For the second time this summer, a promising Penn State player has been forced to give up football for medical reasons.
Backup quarterback Jake Zembiec — a sophomore who completed 6 of 12 passes for a touchdown and rushed for 36 yards during the Blue-White Game in April — announced via his Twitter account Tuesday night that he is accepting a medical scholarship “due to an ongoing injury” and will no longer be a player in the program.
There has been no word on the specific injury, but Zembiec has battled health issues since he arrived on campus as part of the 2016 recruiting class. Zembiec’s departure leaves the Nittany Lions with four scholarship players at quarterback (senior Trace McSorley, junior Tommy Stevens, redshirt freshman Sean Clifford and true freshman Will Levis). Clifford has earned rave reviews from the coaching staff for his command of the offense, and offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne said over the weekend that he has taken the next step in his preparation and leadership. So, it sounded as if Clifford had taken firm hold of the third-team role, one he battled most of last season for with Zembiec.
Zembiec was a pretty good recruit out of the Rochester, N.Y., area coming out of high school, a four-star kid with a big arm and some mobility. Sounds like he’ll still have some kind of role within the program, though.
— ZEM🚴🏼 (@jakezembiec) August 7, 2018
Rob Ambrose is the first coach to find Anthony Whigan.
The longtime leader of the football program at Towson State, Ambrose found the tall, athletic offensive lineman from Great Mills, Maryland, controlling defensive linemen with relative ease and displaying the promise he figured could blossom into success at Towson. So, he offered Whigan a scholarship to play football there, and Whigan accepted it.
Only one problem: Whigan didn’t qualify academically.
So, Ambrose did what he so often does when a player he’d like to have needs a little more time after high school. He sent him to Mark Duda.
Whigan arrived at Lackawanna College the same way a lot of college football hopefuls do, and go figure, he’ll end up leaving the way Ambrose figured he would.
“The thing was, he said to me, “There’s no way we’re going to get him back,” Duda, Lackawanna’s legendary head coach, said. “Once you guys get him, he’s going to become a major player in this country.”
And no, Whigan won’t be heading back to Towson.
It’s the game that doesn’t matter, played mostly by walk-ons and third stringers, until the coaches decide they don’t want to play anymore.
But man, do a lot of people care about Penn State’s spring scrimmage.
The Blue-White Game will kick off at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Beaver Stadium, and if you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of Penn State’s biggest football stars before summer practice starts in August….well, you probably won’t see much of them. But it will be a good opportunity to get a look at Tommy Stevens under center, and the main contenders to replace Saquon Barkley at tailback, and how the defensive line and linebacker spots could respond to some offseason upheaval.
And, hey…Micah Parsons!
The game will air live on the Big Ten Network, but if you’re going take advantage of a rare strong weather forecast and head to Centre County, here’s a look which team will be featuring which players:
Oscar-winning actor Al Pacino portrayed the legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno in HBO’s “Paterno,” which debuted Saturday night. PHOTO BY ATSUSHI NISHIJIMA/HBO, via ASSOCIATED PRESS
Two days after the movie debuted on HBO, nearly 300 former Penn State players and coaches released a joint statement Monday, criticizing the network’s portrayal of Joe Paterno’s last days as the Nittany Lions’ head football coach in the film “Paterno” as “an uninformed depiction” that “fails in every manner about the man we knew and loved.”
Former lettermen Brian Masella (1975) and Christian Marrone (1997) sent the statement signed by hundreds of players and coaches criticizing the film, which starred Al Pacino as the legendary Nittany Lions coach struggling personally with the child sexual abuse allegations that led to a litany of charges against former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky in November 2011. Among the signees are Jessup’s Ray Alberigi (1957), former Valley View star J.R. Refice (2013) and West Scranton offensive lineman Eric Shrive (2013)
The letter reads:
Penn State coach James Franklin talked about the 2018 Nittany Lions for the first time Monday during his spring practice press conference. Spring practice for Penn State opened today and concludes with the Blue-White Game on April 21. ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO
Meteorologically speaking, spring starts tomorrow. For college football fans in Pennsylvania, though, it started today.
Penn State head coach James Franklin addressed the media this afternoon at his annual press conference leading into the start of spring practice, which kicks off in a few hours. This is really the first chance Franklin has to talk specifically about the future-as-the-present, and I’ll be honest with you, it was somewhat strange to hear him talk about guys like Saquon Barkley and DaeSean Hamilton and Jason Cabinda in the past tense, their on-field contributions to the program history.
You’ll read quite a bit more in-depth into what Franklin had to say in Tuesday’s editions of The Times-Tribune and other Times Shamrock newspapers for sure, but here’s a rundown of some of the more important talking points:
A list of scouting reports for the 23 signed members of Penn State’s 2018 recruiting class.
As part of National Letter of Intent Signing Day, Times Shamrock newspapers’ Penn State football beat writer Donnie Collins is breaking down every member of Penn State’s 2018 recruiting class. This is a look at offensive lineman Rasheed Walker, who is ranked as the No. 6 offensive tackle prospect in the nation by 247sports and No. 7 by Rivals.
