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Penn State Football: 7 Summertime New Looks and Old Friends

by on July 06, 2012 5:59 AM

Not all the news about Penn State is about courts, emails and former administrators.

Some of it is actually about football.

And much of that continues to focus on the ongoing changes as the O’Brien Era officially hits the half-year mark on Friday. To wit:

1. Lasch Football Building is getting a makeover. Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant has descended upon the building’s second floor, which houses the coaching staff and a few other core employees.

Earlier this week, plastic covered the hallway floors and all the lobby furniture. Coaches’ offices were mostly empty as more than a dozen painters primped and primed all the walls in preparation for a paint job of the entire place.

Tarps, paint fumes and grey primer haven’t deterred head coach Bill O’Brien from coming to work this week. On Tuesday, he was at his desk, breaking down film, long before 8 a.m.

2. Lift For Life is getting a facelift. The Penn State football players’ charity event to fight kidney cancer enters its 10th year on July 13. And the grueling skills competition has a new look.

It begins later in the day, running from 5 to 7 p.m., and will feature an offense vs. defense format. Previously held in Holuba Hall, it will take place on the new outdoor lacrosse field, next to the indoor track and south of the Bryce Jordan Center.

The event, hosted by the Penn State Football Uplifting Athletes chapter and open to the public, was started in 2003 and has raised more than $600,000. As many as 80 football players are expected to compete.

3. Shawn Oakman has a new football team. The massive 6-foot-9, 265-pound former Nittany Lion defensive end was kicked off the team by O’Brien early last spring after Oakman had an altercation at a student convenience store on campus.

On July 2, Oakman resurfaced at Baylor, where he’s signed a letter of intent to play for the Bears. He’s the second wayward Nittany Lion to end up in Baylor after being thrown off the PSU football team in recent years.

In 2008, Joe Paterno axed defensive tackle Phil Taylor. He, too, landed in Waco, Texas. The connection? Former Nittany Lions assistant coach Brian Norwood is Baylor’s associate head coach and former defensive coordinator and a good friend of Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson, Sr., who Oakman says helped facilitate the transfer.

4. Newer versions of Blackledge and Warner were back on a campus recently. (So were the original models.) Thirty years after their dads won the first national championship in football for Penn State, younger versions of Ebony and Ivory landed in University Park.

Curt Warner’s son, Jonathan, is a freshman scholarship player on the football team and one of Todd Blackledge’s four sons came to Penn State for basketball camp.

Blackledge, at quarterback, and Warner, at running back, were Penn State teammates and roommates in 1982, and both were first-round draft picks in 1983. Blackledge lives in North Canton, Ohio, while Warner lives in Camas, Wash.

5. It’s no secret Penn State’s 2012 offense will look vastly different than the one from 2011. And, right now, O’Brien has a good handle on how different. He’s done breaking down film of the first three opponents – Ohio, Virginia and Navy.

That’s not all: The former New England Patriot offensive coordinator has his play sheet ready to go for the Sept. 1 opener against Ohio – 50 days before the opening kickoff.

6. Nothing new with the Penn State student section, though. Despite the events of the past several months, the Penn State student body recently purchased every single one of the 21,000 season ticket packages made available.

Relatively new, though, is that public season tickets are still available just seven weeks before the homer opener. The prices, and the accompanying donation levels required to buy season tickets, are the same as 2011.

7. Finally, a former Penn State football coach and a current player bumped into each other for a quick hello the other day – just not where they used to.

After an early-morning conditioning session this week, senior linebacker Mike Mauti headed to Sheetz for some provisions. And as he walked out of the store to his pickup truck, toting a big green bag, longtime offensive line assistant Bill Kenney – who wasn’t retained by O’Brien in January – popped out of his car to say hello.

It was a touSheetzing moment.

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Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979. He is a senior lecturer in Penn State's College of Communications and teaches a pair of classes in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism: “Sports Writing” and “Introduction to the Sports Industry.” He created and taught for several years the Center’s course on “Joe Paterno, Communications and The Media.” Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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