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Monday Notebook: Hackenberg's Road to the Passing Record

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg etched his place in Penn State lore on Saturday afternoon by becoming the program's all-time leader in passing yardage.

The Virginia native passed Zack Mills (7,212; 2001-04) on the all-time list with 7,453 yards. Hackenberg also became the school's all-time leader in completions with 608.

Additionally, Hackenberg is now second in touchdown passes (43) and tied for the program lead in 200-yard games (18).

The race into the Penn State record book has been a rapid one for Hackenberg. He reached 7,453 yards in just 33 career games. Hackenberg has averaged 225.8 yards per game during his entire career.

The standout signal-caller was superb in Penn State's thrilling 31-30 win over Maryland on Saturday, tossing three touchdowns and nine passing plays of more than 20 yards in a 315-yard effort.

"I couldn't see myself playing with a different bunch of guys in the country," said Hackenberg. "I'm super appreciative of all the support they have for me and the support we have for each other. It's unbelievable."

A selfless player since the day he committed to be a Nittany Lion in 2013, Hackenberg's statistical records place him in elite company of the Penn State greats, but only one stat matters to him - wins.

Penn State returns home on Saturday to face Illinois at 12 p.m. in Beaver Stadium.

History of Halloween Games
Saturday's game is sure to feature its fair share of costumes in the student section with Penn State and Illinois slated to meet on Halloween, marking the Lions' 20th game held on Oct. 31. The Nittany Lions have a long history of games on Halloween, with the first coming on 1888. Penn State is 10-8-1 in games on Oct. 31, which includes a 5-2-1 record at home. Saturday will mark Penn State's first game on Halloween since 1998 (W, 27-0 vs. Illinois) and only the program's second since joining the Big Ten.

Red-Hot Red Zone Offense
The Nittany Lions have been virtually automatic inside the Red Zone during the past five weeks. Penn State has converted 16 of its last 17 trips inside the 20 into points. For the season, the Lions are 24-for-27 at a better than 88 percent conversion rate. The Nittany Lions are ranked fourth in the Big Ten in red zone offense through eight games this season.

Nassib Extends Sack Streak
Thanks to another two-sack effort, Carl Nassib extended his streak of games with at least one sack to eight straight games on Saturday. Nassib tallied 2.0 sacks for a loss of seven yards in Penn State's win at M&T Bank Stadium.

Through eight games, he is leading the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss. Nassib is No. 1 in sacks with 1.7 per game, No. 1 in tackles for loss with 2.2 per game. He is also No. 2 in fumbles forced with 0.6 per game. As a collective unit, the Nittany Lions are No. 1 in the nation with 4.0 sacks per game and No. 5 nationally in tackles for loss with 9.3 per game.

With 13.5 sacks this season, Nassib is now just 1.5 sacks from the Penn State season sack record set by Michael Haynes (2002) and Larry Kubin (1979).

Early Look at Illinois
Led by interim head coach Bill Cubit, Illinois (2-4, 0-2 Big Ten) travels to Penn State following a 24-13 setback at Wisconsin. The Fighting Illini opened the season 4-1, but have lost two-straight before entering the weekend. Illinois opened Big Ten play with a 14-13 victory over Nebraska before a 29-20 loss at Iowa and last week's game in Madison. Additionally, Illini went 3-1 in non-conference games with victories over Kent State (52-3), Western Illinois (44-0) and Middle Tennessee (27-25). The Illini dropped a 48-14 road decision at North Carolina.

Quarterback Wes Lunt is among the Big Ten's top passers. The Illini junior is fourth in the conference in passing, averaging 243.1 yards per game. Lunt has thrown nine touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 57.2 percent of his passes this season. Wide receiver Geronimo Allison is the Big Ten's leader in receptions with 48 catches for 700 yards and three touchdowns during the first seven games. Allison is No. 16 nationally in receptions. Defensively, safety Clayton Fejedelem is ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten with 74 tackles this season.

