UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Bill O'Brien rarely feigned politeness when describing the punishments levied by the NCAA this summer, and one particular aspect of the sanctions brought out his most truthful, fiery response. He didn't care for the penalty-free transfer clause.
"It's like NFL free agency without the rules," he said.
In two weeks, the transfer situation will become an issue again for Penn State. From then until the beginning of the 2013 season, players will be able to transfer without having to sit out for a year, just as they could during the summer. Once the 2013 season begins, the regular NCAA transfer rules will apply.
The good news for Penn State is that its core of top players has given a verbal commitment of sorts to staying. Sporadically throughout this season, sophomore players like wide receiver Allen Robinson, tight end Kyle Carter and other members of the Supa Six (Donovan Smith, Bill Belton, Deion Barnes and Adrian Amos) have been asked about possible transfer plans after the year. They've said they had not thought of transferring.
Only one player, reserve running back Curtis Dukes, has publicly expressed doubt about his future at Penn State. In an interview with his hometown newspaper, The Watertown Daily Times, he said he didn't know what his plans were for next year.
Any transfer would impact Penn State, simply because it would reduce depth. The same way they did during the summer, these transfers cannot be technically replaced because of the scholarship limits. Whereas a team could usually sign an extra player after one leaves, Penn State is limited to 15 scholarships per year.
"I don't worry about things that are out of my control," O'Brien said.
O'Brien had an unofficial pitch throughout the summer (the spiel about 108,000 fans, great academics, the tradition of Penn State, etc.), but he said he doesn't have a traditional strategy for hanging onto players now. He said his staff's general commitment has been its strategy.
"I believe that every single day we work very hard on our relationships with our players," he said. "We work very hard to put our players in the best position to play on Saturdays. We work very hard to come up with as good of a practice plan as we can. We care about our players, their families, their class schedules, so that's what we do every single day."
During the summer, the seniors took it upon themselves to keep the team together. Several said that they met with underclassmen to help them evaluate their options and make the right decision for them. The seniors won't be part of the 2013 team, but they will still likely help.
Senior offensive tackle Mike Farrell said no one has come to him yet about the transfer issue and that it hasn't been a major topic of conversation as the team tries to complete the season. He expects that to change soon.
"After the last game," he said, "I will kind of open my ears and eyes to that situation and be as much as a positive factor as I can when people want to discuss and are looking for guidance."
Mark Dent: email@example.com and Twitter @mdent05. First Published November 16, 2012 5:00 AM