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Dooley: Vols Have ‘Had Some Communication’ With Penn State Players

Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley said Tuesday that Tennessee has been in contact with members of the Penn State football team.

“We’ve analyzed (Penn State’s) roster,” Dooley said, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. “We’ve had some communication with some of the players.”

Dooley, who was speaking at a Rotary Club in Knoxvile, declined to give details on the players from Penn State. The entire Nittany Lions roster is eligible to transfer without penalty following the NCAA’s sanctions delivered to Penn State on Monday.

This process isn’t new to Tennessee as the Vols benefited from Southern California’s NCAA penalties in 2010. That’s when defensive lineman Malik Jackson decided to transfer from USC to Tennessee, where he played the last two seasons. Jackson was an All-SEC performer before he was selected by the Denver Broncos in April’s NFL Draft.

Dooley believes the Penn State situation is different from the one faced by USC, however.

“We were way ahead of every school (in the recruitment of Jackson),” Dooley said. “We don’t have the luxury of being out in fornt because of the enormity (of the Penn State situation).”

Tennessee also isn’t as desperate for immediate help as it was two years ago, Dooley’s first season in Knoxville. The Vols have an improved roster with more depth and experience. Dooley knows that, too, saying Tennessee can go “toe to toe with everybody on the schedule” this fall.

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Can We Stop Saying The NCAA Isn’t Penalizing Penn State’s Players?

In the car Monday and listening to more talk radio than any man should, I heard one point made again and again and again following the announcement of the NCAA’s penalties against Penn State.  In the view of many, the NCAA is not penalizing the current Nittany Lion players in the least.

“They can transfer and go anywhere they want!” the argument goes.

Well, judging from those players’ current locale, it would seem that they wanted to go to Penn State.

But now those student-athletes — who the NCAA always wants to focus on first, mind you — have a choice to make: Make a rushed decision and leave PSU for another program or stay put at the school they chose to sign with and miss out on all postseason games for four years.  To this writer, that indeed is the NCAA penalizing the current Penn State players.

Whether you like the NCAA’s ruling or not — and most fans do — this particular myth needs to be put down before it spreads further.  The NCAA is penalizing the Nittany Lions’ players for actions they had no control over.

Sure, that happens quite a bit when NCAA sanctions are handed down.  But rarely do so many people go out of their way to try and suggest that what’s easily observable to all isn’t actually happening.

Why so many people want to throw up a smokescreen around Monday’s ruling and its impact on this particular group of players is beyond me.

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Quarterback Hackenberg Chooses Penn State

Quarterback Christian Hackenberg from Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy committed to Penn State on Wednesday.

Hackenberg chose the Nittany Lions over offers from Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and others.

Hackenberg, who is Penn State’s first commitment for the class of 2013, is originally from Pennsylvania and still has ties to the area and Penn State football.

“He grew up around it,” Eric Hackenberg, Christian’s father, told

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Report: Mullen Close To Signing Deal With Penn State; MSU Coach Denies It

According to Jackson television station WAPT, “sources close to Mississippi State University’s program have said that football coach Dan Mullen is close to signing a deal to replace Joe Paterno at Penn State.”

Asked about the report, Mullen said Tuesday night, “it’s the most irresponsible reporting that I’ve ever heard of.”  According to The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Mullen said he has not been contacted by Penn State “or any other school.”

Mullen claimed the report was started by “rival institutions trying to ruin our recruiting which we have dominated in this state over the past three years.”

MSU AD Scott Stricklin added: “They quoted a source close to the school.  I can’t imagine who that could be, because I haven’t been contacted by Penn State and Dan hasn’t been contacted by Penn State.  It’s not a story, period.”

Later in the evening a spokesperson for MSU tweeted that the reporter for WAPT-TV had “come to the (Mississippi) Hall of Fame (gala) to apologize for station’s erroneous report.”

All this after the Mullen rumor filtered out of Pennsylvania late Monday and was followed by an ESPN report Tuesday afternoon stating that Mullen was Penn State’s top candidate.

The coach laughed off the reports at the time by saying tongue-in-cheek that his name comes up every time there’s an open coaching job.  If WAPT’s report does eventually turn out to be correct, MSU fans likely won’t be laughing along with Mullen.

Mullen hails from Pennsylvania and his father is a Penn State grad, which partly explains why a coach with a 6-6 record this past season is so high on the Nittany Lions’ wish list.

In the end, State’s coach said he believes the rumors about him are actually a positive.  “… There are two rumors about you: either rumors you’re going somewhere or rumors you’re getting fired.  So, I’ll take the going-somewhere rumor better than the getting-fired rumor.”

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Mullen Won’t Talk Penn State

So how did Dan Mullen wind up as supposedly Penn State’s top choice to replace Joe Paterno when he’s got a 6-6 record this year and he’s never beaten an SEC West school that doesn’t have the world “Ole” in its name?

His father is a Penn State alum.  Actually, PSU officials probably like the Urban Meyer/SEC pedigree as well as the excitement he’s created in Starkville.  (The part about his father can’t hurt, though.)

Asked about numerous reports linking him to the Nittany Lions’ job, Mullen talked up Mississippi State, downplayed the job, and made the following tongue-in-cheek comment:

“Great.  I’m sure I’m on everybody’s (list).  Am I right?  Every time a job comes open, doesn’t my name come up?  So, you know our policy.  We talk Mississippi State football.  That’s all we ever talk about.”

The coach also said that he is happy in Starkville.  Asked what he will tell his players about the rumors, Mullen said:

“I tell them the same thing.  I’m happy here.  Let’s worry about being here.”

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Let The Meyer-To-Penn State Rumors Begin

Under normal circumstances, it’s not wise to try and follow a legend.  But replacing Joe Paterno might not be as tough now as it always appeared that it would be.  And whoever steps in at State College will inherit a team that’s currently got just one loss on its record (to Alabama).  In other words, the cupboard won’t be bare and there are no NCAA vultures circling overhead (as would be the case at Ohio State).

So guess whose now being mentioned as Paterno’s successor by anyone and everyone today?  Yep, former Florida coach Urban Meyer.

The Philadelphia Inquirer:  Who will take the reins of Penn State’s football program?

“Former Florida coach Urban Meyer appears to be the overwhelming favorite to become the new head coach.”

The Gainesville Sun:  Could Meyer go to Penn State?

“I do miss (coaching).  I miss a lot of things about it, but I also am really enjoying another part, that’s I get to watch my kids play sports.”

The Orlando Sentinel:  Could former Florida coach Urban Meyer replace Joe Paterno at Penn State?

“Surely, Meyer will be high on Penn State’s list.  But with a scandal unlike any seen before in college sports, will replacing Paterno be something that Meyer wants?”

That is a key point.

Students rioted last night over the news that Paterno had been fired (and they should have been tear-gassed and billy-sticked as a result of flipping a news van over and endangering lives over a football issue).  But students would forget JoePa in heartbeat and profess their undying loyalty to Meyer if he signed on with the Nittany Lions.  Such is youth.

The big issue for Meyer might be the administration.  Who will be the new athletic director?  Who will be the new president?  When will those jobs be filled permanently and what will Meyer know of the men hired as his superiors.

From purely a football standpoint, Penn State appears to be in better shape than Ohio State.  But in terms of who Meyer would be working for… well, that’s a bit more murky.

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