Penn St. loses first transfer

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Penn St. loses first transfer

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Backup Penn State safety Tim Buckley has become the first player to transfer from Penn State in the wake of NCAA sanctions, while the future of a more prominent player, star tailback Silas Redd, remains in question.

Redd, a 1,200-yard rusher who would be a focal point of O'Brien's reconfigured Penn State offense, visited Southern California over the weekend. Another good season could have the junior with the dazzling open-field spin move headed to the NFL draft a year early next spring.

Still, the majority of coach Bill O'Brien's core players appear to be sticking with Penn State, determined to weather out what could be a stormy season after the NCAA meted out landmark punishments on the program for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

O'Brien said at Big Ten media days last week in Chicago that more than 50 players have re-affirmed their commitment to Penn State, though he did expect some transfers. Two Class of 2013 recruits have de-committed over the last week, but six prospects visited O'Brien over the weekend before standing by their verbal commitments.

"We have a really unique opportunity at Penn State to do something really special," one of the six recruits, Cedar Cliff High senior Adam Breneman, said in a phone interview. Breneman, of Camp Hill, Pa., is considered one of the top tight end prospects in the country.

"We have a chance to bring a community together. We have a chance to be remembered for a long time and give a community hope."

Buckley won't be part of Breneman's future team. North Carolina State released a statement Monday announcing Buckley, a North Carolina native, would join the Wolfpack for the team's first practice Tuesday.

The former walk-on redshirted last season at Penn State, so he'll have four years of eligibility left.

"The opportunity to come here and play at my state university, so close to home, was something that I couldn't pass up," Buckley said in the statement that made no mention of the scandal.

Other Nittany Lions appear to be at least looking around, most notably Redd.

He voiced support for former coach Joe Paterno as late as two weeks ago, after former FBI director Louis Freeh released the results of his investigation in the Sandusky scandal for the university. Freeh said Paterno, who died in January, and three other school officials concealed allegations against Sandusky -- conclusions vehemently denied by Paterno's family and the officials.

"It has nothing to do with us," Redd had said about the findings. Penn State later handed the results of Freeh's investigation to the NCAA.

Redd had also said his opinion of Paterno, the coach that recruited him to Penn State, hadn't changed. He said Paterno, in his view, remained "the best college football coach of all time."

Since then, the NCAA banned Penn State from postseason play for the next four seasons, including the last two years of Redd's eligibility. College sports' governing body is allowing Redd and all other Nittany Lions to transfer to another school and get on the field right away.

The only restriction is they cannot practice or play with Penn State this year and still play for another school this season, meaning the Penn State roster should finally be set once training camp starts in a week.

But the process sets up college version of NFL free agency, in which other schools have been busy trying to cherry-pick Nittany Lions.

USC could be a landing spot if Redd decides to leave. With an offense led by quarterback Matt Barkley, the Trojans will be highly ranked and one of the favorites to win the Pac-12 Conference.

A person familiar with Redd's decision said the running back was returning from California on Monday and could make his decision as early as Tuesday. The person requested anonymity because no one was authorized to speak for Redd.

If Redd is back in State College by early Tuesday, he might find a bevy of fans urging him to stay.

Tim Sweeney, a businessman who hosts an online radio show, said he and his fellow host Keith Conlin, came up with the "Rise and Rally" event that has garnered community support. Sweeney said more than 1,000 people have indicated on Facebook they will attend the rally, which is scheduled to start at 6 a.m., in order to greet Nittany Lions scheduled to arrive at the football building for early-morning workouts.

"What these guys have had to endure and overcome, nobody has ever been faced before in college football," said Sweeney, who like Conlin is also a former Penn State player. "There aren't any better representatives of our university than our football team."

Most downtown businesses are displaying "Proud to Support Penn State Football" signs on windows. Some stores have started selling shirts with the slogan "Billeave," playing off of the first name of O'Brien, the former New England Patriots offensive coordinator.

Penn State fans and students have also started a Twitter campaign to sway Redd with the hashtag "StaySilas."

"With Silas Redd, or without Silas Redd, I would not discount Coach O'Brien's ability to make an offense and put points on the board," said Sweeney, who also heads the Penn State football Lettermen's Club, a group of former players.

Members of the football alumni group also plan to speak with players at a team meeting later Tuesday. Sweeney said he hopes hundreds of lettermen attend the meeting that O'Brien asked they attend.

"They're going to be overwhelmed when they see how many guys are there. These are their Penn State brothers," Sweeney said. "I'm sure the messages that will be delivered will be strong and impactful."

Penn State spokesman Jeff Nelson said any plans by players to transfer would come from the players themselves or his new school, not Penn State.

Nelson did confirm that former starting quarterback Rob Bolden has been allowed by O'Brien to speak with other schools. Permission was given before the NCAA had announced its sanctions on July 23, Nelson said.

Bolden began the season as starter the previous two seasons before losing the job at the end of the year to Matt McGloin. Bolden had also pondered transferring last offseason.

This spring, O'Brien tabbed McGloin the outright starter and demoted Bolden to the third team. Bolden was with the team as late a player charity event on July 13, the day after the Freeh report was released.

He was no longer on the team's online roster as of Monday.

Mendenhall provides little clarity on QB race

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USA TODAY Sports

Mendenhall provides little clarity on QB race

If you were hoping for some clarity from Bronco Mendenhall at the ACC Kickoff on Virginia's quarterback race, he provided none.

Matt Johns returns for his senior season, but he is competing with transfers Connor Brewer and Kurt Benkert to remain atop the depth chart in 2016. Mendenhall is certainly in no hurry to name a starter.

