Penn State projected up to 84 scholarship players in 2015

James Franklin When Penn State was slammed with a significant reduction in scholarships in 2011 it was expected to take about a decade before Penn State could get back to full strength, if it ever did. Times have changed rather quickly for Penn State’s football program as the NCAA has scaled back and rescinded sanction terms following positive annual reviews from George Mitchell and ongoing legal battles. Now, on the eve of National Signing Day, Penn State is currently projected to have a roster with 84 scholarships filled in 2015.

This is the first full recruiting class Penn State has been able to attempt to fill since being hit with sanctions by the NCAA. The NCAA restored some scholarships in time for last season’s recruiting class to be put together, but this is the first 25-scholarship limit Penn State has had. It was filled today with new breaking Tuesday afternoon Penn State had flipped linebacker Kevin Givens from Pittsburgh to Penn State. He is Penn State’s 25th member of the Class of 2015, which includes three early enrollees this semester and a junior college transfer with junior eligibility.

With a full set of scholarships filled in the Class of 2015, Penn State is now back to a 84-scholarship roster. The work and planning done previously under Bill O’Brien seems to have paid off in this respect by helping to make this a possibility. Penn State will have 12 players with senior eligibility this season, 17 with junior eligibility and 16 with sophomore eligibility. Penn State had 15 players redshirted last season that will be eligible to play this year, bringing the total to 60 scholarship players returning in the fall.

Penn State may have filled all 84 scholarships allowed by the NCAA, but it is still going to be another year or two before Penn State is taking the field with a full active roster of scholarship players. Penn State will have 84 scholarship players, but how many of the incoming Class of 2015 players sit out with a redshirt this fall remains unknown. Roster management will continue to be key for James Franklin and his staff.

Penn State is locking down the second-ranked class in the Big Ten, trailing only defending national champion Ohio State.

Correction: This story previously claimed Penn State would have 85 scholarships. It has been edited to more accuarely detail the 84 scholarships on roster.

The Reason “We Are”….Penn State”

As SuperFan of the Maize Rage student section at the University of Michigan, I have the opportunity to travel to all of the Michigan football away games and experience what football Saturday means in different parts of the country. This feature will run after each away game this season, detailing the gameday experience for Michigan games outside of Ann Arbor. Previously: UConn.

When Michigan fans travel to different schools to watch the Wolverines play on the road, they regularly have to get used to a much smaller stadium and quieter atmosphere. In Week 4, the Connecticut Huskies broke a Rentschler Field record by packing 42,000 people into the stadium; about 70,000 less than that of a typical Ann Arbor game day.

This weekend was a different story. As the few Wolverine fans trickled into Beaver Stadium they realized that the structure was possibly even more impressive than our very own Big House.

When I first arrived in State College, one of the first things I learned was that this was the biggest game of the season for the Nittany Lions. On Friday night before the game the students were happy to explain their hatred for both Michigan and Ohio State, but it was clear that the night game against the Maize and Blue would be Penn State’s bowl game this year.

Beaver Stadium is an imposing structure, both inside and out (Derick Hutchinson, M&GB)

Not having been to Penn State since the Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky scandal, I wasn’t sure how touchy of a subject it was among the students. Surprisingly, it was basically the butt of all the jokes. Though our little group in maize never brought the scandal up, we did end up discussing it multiple times throughout the weekend. Penn State students want to prove that they have moved on from the nightmare and won’t let it define them.

Instead, they just want to beat Michigan.

While tailgating before the game on Saturday, Penn State fans made it very clear that Michigan was their main target. An enormous homecoming crowd of almost 108,000 couldn’t have included more than a few thousand Michigan fans. It was easy to pick them out because of the famous Penn State white out.

The white out stands for what separates the Penn State game environment from that of Michigan. During a maize out, Michigan Stadium has one maize section where the students stand and a mixed bag of maize and blue throughout the rest of the bowl. Fans don’t put much stock in participating in the game atmosphere but simply want to watch their team win. It’s tradition.

