Penn State: The Departed
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Eighteen players have left Penn State since spring practice. With the season halfway over, it is now possible to gauge the consequences of the departures for Penn State, as well as the fortunes of those who left.
Though the losses clearly affected the team's depth, only a handful of the transferred players have been significantly missed. Many of them, particularly wide receivers and tight ends, might have found more success in Bill O'Brien's system than the ones in which they are now playing.
• Anthony Fera, K, Jr., Texas -- Easily the most glaring loss. His replacement, Sam Ficken, has missed six of nine field goals, including four in the disastrous Virginia loss. Fera was injured for Texas' first four games and is 1 for 2 in the past two games. Against West Virginia, he made a 38-yard field goal but missed a 41-yard kick in the fourth quarter that would have tied the score. Texas went on to lose, 48-45.
• Silas Redd, RB, Jr., USC -- Penn State has seen players such as Michael Zordich and Zach Zwinak emerge in Redd's absence, but its rushing attack still averages 3.5 yards per carry, as opposed to 4.2 yards per carry last year. Even though O'Brien's offense has excelled through the air, an extra dimension like Redd in the rushing attack could do wonders. At Southern California, Redd has rushed for 570 yards on 101 attempts.
• Justin Brown, WR, Jr., Oklahoma -- Allen Robinson has more than taken over the No. 1 wide receiver spot. Problem is, no wide receiver has consistently stepped in as the No. 2 target. At Oklahoma, Brown has starred on special teams and caught 20 passes for 227 yards. He had five receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown against Texas on Saturday. Maybe he wonders if he could have broken out in O'Brien's offense like Robinson.
• Derrick Thomas, DB, Jr., Marshall -- Thomas left in late June, before the NCAA sanctions. This spring he was considered the starter at right cornerback. With no depth in the secondary, Thomas would be a huge plus. Maybe he could even help the Nittany Lions play nickel, a formation coach John Butler says he can't do because of the lack of depth. At Marshall, Thomas has 25 tackles and two pass breakups in six games.
• Tim Buckley, DB, Fr., NC State -- Buckley was a walk-on who redshirted last season. North Carolina State offered him a scholarship. He has not recorded any stats, but he would at least add depth in practice for the secondary.
• Khairi Fortt, LB, Jr., California -- Fortt is redshirting this season because of a knee injury. He certainly would compete for a starting linebacker spot next year had he stayed at Penn State.
• Kevin Haplea, TE, Jr., Florida State -- Haplea was Penn State's most experienced returning tight end and probably would have thrived in O'Brien's offense. But others, primarily Kyle Carter and Matt Lehman, have picked up, already surpassing Haplea's output of three receptions last season. Haplea has three catches for 15 yards and a touchdown for Florida State.
• Paul Jones, QB, So., N/A -- Say what you want about Jones, but Penn State will miss him this spring as a quarterback mainly because Steven Bench will be the only active quarterback on the roster. Jones will have two years of eligibility left if he chooses to transfer to another school.
• Matt Marcincin, K/P, Fr., N/A -- With an inconsistent Ficken, Marcincin's presence as competition would only help. Marcincin is still enrolled at Penn State.
• Jamil Pollard, DT, Fr., Rutgers -- Pollard might not have gotten on the field this season, but he was one of Penn State's top recruits. He has not recorded any stats for Rutgers and is considered a likely redshirt candidate.
• Shawney Kersey, WR, Jr., N/A -- Kersey left the team in mid-September, the week after the Virginia loss. He had six receptions for 44 yards in two games. He also could have helped alleviate the need for a No. 2 receiver.
• Devon Smith, WR, Sr., Marshall -- Smith was reportedly kicked off the team in June. His speed and experience would be a bonus for punt returns -- though, aside from a fumble last week, Jesse Della Valle has become an acceptable punt returner. At Marshall, Smith has not recorded any statistics.
• Rob Bolden, QB, Jr., LSU -- It always seemed to be a question of when Bolden would leave rather than if. At LSU, he has yet to record any statistics and is listed as third string on the depth chart. Matt McGloin, meanwhile, is having a career year, flourishing in O'Brien's offense without having to split time with Bolden.
• Curtis Drake, DB, Jr., N/A -- Drake left the team in June. There's no telling how he would have handled a position switch to defensive back and depth, of course, would be nice. Drake is not playing football this season and is mending a leg injury.
• Luke Graham, OL, So., N/A -- Graham converted from defensive tackle to offensive line for this season but left the team at the start of practice. He is still enrolled at Penn State.
• Khamrone Kolb, OL, So., Fordham -- He appeared in one game for Penn State last year. At Fordham, he is the second-string right tackle.
• Ryan Nowicki, OL, Fr., Illinois -- Nowicki redshirted last season. He is listed as the third-string right tackle on the Illinois depth chart.
• Dakota Royer, TE, So., N/A -- Like Graham, Royer left the team but has plans to finish his degree at Penn State.
First Published October 15, 2012 12:00 am