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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

Bill O'Brien was searching prep schools for quarterbacks for spring drills when the Penn State coach recognized one.

“When he saw my name,” Austin Whipple said, “he put two and two together.”

O'Brien was inside linebackers coach on Mark Whipple's staff in his first season as head coach at Brown University in 1994, so they have a long history.

A 2012 Pine-Richland graduate who spent a post-graduate season at Salisbury School in Connecticut, Austin Whipple didn't hesitate to accept when O'Brien offered a chance to join Penn State as a preferred walk-on.

With freshman Steven Bench the only returning quarterback on the roster, finding arms for spring drills was a priority for O'Brien.

The Nittany Lions have also added a junior-college transfer, Tyler Ferguson of the College of Sequoias, and D.J. Crook of Worcester (Mass.) Academy.

Whipple knows he will have an opportunity to get invaluable practice repetitions and learn Penn State's pass-oriented offense.

“That's the goal right now, to try to earn a scholarship,” Austin said. “Preferred walk-on, scholarship or not, Penn State and the coaches and players are awesome. It's not good to not be able to play in a bowl, but they've got great things going on. I'm definitely excited.”

For advice, Whipple can look to his father, the former Steelers quarterbacks coach now in the same capacity with the Cleveland Browns. His older brother, Spencer, walked-on at Pitt, transferred to Massachusetts and then to Miami (Fla.) when their father was the Hurricanes' offensive coordinator.

Spencer Whipple got a scholarship to Miami after quarterbacks Robert Marve (Purdue), Cannon Smith (Memphis) and Taylor Cook (Rice) all transferred.

“Being a walk-on at certain places, a lot of times guys will separate themselves, scholarship from walk-ons,” said Spencer, now a graduate assistant at Pitt. “I think Penn State is a place where there is no separation, no real difference. Penn State has been known for having a strong group of walk-ons who make a difference.”

Matt McGloin is proof that going from walk-on to starting quarterback is possible at Penn State.

Whipple wants to prove that playing the position is not only in his bloodlines but that O'Brien isn't the only one who can do basic math.

The opportunity to play at Penn State as a preferred-walk-on?

It all adds up.

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