Penn State football notebook: Junior-college transfer starts at QB
By Dan Norton
Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 11:29 p.m.
UNIVERSITY PARK — It was only the fifth session of spring practices, but the Penn State football team lined up Wednesday with a junior-college transfer as the first-team quarterback.
For one day anyway, Tyler Ferguson got the nod over sophomore Steven Bench, as the Nittany Lions wore full pads for the first time this spring.
Bench was impressive, throwing accurate passes and showing off his mobility on one play.
“The playbook that they have is probably 10 times what we have on defense,” senior safety Malcolm Willis said. “(Ferguson) has got a rocket. Both of the guys do. We just have to see what happens if both of them learn the playbook, both of them don't fold under pressure. Just the intangibles a quarterback has to have.”
Receiver Allen Robinson and defensive end Deion Barnes are hungry to add onto their breakout 2012 seasons, Willis said.
As a sophomore, Robinson was the No. 1 target for the offense, leading the Nittany Lions with 77 receptions for 1,013 yards and 11 touchdown.
“He reiterates everyday that he wants to be the best receiver in the country, and his work ethic shows it,” Willis said.
The safety added that Eugene Lewis is poised to step into a more prominent wideout role after “scorching the starting defense” on the scout team last year.
Barnes helped anchor the 2012 defense with a team-best six sacks and 10 tackles-for-loss. On Wednesday, he was more focused on the sacks that he missed. He remembered each one.
“One miss against Iowa,” Barnes said. “Two against Temple. I can't believe I missed one against Temple. He was right there. And Ohio State.”
Barnes added that strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald has helped to increase his lower body strength in the offseason, which improved his speed off the edge.
The graduations of Sean Stanley and Jordan Hill leave two clear vacancies on the defensive line heading into the summer and fall. Barnes said redshirt freshman Austin Johnson and redshirt junior Kyle Baublitz have made good cases through spring practice so far.
New linebackers, new coordinator
Last week, O'Brien said the linebacking corps would lose depth with the graduations of outside linebackers Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti. The man in the middle, Glenn Carson, returns to lend first-team experience.
“Judging from spring ball so far, we're having really good practices and really competitive practices,” Carson said. “As long as we keep competing, I think that's the key. The offense getting after the defense, the defense getting after the offense, I think that's what really closes the gap for those who might not have some playing experience.”
Redshirt junior Mike Hull and redshirt freshman Nyeem Wartman will likely step in as starters, barring any unforeseen setbacks. Hull received extensive playing time last year as a backup and on special teams. Wartman was injured for most of the season.
With Ted Roof's departure, John Butler now serves as the Lions' defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach. O'Brien is an offensive-minded head coach, so much of the defensive decisions will now fall to Butler.
“We're all familiar with him,” Carson said. “He's a familiar face. We're not going to change things up a whole ton. We're light years ahead of where we were last spring.”
Many players other than the quarterbacks donned red jerseys Wednesday, indicating that they were not to be touched.
Among them were tight end Adam Breneman (knee), tight end Kyle Carter (wrist) and safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong (shoulder).
Tackle Garry Gilliam didn't participate in practice as he deals with a minor calf injury. Otherwise, Carson said he's transitioned well from the tight end.
Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones also was sidelined. The nature of his injury is unknown.
Dan Norton is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ex-Colts executive Polian: Approach free agency with caution
- With so many needs, Steelers can ill afford to miss in draft
- Steelers defense doesn’t make the grade in 2013 review
- Pirates’ big risk with pitch-heavy draft focus might soon pay off
- Pitt rallies in final seconds of regulation en route to OT win at Clemson
- Experts: Anti-vaccine view a peril
- Fashion essentials: Pittsburgh’s style watchers tell what they can’t live without
- Stats Corner: McCutchen’s contract extension brings huge cost savings
- Greensburg bishop’s time at helm draws to a close
- Harsh winter sets back Western Pa. maple harvest
- Ukrainians steel to resist Russian aggression