Fight On Statements

Welcome to our regular feature of Fight On Statements, where premium members ask questions on the Total Access Board — questions ranging from Penn State players and prospects to the coaches and conference, and everything in between — and the staff answers.

1. erv66 Asks: Maybe I'm just behind the times, but I first heard of Byham (the TE prospect from Pennsylvania) only this week. Has he surfaced only recently or has he been someone most overlooked initially or have I just been blind? Did he make it to any of the camps and if so, how did he do? Who is really on this kid (team-wise) and do we have a shot?

Bob Lichtenfels Answers: I did an interview with Nate Byham in early April, Tom Cacchione the head coach at Erie Strong Vincent and former Erie Cathedral Prep Coach Mike Mischler made me aware of Byham last fall. Both coaches said the kid was an absolute stud. I figured at the time that they may have exaggerated and then Franklin coach Dave Smith sent me film on Byham and I saw for myself what these guys had been saying.

He is potentially the top tight end prospect in the country. The college coaches that I talk to have all confirmed that as well. The main players right now seem to be Iowa and Pittsburgh. Iowa offered him first and they do very well with kids from the northwest part of the state. Pittsburgh has been on him hard and he has visited there six or seven times this year. He has offers from the who's-who of college football.

2. CharlestonLion Asks: Does Penn State still lead for Jacques Rickerson out of Florida?

Bob Lichtenfels Answers: Like 95 percent of the kids from the "Sunshine State" the Northern schools are always in it until one of the "Big 3" come calling. I think Penn State needs to develop a better foundation of Florida kids and then other Florida kids will be likely to follow. It's been my experience that these kids like to be around other Florida kids, they take comfort in that.

3. TheNewJFL Asks: What is the reason for the lack of interest by the staff in Knowshon Moreno?

Bob Lichtenfels Answers: I personally think Knowshon has close to 30 offers. I made that statement to him in a recent conversation and he laughed, which leads me to think it's true. From what I have gathered from his high school coach, he likes his kids to play everything close to the vest. I'm not sure schools have been able to get much quality film on him either.

4. OldLioness Asks: At a West Coast speaking engagement, Tom Bradley indicated that we were looking for three DEs in this class. Who do you see as our top targets and who has us highest on their list?

Bob Lichtenfels Answers: Obviously Odrick, but Penn State has also shown a great deal of early interest in Brian Whitmore from Virginia, Jason Adjepong from New Jersey, Maurice Evans from New York, Adam Patterson from South Carolina and Aaron Maybin from Maryland. These guys appear to be likely candidates that Penn State is targeting.

5. MyBloodisBlue Asks: What will be the Paterno-Hall arrangement on offense?

Mark Harrington Answers: This may be the biggest question coming out of spring practice. A hint that Hall will have the offensive reigns in 2005 came at the end of the 2004 season. Michael Robinson recently described the situation against Michigan State, saying, "[Hall] came in at halftime and wrote two plays on the board — a quarterback run play and another run play by the tailback," Robinson explained. "He said those are the only two run plays we have to run. We ran that and scored almost every time. I think Galen's gonna have a little bit more input [this season]. He's a little bit more familiar with the personnel, a little bit more familiar with how we call plays."

Aside from this, reports from within the program have pointed to consistent use of the four-receiver set, the option and the incorporation of the H-back, all signs that would point to Galen Hall's offensive innovation. The bottom line is talk is cheap though and the most of the Nittany Nation will believe it after they see it.

Mark Brennan Answers: I'll believe Hall has a level of autonomy in the offensive play-calling when I see it in a tight game. I just can't envision both Paternos taking themselves out of the mix.

6. PennStateFan33 Asks: Would like your opinion on when to take a sleeper. Last year we took Fentress and Coakley early and Baker late. This year we take Ogbu early. In these situations, is the PSU staff the first to see the untapped talent and pouncing on it or are they identifying projects that they can transform?

Bob Lichtenfels Answers: Remember now, Brian Norwood recruited Ogbu for two years, so it's not like they weren't aware of who he was. Ogbu picked up another offer or two right after his verbal to Penn State. Baker had a few scholarships offers to some decent programs, so I wouldn't classify him as a sleeper, rather I just don't think he was a kid who received a lot of hype.

It's easier to take a so-called sleeper or two if you have depth and if you have a large number of scholarships available. Fentress and Coakley may have been high on the Penn State board, making them good recruits to the staff, and may have been perceived as sleepers by others. It's all relative.

7. am19psu Asks: With all the chatter over Memorial Day weekend, I was wondering what the reason is that we are no longer on Pat Devlin's short list?

Bob Lichtenfels Answers: As I have said for a while now I prefer not to get into this discussion. I'm sure Paterno and his staff are still diligently pursuing Devlin as we speak, and in this game it is never over until signing day.

Mark Brennan Answers: Joe Paterno is ticked that certain rivals are telling recruits Penn State can't develop pro quarterbacks, so much so that he mentioned the negative-recruiting tactics at a recent speaking engagement. Whether those rivals are accurate is not the point. Paterno knows as well as anyone that the first step in developing great quarterbacks is recruiting strong prospects, and if he can land Devlin it will be another step toward silencing those critics. When the old coach gets something in his craw — remember last year when he was being blasted for not recruiting enough speed? — he has a knack for making things happen. Whether it works with Devlin remains to be seen. This much is certain, though: The blue-chip QB is right near the top of PSU's priority list.

8. jonpsu Asks: How much concern is there on Tony Hunt's fumblitis among the staff? What's the word on Austin Scott?

Mark Harrington Answers: Tony Hunt has had some issues holding onto the ball, and although he has had a solid off-season thus far and is the clear leader at this stage at running back he needs to kick the fumbling habit. He has particularly focused on protecting the ball in traffic and keeping it tucked consistently to avoid having it stripped, but the proof is in the pudding. If he continues this habit he may find himself chained to the sideline.

As for Austin Scott, you're likely referring to the injury Fight On State broke back in early March. Scott's recovery is on track. He has been involved in light runs and is focusing on building up the strength in the left ankle, which he broke. He will likely be up to speed this summer and competing for the starting job against Hunt in the preseason.

Mark Brennan Answers: Hunt's issues must be a huge concern for the staff. He had two fumbles on one carry in the Coaches Clinic Scrimmage and put the pigskin on the ground again in the Blue-White Game. But don't expect those concerns to become public. The last thing the coaches want to do is to put even more pressure on Hunt, especially with the uncertainty lower on the depth chart.

Scott was inconsistent before his injury. Rodney Kinlaw has been injury prone.

Hunt is the only player on the roster who has had the look of an every-down back. He has decent speed, excellent power and catches the ball very well out of the backfield. The only thing stopping him from being a solid Big Ten back is the propensity to fumble.

9. bleedblu Asks: I've read that the Class of 2006 will include four to five offensive linemen. Can you give an early indication of who might sign on LOI day?

Bob Lichtenfels Answers: It's still too early to tell. Obviously one of the top targets is Sam Young. Another would possibly be J.B. Walton. Those are the most prevalent names mentioned. Honestly, I think Penn State got involved a little too late with Lee Tilley.

10. petek Asks: Any prospects visiting PSU over the next few weeks?

Bob Lichtenfels Answers: I spoke to Freedom's Colin Neely. He was scheduled to visit over the holiday weekend and the Nittany Lion staff told him to come at another time, so he'll likely visit in the next couple of weeks. I'll see what I can find out. I've been out of the loop a bit with all my traveling for the combines.

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