THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo
With Penn State's football players essentially being made free agents this week, several Mid-American Conference coaches expressed a desire to take advantage of the unique opportunity.
As part of the punishments levied against the school in the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the NCAA relaxed its transfer rules by affording Nittany Lions players the option to enroll at another institution without penalty. As a result, coaches have begun surveying PSU's roster and trying to convince current players and recruits to jump ship.
"We'll talk to someone on their staff at some point and ask if there are kids that want to leave," Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren said Tuesday at MAC Media Day. "If there are, we'll have conversations about that."
Many upperclassmen pledged solidarity on Wednesday, choosing to remain at the school that was devastated Monday by sanctions that include a four-year bowl ban, a $60 million fine, and a reduction of scholarships. Younger members on the team, as well as recruits, might be disenchanted by the appearance of a bleak future and choose to go elsewhere.
At least eight players who signed with Penn State in February were offered scholarships by MAC programs, including Maryland receiver Trevor Williams by the University of Toledo. Williams visited UT in January, one week before he committed to Penn State. Emails sent by The Blade to his head coach and athletic director at Calvert Hall seeking comment on Williams' plans were unreturned.
UT had not contacted any Penn State players or recruits as of Tuesday, according to coach Matt Campbell.
"I think if that situation would present itself, we would have to make sure it's right by us and the future of our football program," Campbell said.
Former UT coach Tim Beckman, now at Illinois, caused a stir Wednesday after he and several of his staff members visited State College and stood outside of the Lasch Football Building to speak with players. Penn State coach Bill O'Brien has said some of his players have generated 50 scholarship offers. An ESPN report stated Southern California is pursuing running back Silas Redd, who was absent from a large group of Nittany Lions that on Wednesday expressed their unification. Redd rushed for 1,241 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011.
Programs bringing in a Penn State player can exceed the maximum 85 scholarships for 2012 but must begin counting that player toward their total in 2013.
Bringing an addition into a program a week before the start of fall practice comes with challenges. Scheduling a campus visit, getting the student-athlete accepted into school, and working around apartment lease agreements complicates the situation.
"All of those things have to happen in 10 days," Bowling Green State University's Dave Clawson said.
Affected the most, perhaps, by the possible exodus of players is Ohio University's Frank Solich. His team will open the season at Penn State on Sept. 1, facing a team that will be difficult to prepare for because of its moving parts. Moreover, Solich will be unfamiliar with the schemes employed by first-year coach O'Brien.
"There's a lot of things where you say, ‘Wow, what's that going to be all about,'?" Solich said. "You don't lose any sleep over it. You just know you're going to face a very, very good football team."
Contact Ryan Autullo at: email@example.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.