"We currently have three quarterbacks in contention that we will carry through fall camp before we make a decision," Mendenhall said.

Despite starting for the past two seasons, Johns did not do enough to entrench himself as the starter. Johns threw for 2,810 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015, but he also threw 17 interceptions. Mendenhall praised his poise and experience, but his play has left an opening for Brewer and Benkert.

Brewer served as Johns' backup last season after transferring from Arizona. He appeared in only two games for the Cavaliers, completing 4-of-8 passes for 34 yards and an interception. His progress in the offseason, however, has pleased the coaches and has thrust him into the midst of the quarterback competition.

"Connor Brewer had a very good spring, much more efficient and effective than any of us expected," Mendenhall said. "He was just grateful for a chance. But he made the most of it."

The newest quarterback of the three to Charlottesville, Benkert may also be the most intriguing. He transferred to Virginia from East Carolina in the spring after missing the entire 2015 season with a knee injury. ECU head coach Ruffin McNeil, now the defensive line coach at UVa, named Benkert the starter before he suffered the injury.

Unlike the other two quarterbacks, Benkert also has two years of eligibility remaining which is a very appealing prospect to the head coach.

"We're very intrigued by what we've seen from [Benkert] with the upside that he has two years of eligibility,' Mendenhall said. "There is a nice bridge there that could be formed with the possibility of more experience."

As Mendenhall begins rebuilding the Virginia program, having too many options at the quarterback position is potentially a positive development for the Cavaliers. UVa may need help in a lot of areas, but if they come into the season feeling confident under center it will make the transition to a new coach that much easier.

Because of the importance of the position, however, it's a decision Mendenhall has to get right and he intends to take his time before he makes it.

"I won't know until fall camp is over," Mendenhall said. "We'll have to do a masterful job of orchestrating fall camp to distribute the repetitions enough to be clear enough as to who is the uncontested leader."

RELATED: MENDENHALL NOT INTERESTED IN 'HONEYMOON PERIOD' AT UVA

Fuente ready to take Virginia Tech back to prominence

Fuente ready to take Virginia Tech back to prominence

Taking over for a legend is never easy, but that's the position Justin Fuente now finds himself at Virginia Tech.

Frank Beamer built the football program at Virginia Tech into a national power during his 29 seasons in Blacksburg. Fuente now takes over looking to preserve the Hokies' 23-year bowl streak and return to the team to the heights reached during Beamer's peak.

“I feel pressure to do a good job because Virginia Tech football means a lot to a tremendous amount of people," Beamer said. "It’s important."

RELATED: Hokie kicker nails 70-yard field goal

With that comes a lot of expectations. Fuente wouldn't have it any other way.

"It’s great to coach at a place with expectations," Fuente said at the ACC Football Kickoff. "There is a lot that comes with that and I understand that. That’s just the way it is. But it’s fun to coach at a place that means so much to so many people."

Fuente's task is made more difficult as Virginia Tech finds itself at a crossroad of sorts. After eight straight seasons of 10 or more wins, the Hokies have not won more than eight since 2011. Rather than competing for ACC Championships, Virginia Tech has had to battle just to reach bowl eligibility.

For Fuente, he recognizes that fans do not just expect him to extend the bowl streak. His job is to return the Hokies to national prominence

"We’re taking over a program that is not where we want it to be," Fuente said. "When I say ‘we,’ I mean Hokie Nation. We want it to be back to where it was ... but we will get it there. I know that for a fact.”

MORE VIRGINIA TECH: Hokies driven to 'get the job done' during the offseason

Bronco Mendenhall is not interested in a 'honeymoon period' at UVa

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USA TODAY Sports

Bronco Mendenhall is not interested in a 'honeymoon period' at UVa

Going from BYU to a power conference like the ACC is quite the jump for Bronco Mendenhall, but so far the new Virginia head football coach has seemed right at home.

Mendenhall has been tasked with changing the culture at a Virginia program that has been to a bowl game only once since 2008. The difficulty of that task became apparent to Mendenhall immediately as he met the team.

"The team that was in front of me when I arrived at UVA, their eyes would not make contact," Mendenhall said at the ACC Football Kickoff. "Their heads were down. They looked right on the verge and acted right on the verge of despair. I remember changing what my message was to them, what I had prepared, when I saw that, working to inspire at that point."

RELATED: HOKIE KICKER NAILS 70-YARD FIELD GOAL

To do that, he is emphasizing will and determination rather than just football.  At practice, players do not get numbers because they have not yet earned that right. Mendenhall wants the team to build its confidence through hard work before worrying about X's and O's.

"We are a football program that bases will before skill," Mendenahll said. "We work from the inside out. Eventually we'll play good football. But we work on toughness and effort. We've made significant inroads in that regard. We think the football will catch up and catch up relatively quickly."

After watching their team finish with a losing record in seven of the last eight seasons, you can forgive Virginia fans for wondering just how quickly the football will catch up. Mendenhall's answer: pretty darn quickly.

Despite the talk of building up confidence and having to change the culture at Virginia, Mendenhall's ultimate message was clear. His expectations for the team remain high and the turnaround in Charlottesville will be swift.

"I would say at the University of Virginia, we're ahead of schedule in terms of the culture, with the execution to follow," Mendenhall said. "We'll be working hard this fall camp to make sure, for the players that earn the right to come into fall camp with their conditioning, that they're ready and fit. But we have some football work to do."

MORE COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Hokie QB loses cousin in Louisiana shooting