Penn State and Illinois will meet for the 23rd time on Saturday. The Nittany Lions are 17-5 all-time against the Illini and 8-1 in games played in Beaver Stadium.

Maryland Extended Game Highlight
Watch highlights from Saturday's 31-30 victory over Maryland.

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Big Plays Propel Nittany Lions Past Maryland

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11431358.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Win your one-on-one battles.

Those have been the words uttered by everyone in Penn State's offensive team meeting room for the past few weeks.

When Maryland's defense lined up in man-to-man coverage on snap after snap on Saturday afternoon, the Nittany Lion receivers knew it was time to make the most of the opportunities to make plays.

The receiver unit, along with quarterback Christian Hackenberg, answered the bell in a big way during a thrilling 31-30 victory over Maryland inside M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday.

"They basically said that we are going to go high-risk, high-reward," said head coach James Franklin. "They basically said they were going to force you to beat you with the vertical passing game. Basically they said your receivers won't beat us (consistently)...But we made big plays tonight and a number of guys made big plays."

The Terps loaded the box from the opening Penn State possession forward, limiting the running game's opportunities to find holes. The Nittany Lions countered with a day filled with vertical passing.

Penn State finished with nine passing plays of 20 or more yards out of Hackenberg's 13 completions. That list included five plays of more than 30 yards. Four Nittany Lion receivers had at least one catch of 27 or more yards. And Penn State's all-time leader in passing yardage and completions finished the day with an average of 24.2 yards per completion.

"They challenged us with a lot of looks we hadn't seen before, and we went out there and made plays. It was a lot of fun to be in a game like that," Hackenberg said.

It's one thing to take shots down the field, and it's another thing to complete them on a consistent basis. Give Hackenberg a tremendous amount of credit for putting balls in positions for the receivers to make plays, but the entire corps of receivers played their best game to date by making contested catch after contested catch.

"I think they came out and challenged us early on, and it was up to us to respond to the challenge of man-to-man coverage to go up and make plays," said Chris Godwin. "It's definitely awesome because you realize you have to go out and make some plays that you're capable of doing and we were able to do that today."

Godwin led the way with four catches for 135 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown catch on a great mid-air adjustment late in the second quarter. The sophomore tallied three catches of 30-plus yards, giving him 10 receptions of 20 or more yards on the season.

"These are things that we work on every day and every week in practice," said Godwin. "Building our chemistry each and every day so we can come out and put on performances like this. We know the talent that we have. We know the ability we have. We just have to go out and turn that into production out there, and that's what we work on each and every week."

Redshirt sophomore DaeSean Hamilton notched two receptions of 20 yards or more, including a pivotal 20-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter.

The biggest play of the day came from Geno Lewis, who is no stranger to making difficult catches look easy on a big stage. Lewis snagged a 27-yard touchdown above the outstretched arms of a Maryland defender in the corner of the end zone to give the Nittany Lions the eventual game-winning score in the fourth quarter.

"I was big time proud of all of them," said Franklin. "They are doing a good job, with the opportunities that they get, taking advantage of them. Geno Lewis hasn't had a lot of opportunities lately but he went up and snagged the ball. I am really proud of him and how he handled that."

Lewis now has touchdowns in the Blue and White in MetLife Stadium, Yankee Stadium and M&T Bank Stadium. Sophomore Saeed Blacknall also notched a 38-yard completion in Penn State's fifth victory in the last six games.

When Penn State's receivers make plays like they did on Saturday, the sky is the limit for the Nittany Lion offense.


"They practice extremely hard and that always translates to success on Saturdays," said Hackenberg. "And they've done a fantastic job each week of just getting better and better and really taking practice and using that as a tool for Saturdays. And for us, that's just breeding confidence in that room."

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VIDEO: James Franklin Postgame Press Conference - at Maryland

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BALTIMORE - Head coach James Franklin talks with the media following Penn State's thrilling 31-30 victory over Maryland on Saturday in Baltimore.

