Just minutes after his first preseason practice at Penn State, Bill O‚??Brien was asked how many players he had on scholarship. The answer came back quickly.
‚??I don‚??t know.‚?Ě
That‚??s to be expected in the aftermath of the NCAA sanctions imposed on the program. It‚??s a number that changes frequently this summer.
Since that first practice on Aug. 6, two players have left the Nittany Lions, the latest being reserve offensive lineman Luke Graham.
Penn State announced Monday that Graham, the 11th player to depart since the NCAA announcement on July 23, will remain at Penn State on scholarship but won‚??t play football.
The first nine outgoing players transferred to other schools and are free to play immediately for their new teams. The two who have left since camp began ‚?? Graham and backup tight end Dakota Royer ‚?? would also be eligible to transfer without penalty, but have indicated they will stay at Penn State.
Like Royer, Graham was not expected to see significant snaps this year. A redshirt sophomore from the Pittsburgh area, Graham came into camp as a third-string tackle behind starters Adam Gress and Donovan Smith and top backups Mike Farrell and Nate Cadogan.
All Penn State players are free to transfer without penalty from now until preseason camp begins in August 2013. The exception is that any who appear in a game for the Lions this season can‚??t play for another school until next year.
That leaves Penn State in a tough situation for the next 12 months, as unhappy players have full freedom to play elsewhere. But it‚??s a fact that the Lions can‚??t dwell on as they prepare for the season.
‚??I try not to live in the world of uncertainty. I take it day-by-day, situation-by-situation,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said at Penn State‚??s media day. ‚??I felt very good about our staff and our relationship with our players. I definitely felt like there was a trust there. I knew that there would be some guys that left, and I respect those decisions. Those guys made those decisions individually and with their families.
‚??I‚??m confident the football team we have here today is going to stick together.‚?Ě
As far as that scholarship number goes, there are only guesses.
Penn State‚??s total scholarship reduction doesn‚??t begin until the 2014-15 school year, when the Lions‚?? limit shrinks from 85 to 65 for four seasons. Penn State also can‚??t sign more than 15 players ‚?? down from 25 ‚?? for the next four seasons.
The roster, as it stood after Graham‚??s departure, was at 68 players who originally came to the program on scholarship. But those who arrive as walk-ons can earn scholarships down the road, with starting quarterback Matt McGloin being the most prevalent example.
Others in that category include two more fifth-year seniors in Jake Fagnano, the Williamsport grad competing for the starting job at strong safety, and Derek Day, who entered camp as a top backup at tailback.
Since O‚??Brien took over in January, 16 scholarship players have left the team for various reasons. Most have been transfers, but a few have been for medical, disciplinary or academic reasons. Some of those scholarships could end up going to more walk-ons for this school year.
Like most schools, Penn State does not announce when this happens, making it difficult to keep a precise count.
In the meantime, the Lions have some room to get creative. Arizona high school linebacker Brennan Franklin signed with Penn State at the start of the month before camp opened and will count as part of the 2012 signing class, which is not affected by the sanctions.
Likewise, players in the upcoming class of 2013 who graduate from high school a semester early and enroll at Penn State in January can also be counted toward the 2012 limit.
That‚??s an option Penn State has with Washington, D.C., cornerback Jordan Smith, who announced over the weekend he had verbally committed to the Lions. Heralded tight end Adam Breneman has also said he would look into early enrollment. Breneman will miss his senior season at Cedar Cliff High School near Harrisburg as he recovers from knee surgery.
The Associated Press
North Carolina is investigating how what appears to be a transcript for former football star Julius Peppers surfaced on the university‚??s website.
In a statement Monday, the school said it has removed the link and that it couldn‚??t discuss confidential student information covered by federal privacy laws. The school didn‚??t confirm the authenticity of the partial grade summary, which lists Peppers‚?? name at the top.
‚??Student academic records should never be accessible to the public, and the university is investigating reports of what appears to be a former student transcript on the university‚??s website,‚?Ě the school said.
The link, which surfaced late Sunday, showed Peppers received some of his highest grades in classes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM). A school investigation has since found fraud and poor oversight in 54 AFAM classes between summer 2007 and summer 2011, with football players making up more than a third of the enrollments and student-athletes making up 58 percent of the overall enrollments in those suspect classes.
Nine of the 10 classes in which Peppers earned a B-plus, B or B-minus that could‚??ve helped ensure his eligibility came in the AFAM department where he was majoring, according to the possible transcript. Three were listed as independent study classes, another problem area cited in the school‚??s probe for a lack of supervision of work ‚?? often a research paper ‚?? performed by students.
The possible transcript lists a 1.824 GPA, beginning with classes during the summer of 1998 and finishing in the fall of 2001 during Peppers‚?? last year on the football field for the Tar Heels under first-year coach John Bunting. The link lacked grades for five classes in summer and fall 2001 terms.