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Nittany Lions Up and Running During Offseason

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lasch Football Building has been a hub of activity since the 31-24 victory at Wisconsin on Nov. 30 to close out the regular season.

9557957.jpegIn the weeks since the triumph in Camp Randall Stadium, head coach Bill O'Brien and the coaching staff hit the recruiting trail, the returning Nittany Lion players ramped up offseason conditioning, O'Brien held extensive coaching staff meetings to iron out personnel plans and spring practice and paid a visit to the ESPNU headquarters for a film breakdown on the BCS National Championship.

The month of December has been filled with postseason accolades.  Three Nittany Lions earned first-team All-Big Ten honors - Allen Robinson, John Urschel and DaQuan Jones - on the first day of the month.  Robinson was named Big Ten Receiver of the Year and Christian Hackenberg earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.

Robinson was tabbed a first-team All-American and has claimed six All-America accolades.  Urschel was presented the prestigious Campbell Trophy in New York after being named the top scholar-athlete of 2013.  Hackenberg and tight end Adam Breneman earned Freshman All-America recognition.  Jones was named MVP at the team's senior banquet.

The 2013 season ended in thrilling fashion with the team's most complete performance of the year coming on the final Saturday in November.

No one gave the Nittany Lions a chance heading into finale at heavily favored and 15th-ranked Wisconsin.  The team took it personally.

For two years, the story has been the same.  The resilient fiber engrained in this group of Nittany Lions is unique.  No matter how big the obstacle, the team is never fazed.

With the deck stacked against them, the Nittany Lions capped 2013 with a trademark victory.  The 17 members of the senior class who chose to stick with Penn State through great adversity earned the sendoff they deserved, and the young talent on the roster will use it as a springboard into 2014.

The Nittany Lions return a corps of talented athletes on both sides of the ball, headlined by two-time Big Ten Receiver of the Year and All-American Allen Robinson, Big Ten Freshman of the Year Christian Hackenberg, the running back trio of Bill Belton, Zach Zwinak and Akeel Lynch, wide receivers Eugene Lewis and Richy Anderson, tight ends Kyle Carter, Jesse James and Adam Breneman and two starters on the offensive line in Miles Dieffenbach and Donovan Smith, along with key contributor Angelo Mangiro.

Defensively, the Lions return Deion Barnes, C.J. Olaniyan, Austin Johnson, Anthony Zettel from the defensive line rotation, linebackers Mike Hull, Ben Kline, Nyeem Wartman and Brandon Bell and defensive backs Jordan Lucas, Adrian Amos, Trevor Williams, Ryan Keiser, Da'Quan Davis, Jesse Della Valle and Malik Golden, all of which played a significant impact on the 2013 defense.

Additionally, defensive end Brad Bars, tight end Brent Wilkerson and wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton should be available in 2014 after injuries last season.

The Nittany Lions again laid the groundwork for the future of Penn State Football with a hard-working, gritty style during the 2013 season.  Now, it is up to the 2014 squad to establish its identity during offseason workouts.

Penn State wrapped up final exams this week before heading home for the holiday break.    Offseason conditioning and recruiting will pick back up in January.  The spring semester begins on Jan. 13.

The 2014 season begins in 253 days when the Lions take on UCF in Dublin, Ireland, at the Croke Park Classic on Aug. 30.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: John Urschel Wins 2013 Campbell Trophy

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NEW YORK - John Urschel earned the top academic and athletic honor in college football on Tuesday night at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York when he was named the recipient of the 2013 Campbell Trophy at the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame's annual celebration of college football.

The two-time first-team All-Big Ten guard and two-time Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-American received a standing ovation in the Grand Ballroom inside the Waldorf-Astoria when it was revealed that he had earned the prestigious award.

The epitome of a scholar-athlete, Urschel has been a model for success on the field and in the classroom since he set foot on the Penn State campus in 2009.  The Williamsville, N.Y., native proudly accepted the award and addressed the crowd for more than four minutes on Tuesday.  Take a look.

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VIDEO: John Urschel at the NFF Scholar-Athlete Press Conference

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NEW YORK - Nittany Lion All-Big Ten senior guard and National Football Foundation (NFF) Scholar-Athlete John Urschel participated in the NFF's pre-college football celebration press conference at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City on Tuesday morning.

A two-time first-team All-Big Ten guard, Urschel was invited to New York as one of 16 National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Scholar-Athletes, presented by Fidelity Investments, from across all NCAA and NAIA divisions. Urschel and the 2013 Scholar-Athletes will be honored at the National Football Foundation's 56th Annual black tie awards dinner on Tuesday night.

