead reportedly discussed the Purdue vacancy with school officials when PSU was in Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game, but was viewed as a fall-back candidate in the event Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm did not accept the job. But Brohm did in fact fill that position.
Moorhead’s name was also mentioned in connection with the openings at Temple and Connecticut, but each time Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde shot the rumors down. Moorhead has said repeatedly that he is committed to Penn State for 2017.
Road woes for PSU hoops squad
Penn State played like the young team it is Wednesday night at Michigan, building a 52-38 lead with 13:20 left before seeing the Wolverines storm back to win, 72-69.
One of the Lions’ freshmen, forward Lamar Stevens, led the team with 16 points and nine rebounds, but committed five turnovers. Another first-year player, point guard Tony Carr, shot 2-for-9 and finished with five points and three turnovers.
The Lions, in fact, outshot and outrebounded Michigan, but committed 14 turnovers to the Wolverines’ five. Michigan scored 20 points off Penn State’s giveaways.
PSU (9-7, 1-2 Big Ten) resumes its season against Michigan State on Saturday at the storied Palestra in Philadelphia.
The Big Ten Network tweeted out some highlights of Wednesday’s game:
Bounce-back W. ✔️@JohnBeilein victory No. 200 at Michigan. ✔️
— Michigan On BTN (@MichiganOnBTN) January 5, 2017
Also in the Land of 10
- Michigan State routs Rutgers, as Miles Bridges returns to the Spartans’ lineup
- Minnesota officials reportedly meet with Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck about its head-coaching vacancy
- Ohio State defensive lineman Jalyn Holmes will return in 2017