Penn State notebook: Nittany Lions clearing scholarships left and right
January 12, 2016 12:41 PM
Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Penn State's Daquan Worley lines up during a Nittany Lions' practice.
By Audrey Snyder / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State shouldn’t be hard-pressed to hit the NCAA mandated 85 scholarship limit next season.
James Franklin’s Nittany Lions are cleaning house this offseason and freeing up a lot of scholarships in the process, including three Tuesday as linebacker Troy Reeder, reserve linebacker Gary Wooten Jr. and reserve cornerback Daquan Worley won’t be with the team next season. Reeder, a redshirt freshman who played in 12 games this season and who became a starter at outside linebacker when Nyeem Wartman-White was lost for the season in the opener, announced his plans to transfer to Delaware. Reeder’s father played for the Blue Hens and Reeder’s brother gave Delaware his verbal pledge a week ago. Wartman-White, a longtime starter, is expected to be healthy next season and with two other returning starting linebackers Reeder likely would’ve been the odd man out next season.
Wooten Jr., who appeared in seven games this past season and recorded seven tackles, will be a graduate transfer, a source confirmed to the Post-Gazette. Penn State, with an estimated scholarship number around 81 once the team’s 2016 verbal pledges are added in, is down to six scholarship linebackers on their roster.
It’s unclear where Worley, a redshirt freshman who was recruited by former head coach Bill O’Brien but who didn’t see the field this season, will end up.
The trio of personnel moves adds to a growing list since the end of the season. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg and defensive tackle Austin Johnson opted to forgo their final year of eligibility and declare for the NFL draft. Tight end Adam Breneman, a redshirt sophomore, announced the end of his collegiate career a week ago because of a chronic knee injury. Receiver Geno Lewis, who saw a decreased role when he caught 17 passes this past season, announced Monday he will be a graduate transfer, and therefore is eligible to play right away at Oklahoma.
Former Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and offensive line coach Herb Hand also left the program within the past four days to take jobs coaching the same positions at Tennessee and Auburn.
Franklin hasn’t addressed the media since the Jan. 2 TaxSlayer Bowl.
Shoop offers explanation
Shoop outlined his reasoning Tuesday for parting ways with Penn State when Tennessee’s new defensive coordinator was introduced in Knoxville as part of Butch Jones’ staff. Shoop coached under Franklin the past five seasons.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Coach Franklin,” Shoop said at his news conference. “He took a chance five years ago on a [Division] I-AA defensive coordinator, he helped me get to this level and I’m appreciative of that. Together we went to five straight bowls, had five straight top-25 defenses. I’m very, very proud of what we accomplished together.”
Shoop wouldn’t go into details about his contract buyout, which is reported to be $800,000, adding that this buyout is, “something that I’m going to resolve with Penn State and I’d kind of like to keep it at that.”
Adding to the attraction of the job for this Oakmont native was that Tennessee’s defense “isn’t a rebuild. The parts are in place for this to be a championship unit. I really think that,” he said. Penn State must replace three of their starting four defensive linemen this offseason and now with less depth at linebacker Shoop’s replacement, Brent Pry, will have a rebuilding project of his own.
Barbour backs Franklin
Athletic director Sandy Barbour said just about every member of Penn State’s coaching staff, a group that went 7-6 in each of the past two seasons, was contacted by the NFL or another college program after the conclusion of the season.
Barbour, speaking Tuesday on a State College-based radio station with Penn State football play-by-play announcer Steve Jones, urged fans to stay the course, saying Penn State’s coaching personnel moves aren’t unusual.
“Penn State is not used to this and that’s a really good thing,” she said. “That’s not to say that stability in your coaching staff is not a good thing, it absolutely is, but it’s much harder to achieve today than it ever has been before.”
Barbour went on to highlight Franklin’s leadership in the past two years, adding that he “is the right guy in the spot.”
Audrey Snyder: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @audsnyder4.
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