A two-time first-team Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-American, Urschel will receive an $18,000 scholarship for post-graduate studies. He also is a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, endowed by HealthSouth, presented to the nation's premier college football Scholar-Athlete, with the winner receiving a total of $25,000 for post-graduate work. The Campbell Trophy recipient will be announced Tuesday night at the Hall of Fame Dinner.

Live coverage of the Hall of Fame Dinner will be available Tuesday at 8 p.m. on

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VIDEO: Behind the Scenes at the B1G Championship Game

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Two-time Big Ten Receiver of the Year Allen Robinson and Big Ten Freshman of the Year Christian Hackenberg spent Saturday in Indianapolis at the Big Ten Championship Game.  The duo was honored for their season awards on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium prior to Michigan State's 34-24 victory over Ohio State.

Robinson and Hackenberg participated in a wide range of events leading up to the game.  Take a behind the scenes look at their trip to Indy.

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VIDEO: Hackenberg Earns Big Ten Freshman of the Year

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just nine days into his first college training camp, Christian Hackenberg found himself under center on a humid, overcast August afternoon inside Beaver Stadium.

Head coach Bill O'Brien had just asked the operations staff to set the clock to a 2-minute drill for the final period of practice No. 12 of the preseason.  The ball was set to move from the north end of the stadium towards the empty student section in the south end.  Hackenberg and the offense trotted onto the field needing a touchdown to win the drill.

9327000.jpegJust as he would 59 days later in front of 107,884 fans against Michigan, Hackenberg methodically marched the offense into south end zone to win, the same end zone he would eventually plunge into for a game-tying score against the Wolverines on Oct. 12.

While the stakes were drastically different between the end of the team's first full preseason scrimmage and a primetime clash against then-unbeaten Michigan, Hackenberg's poise was the same.

He took the starting job by the horns on that warm Aug. 14 afternoon, and the Palmyra, Va., native didn't look back en route to a standout season and Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.

"There were a lot of ups and downs and a lot of adversity along the way, but you just have to keep climbing," Hackenberg said. 
"With the type of coaching we receive here and the type of players we have around, you always find a way to finish strong, and we did that as a team."

Hackenberg was among the first guys out on the practice field every day all season long.  A relentless worker and a fierce competitor, the 18-year-old rookie worked to improve every time he stepped into a meeting room, onto the practice field or onto a game field.

"Coach O'Brien meant a lot to me this season," Hackenberg said.  "He helped me tremendously with the mental side of the game and the little things, whether it be physically or little tips and pointers he learned from previous quarterbacks that he had.  That helped me a lot, and it really helped me focus in on the intricacies of the game." 

The Nittany Lion signal caller finished the regular season second in the Big Ten in completions (231), second in touchdown passes (20) and third in passing yards per game (246.2).  With 339 yards at Wisconsin, Hackenberg finished with 2,955 yards for the season, moving him into third place on the Penn State season chart.  He had nine 200-yard passing games and four 300-yard performances.  Hackenberg broke 10 Penn State freshman game and season records.

The numbers speak for themselves, but they don't illustrate Hackenberg's ability to command a huddle and lead the offense.  He earned immediate respect from the veteran players on the offense because of his demeanor, attention to detail and undying will to win.

On the field, Hackenberg has elite physical tools and the ability to put the ball in tight spots when he needs to.  He is an accurate passer with big-play ability on any given snap.  Hackenberg accounted for 14 connections with Nittany Lion receivers of 40 ore more yards, including three in the season finale at Wisconsin.

"To me, he's had a remarkable year," head coach Bill O'Brien said.  "To come in here as an 18-year-old freshman with such high expectations and to be able to learn this offense and do the things we have asked him to do, I think he got better every game.  He's got a chance for a very special career here at Penn State."

Off the field, the Virginia native is a humble individual who directs all of the credit to his fellow teammates.  Hackenberg is the epitome of a team-first guy and wise beyond his age.  He is the type of leader any team across the nation would look for in a quarterback.

And he is only just beginning.  With one year under his belt, Hackenberg has an eye towards improving in the offseason to come back stronger in 2014.

"I think how we finished the season was big going into the offseason," Hackenberg said.  "We are really going to carry that momentum through.  I look for a lot of progress.  We had a lot of young guys play this year.  I'm excited to see how that goes - the workouts, seven-on-sevens - and we will start firing that up here soon."

For now, though, No. 14 deserves time in the spotlight as the 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

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VIDEO: Highlighting Penn State's 2013 All-Big Ten Selections

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On the heels of Saturday's 31-24 win at Wisconsin, the Nittany Lion football program earned All-Big Ten recognition for 12 players, including three Lions on the First Team All-Big Ten list, on Monday.

Take a look through a highlight list of Penn State's 2013 All-Big Ten selections.

