By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
It appears unlikely that the rosters of SEC football teams – including Ole Miss and Mississippi State – will pick up any significant numbers of refugees from the Penn State program this fall.
As a part of the severe NCAA sanctions levied against the program on Monday, current Penn State players will able to transfer to other major-college programs without having to sit out a year. They could leave now – just days before college camps begin – or play for Penn State this season and freely transfer elsewhere in 2013.
Mississippi State fans may recall that basketball player Lawrence Roberts left Baylor in 2003 after it was hit with NCAA sanctions and suited up the next season for the Bulldogs.
Several SEC coaches, including Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss, Mark Richt of Georgia and Derek Dooley of Tennessee, have been quoted as saying they had interest in Penn State transfers.
“While I will not discuss specific recruits, we are always in evaluation mode, including with transfers,” Freeze said in a statement to the Journal on Wednesday. “Any mutual interest will be pursued.”
South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier said Tuesday his team was not actively pursuing any Penn State transfers, but could understand if Freeze, trying to rebuild a program that went 0-8 in the SEC last season, did. “They need some ball players there,” Spurrier said.
But as of mid-day on Wednesday, no Penn State player had announced plans to leave. In fact, a large group made a public demonstration of their loyalty to the program.
More than 30 Penn State players – including highly regarded senior linebacker Michael Mauti and at least a dozen other players listed as starters – appeared together Wednesday morning to vow that they would stick by their school.
“We want to let the nation know that we’re proud of who we are,” fullback Michael Zordich said. “We’re the true Penn Staters, and we’re going to stick together through this. We’re going to see this thing through, and we’re going to do everything we can for the university. We know it’s not going to be easy, but we know what we’re made of.”
Said Mauti: “We take this as an opportunity to create our own legacy.”
Elite linebacker Gerald Hodges is said to be sticking around, as is quarterback Matt McGloin, a fifth-year senior.
There has been speculation that running back Silas Redd might transfer to Southern Cal, but the Hartford (Conn.) Courtant – near Redd’s hometown – said on Tuesday that the junior intends to stay put.
SEC teams were not big players over the past three seasons in competing with Penn State for recruits. According to the college football website presnapread.com, the top six teams to offer scholarships to eventual Penn State signees in 2010-12 were Pittsburgh (20), West Virginia (19), Boston College (19), Maryland (17), Virginia (16), Illinois (16). The only SEC teams of note on that list were South Carolina (7) and Vanderbilt (6).
Recruiters from a variety of schools – including six Illinois assistants – were reported to be on the Penn State campus today. Spokesmen for Mississippi State and Ole Miss each said that none of their assistants were there.
Penn State’s recruiting for the 2013 signing class – the team will be limited to 15 recruits for the next four seasons – will clearly take a hit.
Two Nittany Lion commits who were also on the Ole Miss wish list have affirmed their commitments this week. Adam Breneman is the nation’s top-rated tight end and Garrett Sickels is Rivals.com’s fourth-ranked defensive end.
“I was looking at other options today,” Sickels told the website Lions247.com on Tuesday. “I was thinking, ‘What’s best for me?’ The best place for me is Penn State.”
A third Penn State commit who had been offered by Ole Miss is offensive tackle Dorian Johnson (6-6, 280).
Contributing: The Associated Press, MCT.