With the NCAA's decision to hammer Penn State with significant penalties regarding the recent scandal surrounding the program, returning players and any incoming freshmen will be allowed to transfer without penalty. The Nittany Lions cannot play in a bowl or the Big Ten Championship until 2017, which means a lot of players could be looking to leave Happy Valley. In addition to a four-year bowl ban, Penn State was hit with scholarship reductions, 112 wins from 1998-2011 were vacated and the school has been fined $60 million. The Nittany Lions will be allowed to have only 65 scholarship players for future seasons.
Penn State may not see a huge number of players leave this year, especially with fall camps right around the corner. However, the roster could look drastically different by this time next year.
All signs point to the Big Ten relaxing its transfer rules, which would allow any player to transfer within the conference. Additionally, with fall camps opening in the next two weeks, there won't be much time for the players to make a decision. It's likely more Penn State players will choose to leave after 2012 but some could decide to leave before this season begins.
Here's a look at the top Penn State players and some possible fits if they choose to leave.
1. Jordan Hill, DT – Penn State’s interior line was one of the best in the nation last year. Devon Still led the way with 17 tackles for a loss, while Hill recorded 59 stops and 3.5 sacks. With Still expiring his eligibility, Hill is expected to become a leader for Penn State’s defense and emerge as one of the top linemen in the Big Ten. Not having Still around will force defenses to focus more on Hill, but he is capable of handling the double teams in 2012.
Possible Fits: Clemson, USC, Virginia, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Iowa
2. Silas Redd, RB – In his first season as a starter in 2011, Redd rushed for 1,241 yards and seven touchdowns, while catching nine passes for 40 yards. He had a stretch of five 100-yard performances, including 164 against Northwestern. Penn State's offensive line has been inconsistent in Redd's career and had only one returning starter in 2012. Redd is an Athlon Sports second-team All-Big Ten selection for 2012.
Possible Fits: Iowa, Oklahoma, USC, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Illinois, Florida, Tennessee
3. Gerald Hodges, LB – After becoming a major contributor to the defense late in the 2010 season, Hodges emerged as one of the unit's top players in 2011. He led Penn State with 106 tackles last year, while also recording 10 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks. Hodges earned first-team All-Big Ten honors last season and was nominated to the Butkus Award watchlist for 2012. He is expected to be one of the first linebackers off the board in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Possible Fits: TCU, Pittsburgh, Michigan, Baylor, Texas, West Virginia, Nebraska, Auburn, Arkansas, LSU
4. Michael Mauti, LB – Injuries have limited Mauti in his career but if healthy, is capable of ranking among the Big Ten’s top linebackers. He recorded 21 tackles in four games last year but suffered a torn ACL in the 34-6 win over Eastern Michigan. Mauti played in 11 games in 2010 and recorded 67 tackles and two sacks. All signs point to a return to full strength by Mauti, but he may need a few games to knock off the rust. Considering Mauti's father played at Penn State, it could be difficult for him to leave Happy Valley.
Possible Fits: Michigan, NC State, Baylor, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Nebraska, Arizona, Arkansas, Auburn, TCU
5. Khairi Fortt, LB – With Mauti, Hodges, Glenn Carson and Fortt, the Nittany Lions have one of the Big Ten’s top linebacking corps for 2012. Fortt finished spring practice just behind Glenn Carson on the depth chart and is expected to make another push for a starting spot this fall. He logged significant snaps last season, recording 33 tackles and six tackles for a loss. As a junior, Fortt is only scratching the surface on his potential and could have a breakout 2012 season.
Possible Fits: Pittsburgh, Nebraska, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Connecticut
6. Glenn Carson, LB – Carson was steady in his first year as a starter in 2011, recording 74 stops and forcing two fumbles in 13 games. Although he's not flashy, Carson is a steady performer and will figure into the rotation even if he loses his starting job to Khairi Fortt.
Possible Fits: Michigan, Boston College, NC State, Baylor, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Arkansas, Auburn
7. Justin Brown, WR – Brown is Penn State’s top returning receiver after catching 35 passes for 517 yards and two scores. He caught six receptions for 62 yards in the 14-10 win over Temple, while posting one catch for 69 yards and a score in the bowl loss against Houston. At 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds, Brown has intriguing size and talent and is coming off his best statistical season.
Possible Fits: Maryland, Illinois, Temple
8. Anthony Fera, K/P – Fera had a solid 2011 season, nailing 14 of 17 field goals and averaging 42 yards per punt. Considering his value on both aspects of special teams, a lot of teams could have an interest in Fera.
Possible Fits: Florida State (punter), Virginia Tech (kicker and punter), Tennessee
9. Sean Stanley, DE – Stanley is a steady performer and is poised to finish his career on a high note. He made 30 tackles and recorded 4.5 sacks last season and is the team’s top returner at defensive end for 2012. Stanley isn’t likely to be a standout but can be a solid part of a rotation.
Possible Fits: Temple, Rutgers, Iowa
10. Matt Stankiewitch, C – With Stankiewitch back as the only returning starter, Penn State’s offensive line is in full rebuild mode in 2012. He started all 13 contests last season and helped Penn State’s rushing attack average 4.2 yards per carry and 1.1 sacks per game.
Possible Fits: Rutgers, Maryland, Temple
11. Malcolm Willis, S – The Nittany Lions lost all four starters in the secondary from last season, but the cupboard wasn’t bare for new coach Bill O’Brien. Willis played in 12 contests last year and recorded 33 stops and one interception. He doesn’t have a full season of starts under his belt, but is primed to be a solid contributor at safety.
12. Bill Belton, RB – Belton didn’t see much playing time last year but made an impact when he got on the field. He rushed for 15 yards on four attempts in the 20-14 win over Ohio State, while recording 38 yards in the bowl loss to Houston. Belton is expected to backup Silas Redd, along with contribute out of the backfield on passing downs and on special teams. This sophomore is an intriguing talent and one who should get better with more playing time.
Top Incoming Freshmen to Watch
Brian Gala, OL
Eugene Lewis, WR
Jordan Lucas, DB
Jamil Pollard, DL
Nyeem Wartman, LB
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