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VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews - Maryland

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BALTIMORE - Head into the media room to hear from several Nittany Lions, including Christian Hackenberg, Chris Godwin, DaeSean Hamilton, Angelo Mangiro, Garrett Sickels, Trevor Williams and Anthony Zettel following the thrilling 31-30 victory over Maryland inside M&T Bank Stadium.

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2015 Gameday Live - Penn State at Maryland

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BALTIMORE - Welcome to live, interactive coverage of the 2015 Penn State football season. The Nittany Lions will meet Maryland inside M&T Bank Stadium. Follow along for live updates from gameday.

Live Blog 2015 Gameday Live - Penn State at Maryland

2015 Photo Blog - Penn State at Maryland

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BALTIMORE - Welcome to live coverage of the 2015 Penn State football season. The Nittany Lions will meet Maryland inside M&T Bank Stadium. Follow along for photos from gameday.


2015 Gameday - Nittany Lions Set to Meet Maryland in Baltimore

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Gameday Central | Game Notes | Game Blog | Press Conference Roundup

Coach Franklin Wednesday | Coach Gattis Q&A | Monday Notebook | Lions in NFL

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State heads on the road for the second straight week with a trip to Baltimore for a matchup against Maryland on Saturday afternoon.

11422547.jpegThe Nittany Lions (5-2, 2-1) will meet the Terrapins (2-4, 0-2) at 3:30 p.m. (ESPN) inside M&T Bank Stadium, marking Penn State's second game this season in an NFL venue and the program's first contest against the Terps in Maryland since 1993.

Obviously, playing University of Maryland is going to be exciting (for us)," head coach James Franklin said. "We have so many fans and alumni in that region. Playing at the Ravens' stadium should be a great venue."

True freshman running back Saquon Barkley highlighted Penn State's trip to No. 1 Ohio State last week. Barkley rushed for 194 yards in his return to the lineup, marking his third career 100-yard performance in just five games this season. Barkley's efforts included a season-long 56-yard rush in the third quarter.

Junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg enters the Maryland game just 74 yards shy of becoming Penn State's career passing leader. Hackenberg has thrown for 7,138 yards and 40 touchdowns during his decorated career in the Blue and White.

Defensively, Carly Nassib reached seven straight games with at least one sack during Penn State's trip to Columbus. The standout senior is now the nation's leader in sacks (11.5), tackles for loss (15.5) and forced fumbles (5). Through seven games, linebacker Jason Cabinda is leading the team in tackling with 51 stops.

Led by interim head coach Mike Locksley, Maryland returns to action following a bye week. The Terps opened the season 2-1, but lost three-straight before the bye. Maryland opened Big Ten play with losses to Michigan (28-0) and at Ohio State (49-28). Additionally, the Terps went 2-2 in non-conference games with victories over Richmond (50-21) and USF (35-17) and setbacks to Bowling Green (48-27) and at West Virginia (45-6).

In a series that dates back to 1917, Penn State and Maryland will meet for the 39th time in Baltimore on Saturday. The Nittany Lions own a 35-2-1 mark in the all-time series. That includes a 2-0-1 record in games played in Baltimore. The two teams met annually from 1960-'75 and then again from 1984-'93. The series resumed last season in Beaver Stadium when the two regional foes were aligned in the Big Ten East Division.

After playing in back-to-back road games for the first time since 2012, Penn State returns home next week for a matchup against Illinois at noon on Halloween. The Lions will then head back on the road for a contest against Northwestern on Nov. 7 before the bye week.

Welcome to the gameday preview for week eight - Penn State at Maryland.

Pregame Reading:
What to Watch For - Penn State
11422536.jpeg1. Freshman running back Saquon Barkley dazzled in his return to the field against Ohio State. Barkley is now averaging 194.5 rushing yards in the two Big Ten games he has appeared in. The Coplay, Pa., native's athletic ability speaks for itself, but Barkley's uncanny ability to tally yards after contact has separated him from other backs around the conference. Barkley has 567 yards in approximately three and a half games of playing time.