But in Happy Valley every single fan is ready to cheer like crazy for Penn State from the opening kickoff. The white out was breathtaking. Over 100,000 strong were decked out in all white and shaking white pompoms as Bill O’Brien led his team onto the field. This scene was unlike anything our little group of Michigan students had ever experienced, but we had faith that our undefeated Wolverines would quiet things down.

For much of the second half, we were exactly right.

Michigan came out of halftime with a bang, returning a fumble for a touchdown on Penn State’s first offensive play. A quarter later, the Wolverines were ahead by 10 points with six minutes to go and we were enjoying the eerie silence in the enormous stadium.

Though it has a smaller capacity than the Big House, Beaver Stadium is built entirely above ground and is much more intimidating both inside and outside. Second and third decks keep all of the sound in while reaching up much higher than the final rows in Ann Arbor. If you’re wondering how a structure like this can be safe, you aren’t alone.

Penn State’s famous chant is the Zombie Nation cheer, which gets the entire audience involved in jumping and screaming along. Because it was one of the things I was really looking forward to, I asked our host, a senior at Penn State, about Zombie Nation.

“There’s a new rule that we can only do it two times each game,” he told me. “We were doing structural damage to the stadium so they had to limit us.”

Derick (2nd from left) and his crew were impressed by the atmosphere and how welcoming the Penn State fans were (Derick Hutchinson, M&GB)

At the suggestion of damaging a concrete structure like Beaver Stadium I was astonished, but when Penn State came back and tied the game with under a minute remaining in regulation, Zombie Nation blared and the back wall of the stadium was visibly wavering back and forth with the Nittany Lion faithful.

It was the most incredible atmosphere I’ve ever been a part of, and I wasn’t even in an appreciative mood. Four overtimes later Michigan had missed easy kicks and taken costly penalties and Penn State was celebrating an unbelievable win.

Following such an emotional win I expected to be mercilessly harassed by the Penn State students all night, but was surprised when they continued a trend set before the game. While migrating toward the stadium for the game, our little group of Michigan fans was welcomed to Happy Valley countless times. Students, alumni and others went out of their way to walk past us and say good luck.

It was extremely strange. We weren’t sure how we felt about the hospitality because it didn’t feel right, but it was much better than being harassed in Columbus or East Lansing. After the game there were fans that laughed and jeered at us, but the number that told us good game probably outnumbered them.

Even though they always seem to beat Michigan in recent years, and they ended our undefeated season, it’s hard to hate Penn State fans because of how cool they were; both when they were sure they would lose and after they had won.

I hope that Michigan fans can learn from the atmosphere that exists within Beaver Stadium. The students lead the charge, but alumni and casual fans set it apart by participating much more than those around other Big Ten schools. Even the younger fans are fully invested in Penn State football, as we found out when a couple of three-year old girls started the “we are” “Penn State” cheer all by themselves from atop an RV after the game.

While I wouldn’t trade game day in Ann Arbor for anything, I do think that Michigan fans can learn from the commitment in Beaver Stadium. Michigan’s tradition and history set it apart, but there is room to make the Big House even better.

Winning on the road is a great feeling, but losing is definitely the worst. Thankfully, the Penn State faithful were bearable after the game, but I still had a bad taste in my mouth after Michigan blew the 10 point lead.

The first loss is one of the hardest each year, but Michigan won’t have to deal with an atmosphere like Penn State’s for the rest of the season.

Losing is never fun, but witnessing a Penn State night game was an incredible sports experience. Hopefully Team 134 can tighten things up and send us home with more road wins in 2013.

Penn State – Ohio State Great Competition!

Myke’s note:  Penn State is playing for honor, tradition, loyalty, and to prove that Penn State stands for what being a “family” is!  In essence, we will prove that the NCAA and the general media have no idea what the blue and white means and that it goes way beyond a football game or a championship or money. 

By David Jones, Harrisburg Patriot News

For a game where nothing’s supposed to be at stake, a lot surely is at stake.

One of my buddies who covers Ohio State is calling Saturday evening’s OSU at Penn State game, “The Battle of The Banned.” You know by now, neither team may play in a bowl or in the Big Ten championship game because of NCAA sanctions.

