Assessing the Damage From the Nine Transfers
It’s finally over. It was not nearly as bad as some made it out to be, but most importantly, it’s done. The Penn State football team began summer practice yesterday. Transfer talk can come to a halt as the pads are strapped on and a date with the Ohio Bobcats gets closer by the minute.
Following the harsh sanctions levied by NCAA, nine players decided to transfer from the program without eligibility penalties.. The now former Nittany Lions are listed below, beginning with the transfers that could have the largest negative impact. Past performance, overall talent, eligibility, and depth at certain positions were all taken into consideration.
Silas Redd, RB – Redd was easily Penn State’s best offensive player and arguably best overall player. The fact that Southern California — a team who was already favored to win the national championship — courted him, tells you all you need to know about how talented he is. Unlike some other players who will appear on the list, Redd never considered transferring before the Freeh Report and sanctions. A lifelong Penn State fan, he originally dismissed the Freeh report, saying “It has nothing to do with me.” The NCAA penalties made Redd bolt across the country, and while Penn State has some depth in Bill Belton, Curtis Dukes, and Akeel Lynch, they lost 55% percent of their rushing yards and 39% of their rushing touchdowns last year with Redd’s departure. This loss is hard to stomach for many Penn State fans.
Anthony Fera, K/P – Some have argued that losing a special teams ace in Fera hurts more than losing Redd. I did not go that far, but it’s really close. If it were not for Fera’s leg, Penn State may have lost a few more games early on last season. He ended up connecting on 14 of 17 field goals and averaged forty two yards on punts. It’s tough to know what Penn State has when it comes to his replacements. Neither kicker Sam Ficken nor punter Alex Butterworth have been tested enough to really judge them, but it will take a lot from them for the kicking game to be as good as it was last year. Fera will be missed as he heads off to Texas, although his transfer may be more a result of personal issues than the sanctions. Texas is allowing Fera to attain a Penn State degree while completing his final academic year at their school.
Justin Brown, WR – Had Brown not opted to transfer to Oklahoma Saturday night, the senior would have been the top target for quarterback Matt McGloin. Similar to the running back position, there is a lot of potential with Shawney Kersey, Allen Robinson, and Alex Kenney but very little experience. Brown was also one of the primary punt returners for Penn State over the past two seasons. He will need to be replaced there as well.
Jamil Pollard, DT – Pollard never took a snap for Penn State. Unfortunately he never will, and losing him hurts. A four star recruit out of high school, the freshman defensive tackle — who has already been through more adversity than most people face in a lifetime — was a promising player. This year, he could have helped the defensive line rotation immediately. Rutgers gained a good player that should shine from both a short and long-term standpoint.
Khairi Fortt, LB – The linebacker arrived at Penn State with great expectations in 2010. While the potential and athleticism is there, Fortt likely would have started the season behind Glenn Carson on the depth chart at middle linebacker. Fortt may go on to be an incredibly productive player at California, but Penn State’s linebackers should not miss a beat even with his departure.
Ryan Nowicki, OL – A redshirt freshman who was originally recruited by several high-profile programs, Nowicki has potential to develop down the line, but did not appear on Bill O’Brien’s initial depth chart. Redshirt freshman Donovan Smith should hold down the left tackle spot for the next four seasons, which severely lessens any negative impact from this loss. The Illinois coaches invasion of State College may have been an embarrassment and turned into a running joke, but Nowicki made sure it was not a total failure. Good job, good effort, Tim Beckman.
Kevin Haplea, TE – Haplea caught a game clinching touchdown pass against Iowa last October, but he didn’t do much else and was going to be buried on the depth chart this season behind guys like Garry Gilliam, Kyle Carter, and Jesse James. There shouldn’t be much of a negative impact felt here as the junior heads south to Florida State after only six receptions in two seasons.
Tim Buckley, S – Buckley was the first player to officially transfer, and when he did, many had to look up who exactly he was. The former walk on safety originally from Raleigh, North Carolina will head back home and enroll at North Carolina State. While this transfer received little attention and likely will have little impact, the depth in the secondary was already thin, and got thinner with the departure of the redshirt freshman.
Rob Bolden, QB – Bolden was looking to transfer for a few months, and ultimately did so following the sanctions. Despite talent and high expectations for the quarterback, things never went right for Bolden. It will be interesting to see if he can get playing time and turn his career around at LSU, but it was not going to happen here.
The order of this list could be debated, but the key thing is that the list should be finalized. While players are still allowed to transfer based on the amended rules, it is likely that just about everyone who reported for camp on Monday is in it for the long haul.
Nine players chose to leave over the past two weeks, but often forgotten was that over eighty players elected to stay with the program.
Some of those transfers will hurt, some won’t, but the topic of conversation can now be focused on those who chose to stay as preparations for the season kick into high gear.