Sanctions give PSU opponents chance to cherry pick

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If you are a college football coach in need of a player or two, Penn State’s misfortune could turn out to be your team’s lucky strike.

There’s a blue-and-white plate special going on right now in Happy Valley, and coaches from all over the country are looking at the Nittany Lions’ roster like a menu _ even though a hoard of Penn State players have pledged to stick with the school through the tough times.

Illinois coaches were in State College, Pa., to recruit on Wednesday. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez told reporters his staff has talked with a couple of Nittany Lions. Baylor coach Art Briles has said his staff was contacted by at least one Penn State player.

Preseason practice starts at Penn State on Aug. 6. The next two weeks could be the most difficult of Bill O'Brien’s coaching career as he tries to keep his team together.

NCAA sanctions will keep the Nittany Lions out of a bowl game for the rest of these players’ careers, and college sports’ governing body is allowing any of them 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.

Players can transfer and be eligible for next season any time before the start of fall practice in 2013, but O'Brien should know what he has to work with in 2012 on Aug. 6.

And he got some good news on Wednesday.

At least 13 players listed as first-stringers on the preseason depth chart affirmed their commitment to staying in Happy Valley, including senior quarterback Matt McGloin.

“We want to let the nation know that we’re proud of who we are,” senior fullback Michael Zordich said, flanked by his fellow players early Wednesday morning. “We’re the true Penn Staters, and we’re going to stick together through this. We’re going to see this thing through, and we’re going to do everything we can for the university. We know it’s not going to be easy, but we know what we’re made of.”

Neither Zordich nor senior linebacker Michael Mauti _ both sons of former Penn State players _ mentioned former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky by name during the impromptu news conference, where they didn’t take any questions after reading a statement.

“We take this as an opportunity to create our own legacy,” Mauti said. “This program was not built by one man and it’s sure as hell not going to get torn down by one man. This program was built on every alumni, every single player that came before us, built on their backs.”

The Nittany Lions can’t play in a bowl game until the 2016 season after an unprecedented child sex abuse scandal that shattered the program’s image as a place where “success with honor” was the rule. The scholarship reductions they’ll receive could make it difficult for O'Brien to field a competitive squad during the next few seasons.

On Twitter, McGloin called the NCAA penalties “extremely harsh.”

“I am a Nittany Lion and will remain one,” he tweeted. “I believe in the core values I have learned in this program. It is not Nittany Lion Football. It is Nittany Lion family.”

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