Blue-White Game Countdown / 23 Days: Gaines Departure Noteworthy Even If Loss Is Not

By Ben Jones

Editor’s note: This is part of a daily series counting down to Penn State’s Blue-White Game April 18.

Penn State defensive back Kasey Gaines will no longer be with the program according to multiple reports and confirmed by a team spokesperson. A member of the 2013 recruiting class, Gaines had yet to play in a game for the Nittany Lions prior to his departure this spring.

A reason for his departure is unknown but Gaines routinely had been passed over on the depth chart for other players, struggling to find his way to the on field rotation.

In previous years this kind of departure could have spelled doom for a position on Penn State’s roster. Even if Gaines never saw the field, a warm body in football shape was all Penn State has needed in an area where injuries and sanctions have crippled the depth of the Nittany Lions’ roster.

Those times are slowly becoming a thing of the past.

To be sure coach James Franklin would prefer to run the kind of operation that sees players stay for the duration of their full career. That stability, even lower down the depth chart, is important for a winning program.

But as Penn State gains back scholarships and talent across the board, single departures (aside from the likes of Christian Hackenberg) are much easier to overcome.

“We have pretty much a legitimate two deep at every position, which we did not have last year,” Franklin said earlier this spring. “We have way too many redshirt freshmen in our two deep still, but I think we have a chance for great improvement.”

While Penn State is a little secretive about the usage of any given scholarship, Gaines was recruited as a scholarship athlete under former defensive coordinator Ted Roof. Assuming that Gaines remained on scholarship throughout the duration of his career, his departure would open up a precious recruiting asset for moving forward or perhaps a reward for a hard working non scholarship athlete.

All in all Gaines leaving the program isn’t a good thing from the standpoint of stability. But the fact Penn State has returned to the point where any departure doesn’t automatically hurt the team’s depth is a moment worth noting.

Penn State will play this season with technically just under the 85 allowed scholarship players. The key now is the reminder that not all players on scholarship are scholarship level athletes, and that might take more than a year to change.

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