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Fortt leaving Penn State for California

| Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, 3:30 p.m.
Penn State linebacker Khairi Fortt talks after the viewing for former Nittany Lions football coach Joe Paterno on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012, in State College. (AP)

One of the losses sustained by Penn State's football program came with a bit of irony.

Linebacker Khairi Fortt wanted to attend California in 2010, but his parents balked at the blue-chip recruit going to school so far from Stamford, Conn.

Fortt matured so much after everything he has been through at Penn State that his parents were comfortable with Cal recruiting him a second time.

Fortt will transfer to the Pac-12 school, joining running back and fellow Connecticut native Silas Redd in leaving a program that the NCAA hit with major sanctions July 23.

Coach Bill O'Brien has been trying to keep his team together since the NCAA ruled that Penn State players could transfer before Aug. 27 and be eligible this season.

Fortt is arguably the Nittany Lions' most significant loss after Redd. He had been expected to battle Glenn Carson for the starting job at middle linebacker.

Fortt played in every game last season and had 33 tackles, including 6 12 for losses, and 2 12 sacks.

“I think Khairi just wanted a total change,” Fortt's father, Guy, said Wednesday. “He really enjoyed coach O'Brien. I just think Khairi wanted a new vibe and a new opportunity.”

As a retired firefighter, Guy Fortt said he values the concept of not leaving teammates behind. But Fortt added that his son didn't just leave Penn State for any school. Cal linebackers coach Kenwick Thompson served as the point man in Fortt's recruitment, just as he did three years ago, and the two still have a strong rapport.

Fortt, Redd (Southern Cal), quarterback Rob Bolden (LSU), tight end Kevin Haplea (Florida State) and safety Tim Buckley (North Carolina State) are among the players that have left the Nittany Lions' program this week. Penn State also lost an incoming freshman when highly touted defensive lineman Jamil Pollard decided to transfer to Rutgers.

Pollard is from New Jersey, and Rutgers had been his top choice coming out of West Deptford High. He signed with Penn State after Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano left to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers late in the recruiting period.

Clyde Folsom, who coached Pollard at West Deptford, said the coveted recruit was torn about his college choice even before the NCAA punished Penn State.

“It gave him a real reason to leave,” Folsom said of the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal. “(Rutgers) was the only school he would have left for.”

Penn State opens training camp Monday, and O'Brien has made it clear to his players that Monday is also an unofficial deadline for them.

“After Aug. 6,we don't want guys that are on the fence,” strength coach Craig Fitzgerald said. “If you're in, you're in. If you're out, you're out.”

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com.

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