2. Sophomore wide receiver Chris Godwin is a guy who a lot of people talked about during the offseason as a player the coaching staff expected to take a step forward this season. Godwin and fellow sophomore DaeSean Hamilton have headlined the passing game for the Nittany Lions. The duo has combined for 49 of Penn State's 96 completions in the first seven games. In addition to being consistent, Godwin has been the focal point of Penn State's downfield game. He has accounted for seven of Penn State's 14 passing plays of 30 or more yards, including a season-long 56-yard connection with Christian Hackenberg against Ohio State.

3. The Nittany Lion defense has limited its opponents to 325 total yards or less in 13 of the last 15 games. A big piece to that has been Penn State's consistent ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. Carl Nassib's stellar season has been well documented, but the collective front seven has been strong since 2015 began. The Lions are No. 2 in the nation in sacks (3.86 per game) and No. 6 nationally in tackles for loss (9.0 per game). Penn State has tallied at least 5.0 tackles for loss in 14 consecutive games.

What to Watch For - Maryland
1. One week after facing a talented array of quarterbacks in Columbus, the Nittany Lion defense will meet another athletic signal caller in Maryland's Perry Hills. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound junior set a Maryland quarterback record with 170 rushing yards at Ohio State. Hills, who started the Ohio State game after missing the previous three, has rushed for 289 yards in three games. He has thrown for 439 yards (37-78) with five touchdowns and four interceptions.

2. Defensive back William Likely is one of the most dynamic players in the Big Ten. The nation's leader in punt returns for touchdowns this season (2), Likely is averaging 22.6 yards per touch when returning punts. He is also averaging 20.8 yards per return on kickoffs. Maryland is ranked No. 2 in the nation in punt returns, thanks to Likely's game-changing abilities with the ball in his hands. Likely is also fifth in the Big Ten with eight pass break-ups in six games.

3. The Maryland defense is among the nation's leaders in sacks. The Terps (No. 9 nationally and No. 5 in the Big Ten) have tallied 20 sacks this season. Junior defensive end Yannick Ngakoue is ranked sixth nationally with 1.2 sacks per game in 2015. Ngakoue finished with 3.0 sacks against Bowling Green earlier this season. Defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson has 4.5 sacks this season, in addition to 5.5 tackles for loss, one interception, one forced fumble and a blocked kick.

The Final Word:
The Nittany Lions and Terrapins will be battling for the fourth time in Baltimore, but first inside M&T Bank Stadium. Penn State and Maryland met in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium in 1987, '89 and '91. Saturday's game will mark the Lions' first game in Baltimore since 1991. The greater Baltimore area is home to approximately 10,500 Penn State alums.

In all, there are nine Nittany Lions on the roster from Maryland, including six that were part of the last two recruiting classes. The Maryland players on the roster include: Marcus Allen (Upper Marlboro), Mark Allen (Hyattsville), Kam Carter (Silver Spring), Brian Gaia (Pasadena), Jonathan Holland (Brandywine), Josh McPhearson (Columbia), Ayron Monroe (Largo), Brent Wilkerson (Clinton) and Trevor Williams (Baltimore). ESPN's live coverage of the Maryland game begins at 3:30 p.m. with kickoff slated for 3:35 p.m. David LaMont (Play-by-Play), Ray Bentley (Analyst) and Dawn Davenport (Sideline) will call the game.

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Maryland Week Q&A - Josh Gattis

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11422514.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions head to Baltimore on Saturday for a matchup against Maryland inside M&T Bank Stadium.

Leading up to the clash against the Terps, offensive recruiting coordinator, assistant special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach Josh Gattis talked with the media on Thursday to preview the game. Take a look at a Q&A with Coach Gattis.

Q: Where do you see the wide receiver unit from summer camp until now? Has the group improved in the areas you thought they would?
Gattis: "I've been very pleased. I think we have done a very good job in the role they've been asked to play. They've been unselfish. They have been active in the run game. They have really taken strides there, really taking on their assignments, which has led to some explosive runs down the field. They have made some plays. They have made some contested catches. They have made big plays for us. We've had 18 explosive passes. I've been very pleased with them up to this point."