School: North Point HS (Md.)
Projected position: Offensive tackle
Ranking: Four stars by 247sports, Rivals.com and ESPN
Status: Signed LOI in February; expected to enroll Summer 2018
Other offers: Arizona State, Duke, Florida, Georgia, Howard, Kentucky, LSU, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Old Dominion, Ole Miss, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers, Syracuse, Tennessee, Toledo, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia.
Projection: This wasn’t a huge haul of offensive linemen for the Nittany Lions in 2018, but for my money, Walker is the best prospect Penn State landed at the position. He plays with great leverage, which enables him to drive through defenders in the running game while using his long wingspan to hold off pass rushers. He pretty consistently beats ends off the ball to his spot, and he uses his hands well once he gets there. Walker looks fast in pads, he’s at his best when he’s getting out in front of a play and finding potential tacklers to hit. He’s a natural tackle, but he can pull like a guard. He has every athletic tool necessary to become a big-time offensive lineman for Penn State. He’ll make a run at significant playing time in 2019.
Harrisburg receiver Shaquon Anderson-Butts, and Under Armour All-American and three-star prospect who had been verbally committed to the Nittany Lions since July, is no longer part of the 2018 recruiting class.
Anderson-Butts officially signed with Iowa Western Community College on Wednesday morning, on National Letter of Intent Signing Day.
Welcome to the Reiver Family!
Harrisburg High School
Harrisburg, PA pic.twitter.com/hIICTxKLqs
— IWCC Reiver Football (@ReiverFootball) February 7, 2018
Penn State still is in the running for a top receiver prospect — four-star Solomon Enis of Arizona — as well as talented offensive tackle Rasheed Walker. There could also be another surprise as the day goes along, but Anderson-Butts is out. He was the only player committed to Penn State during the early signing period in December who didn’t sign with the program, evidently due to an academic issue.
As part of National Letter of Intent Signing Day, Times Shamrock newspapers’ Penn State football beat writer Donnie Collins is breaking down every member of Penn State’s 2018 recruiting class. This is a look at linebacker Nick Tarburton, who is ranked as the No. 10 inside linebacker prospect in the nation by Rivals.
School: Pennridge HS
Projected position: Middle linebacker
Ranking: Four stars by 247sports, Rivals.com and ESPN
Status: Signed LOI in December; Enrolled Spring 2018
Other offers: Louisville, Maryland, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse
Projection: There’s a sense that the middle linebacker position is going to belong to Micah Parsons for the foreseeable future, but Tarburton is going to have something to say about that. There’s plenty to like about his game. He diagnoses plays really well, and you can often see him on film before the snap getting teammates into the right position. He consistently beats offensive players to their spots, which says that not only is he athletic enough to blow up plays before they can get going, but he’s also a hard enough worker in the film room to be able to anticipate. He’s good enough in pass coverage, but he really shined in high school against the run. He’s an aggressive player, and a vicious tackler — maybe too vicious, at times. He’ll too often go for the punishing hit rather than the textbook one, which could lead to some penalties at the next level if he doesn’t know when to pick his spots. He’s not near the natural athlete Parsons is, but he’s a true inside linebacker who thinks the game and is able to play faster than he in reality is because he’s so prepared. He’s on campus right now, and it will be interesting to see if Tarburton can impress the coaches with his savvy and aggression in the spring. He’ll get a look at the mike linebacker position which desperately needs to be filled in an intriguing fight for playing time between him, Parsons and redshirt freshman Ellis Brooks.
As part of National Letter of Intent Signing Day, Times Shamrock newspapers’ Penn State football beat writer Donnie Collins is breaking down every member of Penn State’s 2018 recruiting class. This is a look at running back Ricky Slade, who is ranked as the No. 1 running back prospect in the nation by 247sports.
School: C.D. Hylton HS (Va.)
Projected position: Running back
Ranking: Five stars by 247sports; Four stars by Rivals.com and ESPN
Status: Signed LOI in December; expected to enroll Summer 2018
Other offers: Baylor, Boston College, Clemson, Duke, East Carolina, Florida, Iowa, Louisville, Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Michigan State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Old Dominion, Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Syracuse, Temple, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Western Michigan.
Projection: Slade has what you can’t teach: Speed to burn. He’s light on his feet, able to stop on a dime and then start again, reaching full speed quickly. Nobody he played in high school had an answer for his speed, which helped him gain big yards up the middle and, often, on carries that went outside the tackle. Slade ran for 1,978 yards and 30 touchdowns as a senior and was the 2017 Gatorade Player of the Year in Virginia. He has the ability to catch passes out of the backfield and be a consistent extension of the passing game. Slade will be big part of Penn State’s passing game for years go come. However, even with Saquon Barkley gone, Penn State still has a logjam of talent at the running back, and Slade is going to have to get better to be a meaningful force on Saturdays Slade will need to get stronger and become a better pass protector if he’s to have any significant run in 2018. That said, his speed will be tempting to put on the field and let the chips fall where they may.