The Penn State football program got some pretty good news this week as the NCAA decided to lessen the sanctions that they imposed on the Nittany Lions in July of last year.
The 60 million dollar fine, the five-year post season ban, and the vacated wins are all still in place. However, the 65 scholarship limit and the 15 scholarship per season limit has been modified.
For those of you who have been living under a rock the last few days the break down looks like this:
In 2014, Penn State can offer 20 scholarships and they can have a maximum of 75 scholarship players on the team. In 2015, Penn State can offer 25 scholarships with a maximum of 80 scholarship players on the team. Finally, in 2016 the Nittany Lions can offer 25 scholarships with a maximum of 85 scholarship players on the team.
The reason for the modifications to the Penn State's sanctions was "due to Penn State University's continued progress toward ensuring athletics integrity," which is basically the politically correct answer to we realize now that we made a mistake and we have to do something to make up for it.
The NCAA, I think, is now realizing that the sanctions they imposed on Penn State were just a knee jerk reaction to everything that happened with Jerry Sandusky. That argument could honestly go on forever, but the reality of the situation now is that Penn State is definitely back on the right track. With rising star head coach Bill O'Brien at the helm, PSU has been doing a pretty solid job on the recruiting trail.
Now, with Penn State receiving back their scholarships, O'Brien and his staff have even more opportunities to bring high talent to State College. They proved they could do that last year, bringing in five-star quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Hackenberg has started every game this season and has passed for 1,027 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions. O'Brien had this to say about the NCAA modifying the scholarship sanctions.
"Today's announcement by the NCAA is tremendous news. As a staff, we are especially pleased for our players, who have proven themselves to be a resilient group of young men who are able to look ahead, focus and overcome adversity. Penn State has long been known for graduating its student-athletes and providing them with a world class education. The scholarship additions will allow us to provide more student-athletes with a tremendous opportunity to earn that degree and play football for Penn State."
As far as the other sanctions go, it looks like they will all be in place for at least another year. In my personal opinion, I think the post season bowl ban will be lifted in 2015.
As the Nittany Lions enter their bye week they're currently sitting with a record of 3-1 as they're preparing for their BIG 10 opener against the Indiana Hoosiers on Oct. 5.
So far, the Penn State defense has been a little bit of a letdown in 2013. Tackling has been an issue and they definitely showed some of their vulnerabilities against Central Florida in week three as they gave up 501 total yards of offense to the Knights.
They've also had some problems getting to the quarterback, which isn't good when you have a young secondary like PSU. The good news is Penn State has an extra week to get healthy and to get better.
Offensively, the Nittany Lions look like a pretty solid unit.
They've been averaging 461 yards of offense and 33.3 points per game. True freshman Hackenberg is third in the BIG 10 in passing yards, throwing for 256.8 yards per game.
Penn State has been good in the running game as well with Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton, and Akeel Lynch all having over 200 yards rushing on the season.
Last, but not least, wide receiver Allen Robinson has proved he is indeed one of the best receivers in the country. Robinson leads the BIG 10 in receptions per game (6.5) and receiving yards per game (112).
It's evident moving forward that in order for Penn State to be successful the rest of the way their defense has to play better and be more fundamentally sound. The PSU front four needs to make more plays and the secondary also must grow up quick.
For the offense, Hackenberg needs to continue to develop and play as much error free football as possible.
The next two months will certainly be interesting to watch in Happy Valley, which is something that seems to be a recurring theme since Bill O'Brien has taken over.