Plenty has changed at Penn State since the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke last fall, so much so that the Nittany Lions who come to town are hard to recognize. Our Marcus Jackson breaks it down:
Five big-time players who left Penn State program and are contributing elsewhere
Tailback, who rushed for more than 1,600 yards in two years with Penn State, has 338 and four TDs in four games at USC, including a 158-yard effort last week in a win against Cal.
Kicker made the move to Texas, but has missed the Longhorns’ first three games with a groin injury. Would have helped Penn State in the 17-16 loss at Virginia when Sam Ficken missed four field goals and a PAT.
Receiver, who caught three passes for 50 yards against the Illini in 2011, has the second-most receptions (12) for No. 16 Oklahoma. His 135 yards and 45.0 average per game each rank third on the Sooners.
The tight end has caught one pass for No. 4 Florida State, two fewer than he caught for the Nittany Lions last season. Known as a blocker, Haplea has helped open holes for the Seminoles’ rushing attack that has run for 1,124 yards in four games.
Cornerback has played in four games and made his first collegiate start last week for Marshall in a 54-51 win against Rice. The fourth-year junior’s 20 tackles rank seventh among Thundering Herd defenders.
Five who stuck around and are kicking butt for the Nittany Lions
One of the faces of the program throughout the scandal that rocked the sports world, the middle linebacker is producing at a high level on the field. The Sept. 17 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week leads the team and is second in the conference with 42 tackles.
Senior quarterback leads the Big Ten in passing yards (1,006), completions (83) and is tied for the league lead with nine touchdown passes. He enters the Big Ten opener coming off a 318-yard performance in last week’s win against Temple.
With Brown taking his talents to Oklahoma, Robinson has emerged as the Nittany Lions’ go-to receiver. A prep teammate of Illinois safety of Earnest Thomas, Robinson was the Big Ten’s top receiver in the nonconference, leading the league in receptions (29), yards (404) and TDs (five).
Like his linebacker-mate Mauti, Hodges is a Butkus Award candidate and his 30 tackles ranks 10th in the Big Ten. Illinois players will certainly remember the preseason first-team All-American who made 19 tackles and had a sack during Penn State’s 10-7 win last year.
The center is the only returning starter on the offensive line and finds himself on the Remington Award watch list. Stankiewitch is the anchor of a unit that has allowed just three sacks through four games.
Five things that have changed at Penn State since last season
A bowl team for six consecutive seasons and 37 times under Joe Paterno, the Nittany Lions will spend the holidays at home this season and for at least three more years after that because of the sanctions levied by the NCAA.
It was a big deal when Paterno OK’d the addition of a Nike swoosh to the otherwise bland Penn State uniform in the early 1990s. New coach Bill O’Brien went a step further, adding players’ names to the back of jerseys for the first time at the program to pay homage to the athletes who remained.
Since Beaver Stadium’s expansion in 2001, Penn State averaged 105,870 fans for home games through the 2011 season. In three home games this season, the Nittany Lions are playing in front of an average crowd of 96,553.
The statue of Joe Paterno, which was erected on the east side of the stadium in 2001, was removed in July in the wake of the child sex-abuse scandal. That area has since been replaced by trees. “Paternoville,” the area outside the stadium where students would camp out during game week, has been renamed “Nittanyville”.
Long a hot-bed for top prep talent, Penn State has taken a hit on the recruiting trail. The Nittany Lions currently have 11 players committed in the 2013 class which ranks ninth in the Big Ten, according to Rivals.com. As recently as 2010, Penn State had the top-rated class in the conference.