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Penn State notebook: QB Ferguson remains home in California

| Friday, July 12, 2013, 9:03 p.m.

UNIVERSITY PARK — The Penn State football team's Lift for Life had one expected, but still noticeable, no-show.

Quarterback Tyler Ferguson is home in California, and his absence, while excused, has generated plenty of buzz about the redshirt sophomore's future at Penn State.

Ferguson left Penn State recently to spend time with his mother, who reportedly has cancer.

“Tyler Ferguson is at home spending time with his family and good for him,” Penn State strength coach Craig Fitzgerald said. “I'll be excited when he comes back.”

Penn State coach Bill O'Brien did not attend Lift for Life, which culminates a fundraising campaign for cancer research, and his contact with players in the summer is limited per NCAA rules.

Ferguson is No. 1 on the depth chart after beating out Steven Bench in spring practice. Bench since has transferred to South Florida, leaving Ferguson and Christian Hackenberg, a five-star recruit, as the only scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.

O'Brien has said Ferguson, a junior-college transfer, will go into preseason practice with a slight edge over Hackenberg.

Fitzgerald and the three players made available to the media Friday were generally tight-lipped when asked about Ferguson or the quarterback situation.

“They're both working hard,” starting center Ty Howle said. “They both physically look good.”

No holding back

Running back Zach Zwinak ran while carrying sand bags and also took part in a tug-of-war between the offensive and defensive players.

Fitzgerald later confirmed what fans who attended Lift for Life likely concluded: Zwinak should be 100 percent when players report for training camp after taking part in every Lift for Life competition.

Zwinak hurt his left wrist in the Blue-White game in late April, and the injury was serious enough that the redshirt junior needed surgery.

“If you had asked me a month ago if he could this I'd say let's be cautious and not do it,” Fitzgerald said, “He was, ‘Hey I'm doing it,' so he's ready to go.”

Zwinak rushed for 1,000 yards in 2012 after opening the season fourth on the depth chart. He will open preseason practice atop the depth chart with Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch challenging him for the starting job.

Players report for training camp Aug. 4, and practice begins the following day.

“Zwinak's a winner,” Fitzgerald said. “It's no surprise he is ahead of schedule.”

Work still to be done

Lift for Life raised more than $115,000 for kidney cancer research, but the grueling competition did not mark the end of the players' summer work.

At least it didn't when it comes to Fitzgerald.

The second-year strength coach said he will continue to push players to their limit in the workouts that run until the end of the month. Fitzgerald said he will give the players off the week before the start of training camp so their bodies can recover from summer workouts.

Fitzgerald said the overall strength of the team has improved and that the players have exceeded his expectations this summer.

“I've got to think of some new challenges for them,” Fitzgerald said. “This 2013 team is special.”

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @ScottBrown_Trib.

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