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Big Ten Media Day Football Penn State head football coach Bill O'Brien speaks during the Big Ten media day Thursday in Chicago.
Penn State head football coach Bill O'Brien speaks during the Big Ten media day Thursday in Chicago.
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Published: Friday, 7/27/2012

Coaches flock to Penn St. to recruit

Beckman says Illinois wasn't on campus

BY RACHEL LENZI AND DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITERS

CHICAGO -- Tim Beckman wants to make one thing clear. He and his coaching staff at Illinois weren't on the Penn State campus Wednesday.

But they assembled nearby.

"We were in State College," the former Toledo coach said Thursday during the Big Ten media days. "But we did not go on campus. We went to two establishments outside campus, called some individuals and if they wanted to come by, it was their opportunity to come by."

The former Toledo coach and seven members of his staff traveled to central Pennsylvania earlier this week, presumably to recruit players who were looking to leave Penn State in the wake of the NCAA levying unprecedented sanctions against the athletic program and the football team, in the wake of a sex abuse scandal and ensuing cover-up by the school's administration. The sanctions also allow players and recruits at Penn State to transfer without being penalized.

"Our players are in our building right now, and they don't want to leave the building because there are coaches from other schools in the parking lot waiting to see them," Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien told ESPN on Wednesday.

A day later, O'Brien wouldn't elaborate on the situation.

"As far as other schools on campus. I said my piece [Wednesday]," O'Brien said. "I have no idea what schools are on campus, nor do I care, and that's all I have to say about that."

Beckman, who coached at Toledo for three seasons before leaving in December, takes over an Illini football program that went 7-6 but 2-6 in the Big Ten and finished fifth in the six-team Leaders Division.

Less than 10 days before the start of preseason football camps opening across the country, the Penn State situation has provided a new wrinkle at a time when it's safe to assume that coaches are still tinkering (or possibly still overhauling) their rosters in preparation for the 2012 season.

Given the Penn State situation, Beckman said he and his coaching staff traveled east with a specific modus operandi.

"We're going to go, so that players can come to us," Beckman said.

But, he said, "I did not want our coaching staff on that campus."

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said he did not discuss the issue individually with each coach in the league, but addressed his point of view during the coaches meeting Thursday morning.

"It's not an NCAA rule, it's not a Big Ten rule," Delany said. "We're trying to put an overlay on this that allows the athlete as much opportunity as the rules allow, that allows for collegial relationships between schools to be done in the right way."

TO STAY OR GO? O'Brien continued to make the case for Penn State at media days.

"The measure of a man is how you overcome adversity," O'Brien said.

The Nittany Lions have endured plenty, including the NCAA leveling the program Monday with a four-year bowl ban and severe scholarship restrictions. But while an exodus of players and recruits is widely expected -- PSU athletes are permitted to transfer with no restrictions -- O'Brien said the team has been receptive to his appeals to stay.

O'Brien said he met with his team at length Monday morning after the NCAA announced its sanctions.

"I talked to them about adversity. I gave them my own story, my own personal story on adversity as it related to my wife and I with our son, Jack," said O'Brien, whose son has a rare neurological disorder that prevents him from walking or talking. "I talked to them about how each one of them have stories of adversity in their lives.

"I talked to them about without a shadow of a doubt they're going to be able to play six to seven bowl games per year in front of 108,000 screaming fans in Beaver Stadium, and I expect it to be 108,000 fans in Beaver Stadium. I talked to them about this staff and our ability to develop these guys for the National Football League. I told them this staff isn't going anywhere."

O'Brien, a former assistant for the New England Patriots, said no players have informed him of plans to transfer, though star junior running back Silas Redd reportedly met with USC coach Lane Kiffin on Thursday. O'Brien said he had no update on Redd.

WATCH LIST: Four Michigan and Ohio State players were named to the Big Ten preseason players to watch list.

Quarterback Denard Robinson and left tackle Taylor Lewan of UM and quarterback Braxton Miller and defensive end John Simon of OSU were among the 10 players announced Thursday. Also represented were cornerback Johnny Adams and defensive end William Gholston of Michigan State, running back Montee Ball and linebacker Chris Borland of Wisconsin, Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead and Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short.

The Big Ten abolished its traditional preseason awards, which included an offensive and defensive player of the year, before last season at the request of the league's coaches.



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