Q: How would you say the receivers, as a group, have made progress in route running this year?

Gattis: "They have made tremendous progress. I don't think it has been area lacking. They are continuing to grow each and every week. They are continuing to make progress. They have very few mental assignments that are being blown this year, which is a huge stride in terms of learning the offense and understanding things. I'm very pleased where we are. Like I said, they are a very unselfish group. A lot of guys' numbers are down, but the ultimate goal is winning the game. And the guys have accepted their role and been very active in the run game, and I'm really pleased with how far they have come."

Q: You have a number of different personalities in your room. How do you keep everyone motivated?

Gattis: "I have a great group. I think they kind of balance themselves out personality wise. It's a very interesting meeting room. You have all those different personalities. They laugh. They joke. They are really a tightknit group. They are close among each other. They push each other. They expect each other to show up and out-perform one another. I'm really pleased with how unselfish they have been. They've all had different roles. Each guy has brought something to the table. And no one is jealous of another guy. They just continue to push each other. I really like the camaraderie and the bond we have in that room. It only makes each and every guy better."

Q: What are one or two areas that Chris Godwin is better than he was last year?

Gattis: "That's very hard because last year, he was a very, very good football player. As I told people last year, he graded out as our best receiver. But a lot of people don't look at the overall picture of football. They are only looking at your production numbers. So obviously, he didn't have some of the touches and some of the catches that he has this year, but he graded out extremely high. He's a mature kid. He does everything you want and the way you want it done. I'm really happy for him. I think all of his work is paying off. And I think people are starting to see the type of player he is and the type of playmaker he is. He still has so much room to grow in a lot of areas. And you're starting to see him come into his own as a receiver. And I think what you are noticing is the trust that the quarterbacks have in him. He's an elite player in this league at his position."

Q: What does DaeSean's personality do for the group? He seems to have good balance in the group with how he works and has fun.

Gattis: "DaeSean is the jokester in the room. He really brings out the personality of all the other guys. The guys love him. He works hard and at a very, very high level. So, they all respect him for how hard he practices and prepares. He's the guy who lights up the room and makes those guys laugh and joke around. And then he practices at a high level. I've been very pleased with how he's handled everything this year. He goes from being the leading catcher in the Big Ten, and then maybe not having some of the same opportunities. But he's been very successful in the opportunities that he has had. I think right now his completion percentage (on his targets) is somewhere in the 80s. He's just got to continue to stay patient, continue to work on his craft, continue to run his routes and get open and the ball will find him...He's working extremely hard. He's just got to continue to be patient, and the plays will come just like they have during the past two weeks."

Q: We've seen a lot of Brandon Polk this season. How are the other two freshman receivers - Juwan Johnson and Irvin Charles - coming along?

Gattis: "They are coming along really, really, good. Those two guys are exciting. Could those guys be out there playing for us right now? Yes. Is it in the best interest of the team? We have a lot of different options. I just think our room is talented. You always want to make sure you put your freshmen in the best positions to succeed. We are playing six wide receivers right now. I think those guys are going to have a very bright future here. I know they are. They are very talented. If you ask anyone in our program, the sky is the limit for those guys. They have huge upside. I've been really happy with the steps they've taken forward. They are going to have big-time futures and careers here at Penn State."

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VIDEO: James Franklin Practice Update - Maryland Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin addressed the media following Wednesday's practice session at the Lasch Football Complex.

The Nittany Lions travel to Baltimore on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. kick against Maryland. Take a look at the practice update from Maryland week.

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2015 Tuesday Press Conference Roundup - Maryland Week

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11419052.jpegVIDEO: Maryland Week Player Q&A | Transcripts - James Franklin | Players

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin addressed the media on Tuesday afternoon to preview Penn State's trip to Baltimore for a matchup against Maryland.