But the fact is, if Penn State can beat Ohio State, it will have ramifications far beyond this season. It will be yet another sign to recruits – the most emphatic yet – that the PSU staff is able to coach-up the mutts and motivate the stars and weave them all into a unit. A win over the unbeaten Buckeyes could be powerful stuff, an indicator to elite high school players that, even with depleted numbers over the next three years, they can hope to have ample support should they commit to Penn State.

More than ever before, recruiting now tends to be viral. The best players don’t simply want to be well-coached. They want to play with their own strata of high-quality of athlete.

What a win over Ohio State will tell those kids: The Penn State staff can really coach and it plays pro-style football. If you come to PSU, you’ll get the best preparation for The League. And, even with scholarship limits, there’ll be enough elite players of your type – because they’ll see this.

If that all happens, Penn State can actually be a threat to the upper half of the Leaders Division.

Considering what looks to be going on the lower half, that’s not exactly a stretch. Illinois is a long-term toxic waste dump; Tim Beckman is a small-timer who never should have been hired. Purdue appears to be in for a coaching change if not this year then next. And while Kevin Wilson already looks to be building a viable offense at Indiana, it remains to be seen if he’ll ever have any players who can stop somebody.

As for Wisconsin, it’s not as if the Badgers run on 4- and 5-star athletes, anyway. Even amid the 65-scholly years, PSU can hope to match up athletically with Bret Bielema‘s teams.

Then, what we’re left with is Urban Meyer. He will recruit superior athletes and plenty of them and then he’ll drive them and coach them up as well. Penn State cannot realistically hope to match Ohio State during the meat of the sanction period. But that’s only one division member.

So, Saturday’s game will serve as a symbol for at least a year that Penn State is a serious player in this division – if O’Brien’s Lions can pull out a win that few considered even conceivable several short weeks ago.

Do’s and Don’ts of Penn State Football

I gave everyone the benefit of the doubt for the first home game. “It’s a new era, let everybody learn new traditions together,” I figured. Some people did, and some people looked like they had never been to a sporting event ever, let alone a Penn State football game. This is obviously understandable, but here are a few tips for the newbies for Saturday’s game.

DO: Get there early. Fill up those bleachers as early as possible. Wait until after the game to get wasted instead of the night before. Plus, the game is at 3:30 this weekend, so you have no excuse. The guys need our support, and those empty rows just look terrible. Camping out at Nittanyville every week can definitely solve that problem.

DO NOT: Leave early. That’s just lame. Stay until that clock runs out, win or lose. Wait until we get to ring that victory bell, sing the alma mater, and watch the blue band’s drumline do their cadence.

DO: Sing the National Anthem and The Alma Mater, loud and proud. In the same, participate in the moments of silence, the dances to “Hey Baby,” and, of course, the cowbell.

DO NOT: Scream the anthem obnoxiously, especially this weekend against Navy. It’s downright disrespectful. In addition, don’t talk/scream during a moment of silence. Ever.

DO: Wear Blue and White (paint up, wear blue and white wigs, etc) and use your pom-poms. In all honesty, it makes the student section look really awesome.

DO NOT: Wear some lime green or neon pink Penn State shirt, you stick out like a sore thumb.

DO: Get tossed in the air after touchdowns. Also, after your section shouts “We want the lion!” push him up to the top of the stadium.

DO NOT: Think you can be carried to the top of the stadium because you’re wearing a “Morph” suit. They cost $50 and they are nothing special, and they show WAY too much.

DO: Scream your FACE OFF while we’re on defense, the second they get into that huddle until the ball is stopped. A lot of people don’t realize just how often the noise gets into the QB’s head and causes them to mess up or have to call a timeout.

DO NOT: Say a word while we’re setting up our offense. In the same light, our QB also needs to be able to hear and talk to the rest of the offense. When the Blue Band plays “Seven Nation Army” or whichever song to get you pumped, go right ahead, especially if we get a first down or an awesome play. But, when you see our guys in the huddle, bring on the silence.

DO: Support the team and have good sportsmanship. When you tell someone (on either team) they need to “kill themselves” or that you could do it better, take a step back and breathe. It’s a game.