First Team All-Big Ten Honorees:
WR Allen Robinson - Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year
Junior wide receiver Allen Robinson had the greatest season by a Penn State receiver in program history.  Coming off a standout season in 2012 where he re-wrote the Nittany Lion record book with 77 receptions, Robinson went to work in the weight room to get bigger, faster and stronger in his quest to be an even better player in 2013.   He had a great offseason, and Robinson did not look back.  The Michigan native finished No. 3 in the nation in receiving yards with 1,432.  Robinson broke his own season record with 97 receptions (8.1 per game) and scored six touchdowns.  He topped the Big Ten in receptions, receptions per game, receiving yards and receiving yards per game.  In Big Ten play, alone, Robinson made 71 receptions for 984 yards.  A smooth route-runner with great hands, Robinson made 10 catches of 40 or more yards in 2013. 
Robinson's leaping 36-yard sideline catch at the Michigan 1-yard-line set-up the game-tying TD with 27 seconds to play and helped Penn State hand the Wolverines their first loss of the season. The catch was selected the ESPN SportsCenter Play of the Day for Oct. 12.  Additionally, Robinson's leaping 39-yard sideline catch at the Illinois 5-yard-line late in the game helped Penn State kick a field goal and eventually win in overtime on Nov. 2.  In all, he tallied more than 100 yards in eight games, including three with more than 140 yards.  Robinson was an explosive player every time he touched the ball, and he is now a two-time Big Ten Receiver of the Year honoree.

G John Urschel
Senior guard John Urschel is a National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete off the field, and he is now a two-time first-team All-Big Ten player on the field.  Playing in every game for the past three seasons, Urschel again established himself as one of the top right guards in the conference with consistent production every Saturday in 2013.  The Williamsville, N.Y., native helped Nittany Lion running backs Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton combine for 1,792 yards this season.  Urschel also helped anchor an offensive line that played a paramount role in Christian Hackenberg's record-breaking freshman season at the quarterback position, which included 2,955 yards and 20 touchdowns.   

DT DaQuan Jones
Senior defensive tackle DaQuan Jones evolved into a dominant force in the middle of the Penn State defensive line in 2013.  After a strong offseason in which he dropped some weight to get in better playing condition, Jones played with a relentless motor throughout the season.  The Johnson City, N.Y., native led the Penn State defense with 11.5 tackles for loss.  Jones, who has started in 23 games during his career, finished with 56 stops.  Twice in 2013, Jones logged a career-high nine tackles (Syracuse and Eastern Michigan).  The powerful interior lineman played an instrumental role in helping the Penn State defense hold its final five opponents to 19.0 points per game and just 54 total points in the final 14 quarters.  A hard-working, blue collar player, Jones is a deserving recipient of first-team All-Big Ten honors. 

All-Big Ten Honorable Mention

CB Adrian Amos
LB Glenn Carson
K Sam Ficken
QB Christian Hackenberg
C Ty Howle
TE Jesse James
CB Jordan Lucas
DE C.J. Olaniyan
OT Donovan Smith

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Nittany Lions Save Best for Last in Big Win at Wisconsin

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VIDEO: Inside the Winning Locker Room | VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Ignore the noise.

That's a line head coach Bill O'Brien repeatedly tells the Nittany Lions.  Regardless of what is going in the outside world, the only thing that directly influences the team is the belief and attitude of the players in the locker room.

9512407.jpegNo one gave the Nittany Lions a chance heading into Saturday's season finale at heavily favored and 15th-ranked Wisconsin.  The team took it personally.

And for two years, the story has been the same.  The resilient fiber engrained in this group of Nittany Lions is unique.  No matter how big the obstacle, the team is never fazed.

With the deck stacked against them, the Nittany Lions turned in their most complete performance of the season in a thrilling end to

You could sense on the opening drive that the Lions were not going to be denied before a raucous crowd in Camp Randall Stadium.  Zach Zwinak carried the ball twice to open the game.  Zwinak's four yards set up a third-and-six.

Christian Hackenberg found Allen Robinson for a seven-yard completion and a first down.  One play later, Hackenberg tossed a strike to an open Adam Breneman, who raced 68 yards for a touchdown.

"It was a little bootleg with Hack.  Hack and Zwinak did a great job selling the fake," Breneman said.  "I was open and someone forgot to cover me, and I was able to take it in for the touchdown." 

Wisconsin answered with back-to-back touchdowns in the second quarter, putting the Badger on top, 14-7.  The Nittany Lions came right back with a 71-yard drive, which was capped by a heads-up play from Hackenberg on a throw to a wide-open, uncovered Eugene Lewis.

With the score tied at 14-14, the Nittany Lion defense forced a crucial three-and-out to open the second half.  Ten plays later, Hackenberg threaded a ball to Jesse James in the back corner of the end zone to hand Penn State a 21-14 lead.