The Nittany Lions (5-2, 2-1) will meet the Terrapins (2-4, 0-2) inside M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (ESPN). Franklin reviewed Penn State's contest against Ohio State and looked ahead to the second consecutive road game.

Franklin kicked off his opening remarks on Tuesday talking about the way that the Nittany Lions started the game in Columbus. Penn State took a 3-0 lead into the second quarter and had chances to make it a 10-point edge. Granted, Franklin is seeking 60 minutes of consistent football from the Lions, but the way Penn State started the game on the road against the No. 1 team in the nation injected some confidence into the group.

"We had opportunities in that game to be up at least 10-0 on the road, and we just didn't take advantage of the opportunities that we had, and when you do that against a real talented team on the road, you're going to have a hard time," said Franklin.

That being said, Coach Franklin is looking for the Lions to play aggressive from the moment they step on the field at Maryland. Playing aggressive means that a team is playing fast and performing with confidence, all things Coach Franklin expects out of the team every single day of the week.

"I thought it was a point there in the game where they made some plays and we got tentative, which is not who we've been," said Franklin. "We've been an aggressive team. So we need to be aggressive. We need to be aggressive in the way we play. We need to be aggressive in the way we coach and call the game. We need to be aggressive."

Penn State's running game continues to take steps forward following a 200-yard effort in Columbus. Freshman Saquon Barkley carried the ball with a purpose against the top-ranked Buckeyes and is now second in the nation in rushing yardage by a freshman with 567. Barkley's success goes hand in hand with growth up front.


"I think it's a combination of both. I think our offensive line is improving, I do. I think they're improving," said Franklin. "I do think that Saquon Barkley has some special qualities, and I think that his ability to make guys miss and break tackles - I've said that to you guys before about that's how you evaluate a running back is by making people miss and breaking tackles, and he has the ability to do that."

On the defensive side of the ball, no individual has been more productive during the first seven weeks of the season than Carl Nassib. While Franklin spends a great deal of time talking about the senior defensive end, who was named a mid-season All-American by ESPN.com and CBSSports.com, it's with good reason. Nassib is a benchmark for work ethic, and his approach to being the best is infectious.

"I just think it's a great example with the right work ethic and the right attitude and then some God given ability and you keep working through that, good things happen," said Franklin. "...I think it's a guy that's kind of stuck with it and persevered. Probably a great example of Penn State. If we keep working and keep a positive attitude and persevere, good things are going to happen for us as a whole as well."

The Nittany Lions will practice in pads on Tuesday and Wednesday before the final game week session on Thursday. Penn State will travel to Baltimore on Friday. Saturday's game will kick at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Press Conference Notes:
- Coach Franklin spent some time discussing some of the things that make Chris Godwin an effective player at the wide receiver position.

"He's a big, strong guy. He's athletic. I think he ran one of our fastest 40s at the wide receiver position. But I think the thing that's really stood out about him is his maturity -- his maturity, his intelligence, his football IQ. He picked up the playbook very quick, makes very few mistakes in games or in practice. He's a guy that you can depend on. He's a guy that you can depend on as coaches. He's a guy that you can depend on as the quarterback. So he's got a bunch of traits that are desirable traits."

- Coach Franklin on the collective growth of the tight end unit:

"I think we're making strides as being more complete tight ends than we were last year. We have missed some real opportunities either with missed throws or either with dropped balls, things that I think we can do better. Those guys have the ability to do it. So, yeah, I think they have improved since last year. They're more willing and able blockers, and I think with that, we've seen some opportunities for them, but we've got to consistently take advantage of those opportunities."

- Defensive end Carl Nassib was a unanimous choice as a CBSSports.com All-American on Tuesday. When asked at the press conference which member of the Nassib family was the most talented football player, everyone in the media room anticipated Nassib selecting either himself or his brother Ryan, who is a quarterback for the New York Giants. But Nassib did not hesitate in answering.

He said it is without question his 7-year-old nephew, Jackson.

"He's a stud."


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