Senior Day recognition expands for Penn State football team
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien referred to the festivities surrounding Senior Day at Beaver Stadium as “a special thing.”
So special, apparently, that six extra players who technically don't have to have their Senior Days just yet are participating anyway.
Three scholarship players who have a season of eligibility remaining, and another who could apply for one, are among those who will complete their college careers at the end of the season.
Those players will take part in the Senior Day ceremonies before Saturday's 3:30 p.m. kickoff against Nebraska.
Offensive tackle Garry Gilliam, defensive tackle Kyle Baublitz and receiver Alex Kenney each have started at least one game. Gilliam and Baublitz began this season as starters and have started games recently.
Others who will be honored as departing seniors are tight end Matt Lehman, guard Bryan Davie and offensive tackle Kevin Blanchard.
Davie and Blanchard do not play, but Lehman was a starter for the Aug. 31 opener against Syracuse. The fifth-year senior tore an ACL early in the game that day and has the right to petition the NCAA for another season.
O'Brien called Lehman's inclusion in Senior Day “a just-in-case deal.”
“We're still waiting to hear on his application for a sixth year,” O'Brien said. “I wanted to make sure he got introduced.”
O'Brien declined to go into detail about the decisions of fourth-year juniors Baublitz and Kenney and fifth-year junior Gilliam. Baublitz has started eight games this season. Gilliam is a converted tight end who has split right tackle with Adam Gress.
Kenney had three receptions through the first two games of the season, but has lost his spot in the rotation. Kenney had 17 receptions in 2012.
“Those guys basically sat down with me and they've decided to move on to the next stage of their lives next year,” O'Brien said. “They'd like to be introduced on Saturday… so that's what we decided to do.”
Gilliam previously had been approved for a sixth season of eligibility (he redshirted in 2009 and missed the 2011 season because of a knee injury). Baublitz, who has two sacks this season, was academic all-Big Ten last season and will have spent four full years on campus when this semester ends.
“Those two guys are great guys,” O'Brien said. “They've been really good players for us and good leaders for us.”
Their departures likely mean offensive tackle Andrew Nelson and defensive tackle Carl Nassib will enter spring practice at the top of their respective depth charts.
Nelson, one of Penn State's top recruits last year, is redshirting. Nassib has been part of the defensive line rotation this season.
Kenney was passed on the depth chart by youngsters Eugene Lewis and Richy Anderson early this season. But that unit could lose both of its starters, with Brandon Felder's eligibility exhausted and Allen Robinson weighing a jump to the NFL.
Davie joined the team after O'Brien was hired midway through his sophomore year in January 2012. Blanchard is a sophomore in terms eligibility and is considered one of the team's best students.