Podcast: A Merry Christmas for Penn State

Frank Bodani sings “Jingle Bells” and drops some wisdom on Jim Seip in a holiday edition of the Penn State podcast.

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A fast fix? Paris Palmer to push for early time on the offensive line

Penn State’s 20th verbal commitment of this recruiting class may be its most important — at least in the shorter-term.

Paris Palmer actually is the second 6-foot-8, 300-pound-plus offensive tackle in the Nittany Lions’ 2015 class. But Palmer is a junior college transfer, meaning he is older and more experienced and probably more game-ready.

Sterling Jenkins (center) isn't the only 6-foot-8, 300-pound offensive tackle in Penn State's 2015 recruiting class anymore.

Sterling Jenkins (center) isn’t the only 6-foot-8, 300-pound offensive tackle in Penn State’s 2015 recruiting class anymore.

Palmer is a North Carolina native and a former commit to Steve Spurrier at South Carolina. But the nation’s top-rated JUCO offensive tackle officially opened up his recruitment again after visiting State College for the regular-season finale against Michigan State.

The Lackawanna JUCO standout in Scranton switched to Penn State last weekend. He plans to enroll in January. And he expects to help the Lions’ thin, struggling offensive line immediately.

Click here to see the rest of Penn State’s 2015 recruiting class

“To me, he’s what they need,” said Brian Dohn, a national recruiting analyst with Scout.com. “If you’re looking at who helps them next year the most I gotta believe he’s the guy. He’s gotta be at the top of the list.”

Palmer’s commitment pushes Penn State back into the Top 10 of national recruiting rankings, including No. 8 by Scout.

Penn State also has a verbal commitment from towering Pittsburgh-area offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins, though he seems more of a long shot to play as a true freshman out of high school.

Meanwhile, Palmer gets high marks as both a pass- and run-blocker. “With his size he can still keep his pad level pretty low in the run game,” Dohn said. “And with that length on the edge, you gotta believe it can really help Penn State keep the quarterback up a little more.”

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Penn State football chat, 8 p.m., Dec. 15

As we close in on the Pinstripe Bowl, Penn State recruiting is heating up.

The Pinstripe Bowl will be a homecoming of sorts for New Jersey's Bill Belton ... in his PSU finale.

The Pinstripe Bowl will be a homecoming of sorts for New Jersey’s Bill Belton … in his PSU finale.

So is the focus on the program’s future.

Let’s chat about all of that and more tonight at 8. Join me to discuss the Nittany Lions’ preparation to meet Boston College in New York City, as well as James Franklin’s latest work in acquiring new talent.

How much will JUCO offensive tackle Paris Palmer help out and how quickly? How much will quarterback Michael O’Connor leaving hurt?

I will update you on the details from bowl media day at Penn State and talk over how the next month or so shapes up for the Nittany Lions.

For starters, check out my column today on one of the Nittany Lions you don’t know about yet. Maybe the best running back on the entire roster?

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Pinstripe Bowl signals PSU program headed in right direction

Frank Bodani and Jim Seip discuss why Penn State’s 6-6 season and a trip to the postseason might be a sign of good things to come for the Nittany Lions. James Franklin and his staff have been stockpiling young talent, so expect to see redshirt freshman and true freshman make a mark on the field in 2015 and beyond.

Posted in Big Ten, Bob Shoop, Football, James Franklin, Jerry Sandusky, Jim Seip, Joe Paterno, Larry Johnson, Penn State, Podcast | Tagged | Leave a comment

Penn State playing in pink? It just could happen …

The Penn State men’s basketball team started it.

Then a few football players took it to the next level.

Then the new head coach gave his approval to the potential change … in a round-about way, as if he completely understands the landmine he’s walking around.

James Franklin seems willing to spice up Penn State tradition. Like with pink and black uniforms?

James Franklin seems willing to spice up Penn State tradition. Like with pink and black uniforms?

So, should Penn State wear pink and black uniforms for a day to honor its tradition and history?

The Nittany Lions’ basketball team wore black unis highlighted with pink trim and pink numbers last week while playing Virginia Tech. The look apparently caught on. Soon after, outspoken Penn State cornerback Jordan Lucas asked the world, via social media, what it thought about the football team doing the same.

Maybe on homecoming?

Pink and black were Penn State’s school colors from 1887 to 1890 — until the pink began to fade to white and some of the athletic teams were made fun of by opponents. Rather quickly, the combo changed to blue and white forever.

“I have a question!!! Why can’t the football team honor the schools original colors too!? Hmmmmm… Hmmmmmmm?” Lucas said on Twitter.

James Franklin then got the question during his first Pinstripe Bowl media conference Sunday evening. And he seemed quite willing to entertain the idea, hoping that the basketball team “opens up the possibility of those things.”

He said his players already have been “jabbing” him about the idea.