The Nittany Lions never looked back en route to a 31-24 victory.

As the clocked ticked to zero, all 62 players on the travel roster raced to the corner of the Camp Randall Stadium where the contingent of traveling Nittany Lion fans were sitting.  From there, the celebration was on in the locker room.

"You can't say enough about the resiliency of this football team," O'Brien said.  "They were down.  They came back.  We always haven't won these games, and I was proud to win this game for this group of guys."

The senior class earned the victory it deserved in Madison on Saturday.

"You want to leave here as a winner, and you can't say enough about this senior class," said O'Brien.  "To have a winning record with all of the things that have happened in the last two years means a lot, and these seniors have a lot to do with that."

The seniors had a choice.  By no means did they have to stay at Penn State.  The group stuck together because of the bond between each individual in the locker room.  The seniors have had ups and downs in their time at Penn State, but Saturday evening's victory sends the group out in a manner it deserves.

9512409.jpeg"We just played our hearts out today," linebacker and captain Glenn Carson said.  "We made some really big plays.  We forced some turnovers.  We just had fun and flew around out there.  I couldn't ask for more from these guys."

"It was so much fun.  It was a great way to go out as a senior," center and captain Ty Howle said.  "It was a great way for these young guys to carry this into the offseason.  It was a great win, a great team win, and I couldn't be happier."

The collective effort from the senior class in leading the team throughout the season cannot be heralded enough.  Like the 2012 seniors, this group will have a special place in Penn State Football history.

Additionally, Saturday's road win was a living, breathing example of what is in store for the future of the program.

The young players on the roster made big play after big play in Saturday's victory, which was Penn State's first on-field triumph over a top-15 team since knocking off No. 13 LSU in the 2010 Capital One Bowl.

Hackenberg played the best game of his young career, finishing his true freshman campaign 21-of-30 for 339 yards and four touchdowns.  All four of his touchdown passes were to players in their first or second year of eligibility, including two to redshirt freshman Eugene Lewis and one to fellow rookie Breneman.

"A lot of young guys stepped up and made plays today, Hackenberg said.  "You look at Jesse (James) (Adam) Breneman, Geno (Lewis) on offense.  And then Mike Hull, Brandon Bell, (Anthony) Zettel, C.J. (Olaniyan) on defense.  They all made a ton of plays.  We are looking forward to the future."

All 21 of Hackenberg's completions were to players with junior eligibility or younger.

"It was the best feeling going out there and getting this win.  That's just the way we wanted to end the season," Lewis said.

Junior Zach Zwinak's 115-yard outing marked the most rushing yards by a Wisconsin opponent all season long.  Zwinak finished the season with four-straight 100-yard outings and just 11 yards shy of 1,000 yards for the season.

The story was the same on defense.  Linebackers Mike Hull and Brandon Bell led the team in tackling on Saturday.  Bell made his first career start in the final game of his true freshman season.  Bell's pressure on Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave mid-way through the third quarter led to C.J. Olaniyan's interception.

Penn State forced three turnovers and held the Badgers to just 24 points, which equaled Wisconsin's lowest total of the season.

Junior Ryan Keiser, sophomores Jordan Lucas, Trevor Williams and Da'Quan Davis, along with redshirt freshman Malik Golden all played significant roles in Madison.

9512411.jpeg"Going into the offseason, this win does a lot for us (young guys)," Lucas said.

Collectively, Penn State's young players not only played, they made big plays in clutch moments to help lead the Lions to a victory.

"Any time young players, while playing in an environment like that against a very good Wisconsin team, make plays, that bodes well for the future of Penn State Football."

The senior class will leave Penn State as winners.

"It was an awesome moment we are going to remember for the rest of our lives," Carson said.

The young talent will head into the offseason with confidence.

"It's always great to go into the offseason on a winning note, especially beating a team like Wisconsin when we were 24-point underdogs.  To beat Wisconsin, it's a pretty big win for our program," Breneman said.

Thanks to hard work, execution and physical football, the 2013 Nittany Lions saved their best game for last, and they walked off the field in Madison with the trademark victory they deserved.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Bill O'Brien Press Conference at Wisconsin

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MADISON, Wis. - Head coach Bill O'Brien addresses the media following Saturday's 31-24 victory at No. 14 Wisconsin.

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VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews at Wisconsin

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VIDEO: Inside the Winning Locker Room

MADISON, Wis. - Hear from several Nittany Lions following Saturday's season-ending 31-24 victory at No. 14 Wisconsin.

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VIDEO: One-on-One with Bill O'Brien Postgame at Wisconsin

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MADISON, Wis. - talks one-on-one with head coach Bill O'Brien following Saturday's 31-24 victory over No. 14 Wisconsin.

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