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Penn State football chat, 8 p.m., Dec. 8

What we figured for days and weeks has finally come true: Penn State’s first bowl game in three years will be played in New York City.

What's your take on the blocking and pass-catching of Jesse James?

What’s your take on the blocking and pass-catching of Jesse James?

Is that a good thing? It may depend on your point of view, as in whether “good” bowl games can actually be played in cold weather. At least this will be the first bowl game a majority of Nittany Lion fans can drive to relatively easily, and there is that holiday allure to New York City and …

I’m trying to convince myself now.

No matter, I’ll be chatting about the Pinstripe Bowl match-up with Boston College and more tonight at 8.

We’ll have plenty of time to talk about James Franklin’s first season in State College, recruiting and what we think key players such as Christian Hackenberg and Jesse James have going for them in the offseason.

In the meantime, ever wonder what it’s like covering Penn State on the road? Here’s a glimpse from my column today …

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Life on the road: Things are good, even when they don’t go right

I had been on a Penn State travel roll.

I’ve enjoyed covering the Nittany Lions for two decades, in part, because I have been remarkably fortunate with airports and airplanes, hotels and stadiums.

Of course, there’s been a few glitches over the years: getting locked inside the Fiesta Bowl; losing my rental car keys in Columbus; flying through a hurricane to Miami.

I knew I had finally arrived on my long journey: Greeted by legendary Red Grange.

I knew I had finally arrived on my long journey: Greeted by legendary Red Grange.

Sometimes it just doesn’t matter how much you plan ahead or arrive early, things just happen.

And, usually, you learn a lot more from what doesn’t go right.

Take my recent trip to tiny Champaign, Illinois. We boarded a plane in Harrisburg with the sun just beginning to rise, making Three Mile Island’s plumes glow a pale orange.

And then something went wrong before takeoff. The pilot turned off the plane’s power once, then again. We sat and waited. Then he told us to leave and stretch our legs. Then we were told to fetch our bags.

Soon enough, word arrived that we needed to make other arrangements because the repair would take too long. Then real trouble: They started busing passengers to Philadelphia.

Some on my flight were ultimately headed to California, Indonesia and Japan. I was just going to Champaign. But how was I?

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Penn State football chat, 8 p.m., December 1

This Penn State regular season is finally finished, mercifully to many.

Christian Hackenberg absorbed a school-record 42 sacks but reaffirmed his commitment to Penn State on Saturday.

Christian Hackenberg absorbed a school-record 42 sacks but reaffirmed his commitment to Penn State on Saturday.

Then again, you’d have to admit that James Franklin’s first fall in State College always had to be graded on a certain curve.

Do you think 6-6 and the promise of progress and development were enough this season?

Let’s chat about that and more tonight from 8 to 9. We can analyze the highs and lows from the Michigan State game and look ahead to a potential bowl match-up.

Do you like Yankee Stadium two days after Christmas? Would you rather play a reeling Notre Dame or Pitt or maybe Duke?

We’ll also go over the two big recruiting catches and more from the big weekend in Beaver Stadium. And to get warmed up, check out my column from today on Franklin’s coaching style and where it has the Lions headed.

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Podcast: PSU still in line for Pinstripe Bowl

Penn State could close the regular season on a two-game losing skid, but a loss to Michigan State probably won’t affect where the Lions are headed come bowl season. Frank Bodani and Jim Seip discuss what to expect against Michigan State and what went wrong against Illinois.

Posted in Beaver Stadium, Big Ten, bowl game, Christian Hackenberg, coaching staff, Frank Bodani, Jim Seip, Mike Hull, Mike Mauti, NCAA, Penn State | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Lions looking to land highly-rated “replacement” recruit

Penn State has lost the one stud defensive lineman needed in its 2015 recruiting class.

But could he be replaced with even more upside?

Penn State’s coaches and fans figured they had their man in suburban Washington, D.C.’s Adam McLean. Beyond his talent, he’s also charismatic and was seemingly a devoted leader. He had the Penn State logo shaved into his hair.

But stuff has a way of happening in the drawn-out recruiting process.

James Franklin closes in on big-time recruit after losing another talent.

James Franklin closes in on big-time recruit after losing another talent.

Several months after his verbal commitment to the Nittany Lions, he announced, via Twitter last week, that he was going to look for another school.

So, Penn State’s once rising-to-the-top recruiting class must navigate yet another significant pothole. The class has also lost prized quarterback Brandon Wimbush and linebacker Josh Barajas to Notre Dame.

Coach James Franklin quickly filled Wimbush’s spot with Indiana quarterback Tommy Stevens, a promising prospect but more of a raw, project-type.

“Welcome to recruiting in 2014 with the big boys,” said Brian Dohn, a national analyst with Scout.com. “Everybody has de-commitments. Alabama has de-commitments. It’s part of the process.

“I think what it means is that (Penn State coaches) need to go out there and get another good defensive lineman.”

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