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Committed to the Process

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11474206.jpegBy Tony Mancuso
(Story Originally Appeared in Beaver Stadium Pictorial for Illinois Game)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Commitment.

It's a word used a lot in the realm of college athletics.

It's a word that has a different meaning to different people.

And it's one thing to say you are committed to something.

It's another thing to live by your word.

Christian Hackenberg's commitment didn't necessarily begin on Feb. 28, 2012, the day he elected to play for Penn State.

It began on the couch in the living room of the Hackenberg household in Palmyra, Va., Sitting there as a lanky high school kid who had just finished his freshman year, Hackenberg, along with his parents - Erick and Nicole - and eventual high school coach - Micky Sullivan - made a choice.


"As a freshman going into my sophomore year, my family and I were making a decision that would put me in the best position to be successful," Hackenberg said. "I didn't necessarily realize it then. I thought they were sending me over to a military school, but at the same time, I understood that from the big picture, it made sense."

Hackenberg enrolled at Fork Union Military School as a sophomore. He committed to the process, and he hasn't looked back since.

An Under Armour All-American, Hackenberg threw for more than 5,000 yards and 55 touchdowns during his three seasons at Fork Union. He led the Blue Devils to the state title game twice, including a championship in 2010. A five-star prospect by all of the major recruiting services, Hackenberg had his pick of resting places for his college career out of high school.

Leaning on his support system for advice, the insight Hackenberg received from Sullivan, a grandfather figure to the signal-caller, still resonates with him to this day.

"The ultimate factor in his advice to me was that if you get hurt on the first day of practice and can't play again, and are you going to be happy going to school there? That was the last question asked when we were talking about committing," said Hackenberg.

Then, why Penn State?

"I grew up in a blue collar, hard-working family," Hackenberg said. "My parents were always able to give my brothers and I everything we ever needed. We grew up in an awesome house. But competing, hard work, nose to the grindstone. All of those words kind of went in to what my family was when I grew up.

"That type of environment, the blue collar and do whatever it takes to get things done, when you step on campus here, that's what you feel. There are a lot of people on this campus who are that way. It's a great environment for someone like that. The resources are here. The ball is in your court to go out and work to accomplish what you want to do. I love that."

The scholastic standout officially signed a letter of intent to play for Penn State on Feb. 6, 2013, but things were far from smooth between the day he selected Penn State and the day he put ink on the paper to become a Nittany Lion.

While competing at the finals of the Elite 11 in Redondo Beach, Calif., in July of 2012, news began circulating that a major announcement pertaining to the Penn State football program was imminent. Hackenberg and his father landed in Richmond, Va., after the trip on the West Coast, ran to their car and listened to radio as the breaking news of unprecedented NCAA sanctions transpired.

In the days following the announcement on July 23, 2012, Hackenberg and fellow commits from the 2013 recruiting class had an important decision to make.

The families from that recruiting class, including Adam Breneman, Brendan Mahon, Andrew Nelson and Garrett Sickels, traveled to University Park just days after the announcement to meet with then head coach Bill O'Brien to find some answers to what might happen. Understandably, the families did not want their sons to commit and then have the entire team leave under the open transfer rule.

"Coach O'Brien sat there in the team room and handled the questions as good as he could," said Hackenberg. "I think he did an amazing job ensuring that the core group of guys understood his vision of what the team was, and then you let guys like Micheal Mauti and Michael Zordich take over. And they did. We are forever grateful for those guys because they still gave us a shot to come in here, compete and still be successful at a high level. That's something that often gets overlooked."

Simply put, Hackenberg could have chosen to play almost anywhere in the nation following the announcement of NCAA sanctions. And when he verbally committed to Penn State in February of 2012, he didn't sign up for scholarship limitations or a postseason ban.

But none of that mattered to a guy whose loyalty bleeds blue and white.

He wanted to be at Penn State.

Hackenberg arrived on the University Park campus in late June of 2013. Less than two months later, the 18-year-old became the second true freshman quarterback to start a season opener since 1910.

"This has been my goal ever since I was little, to be able to play major college football," Hackenberg said back in 2013 when Coach O'Brien made the decision mid-way through the pre-season.  "To be able to start my first ever college game is a huge attribute to the team around me and the coaching staff."

Hackenberg solidified his place in the starting lineup with a two-minute drill touchdown drive in Beaver Stadium during the team's first scrimmage of pre-season camp. Despite being just weeks removed from high school, the stage never looked too big for him.

"It was one of those things where I wanted it, but I wasn't quite sure what 'it' was," said Hackenberg. "I didn't know what to expect. And we didn't have any guys on the team at quarterback who knew what to expect. We kind of went in to the process blind as a unit."

Hackenberg threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 23-17 Penn State win over Syracuse in MetLife Stadium during his debut. He went on to set 10 school freshman game or season records in 2013.

"I think looking back, it was an awesome experience for me," Hackenberg said. "For me, it was kind of like, throw you into the fire a little bit and see how you react. As the game went on, we made some plays and it unfolded in our favor. That experience kind of set my mindset moving forward for the rest of my career, just to keep battling and moving forward and push through things. Looking back at it, it was tough, but it was a positive."

That fiber of pushing through adversity is what distinguishes Hackenberg. Playing quarterback at Penn State is far from easy. Expectations for the position are high, no matter what the situation might be. But No. 14 has done for three years what he knows how to do best - battle.


"Understanding that it's the reality of playing this position at any big school across the country. But being able to deal with some adversity and some things that may not have been expected when I first decided to come here, I think that goes back to the competitor inside me to just keep battling and find a way," said Hackenberg.

The circumstances have been far from normal for any Penn State player who has been on the roster during the past three seasons. There have been ups and downs along the way, but that's what Hackenberg takes pride in. As a leader, he has shouldered plenty, but the bond he has forged with the school and football program is powerful.

"When you hear things along the way that your career is going to fizzle because of the sanctions or you should have gone to Alabama, that stuff just angers me," said Hackenberg. "We all made a decision to come here, and we've been pretty successful under the circumstances and we've stayed relevant when people thought this program was going to die. To me, it's always been moving to the next thing and battle to maintain that level of standard so that this place can be a national championship contender in the future."

Though Hackenberg is a relatively laid back individual, he's a fiery competitor in every aspect of being a student-athlete. And he's a prideful man when it comes to his feelings for Penn State.

"I'm extremely proud of what we have been able to achieve collectively," said Hackenberg. "I'm proud of the guys I've played with every single year I've been here. Every single one of these guys are warriors in my book. I challenge any other program in the country to do what we did with the group of people that we had."

A story about the numbers Hackenberg has tallied or the school records he has set could fill a newspaper, and deservedly so. When his time is up in Happy Valley, the Virginia native will go down as one of the program's all-time greats.

Hackenberg's first three seasons have been marked by big plays, thrilling wins and the program's first bowl win after the sanctions were lifted - a moment Hackenberg calls his most satisfying to date.

But there is far more beneath the surface to what makes No. 14 special.

There is a reason why he has the ultimate respect of any player in the locker room. There is a reason why that no matter how many times he's been knocked down he always gets back up stronger.

"No ego is too big. No number means anything," Hackenberg said. "You have to go out and prove yourself each and every week and each and every day in practice. That's been my approach; prepare like a pro, practice like a pro and on Saturdays, just play hard."

Adversity does not outlast individuals with a mindset and work ethic like Christian Hackenberg.

And no one can ever question his commitment to the process in filling a position he loves at a place he truly cherishes.

"You just want to keep pushing and getting better," said Hackenberg. "You just want to keep trying to out-play the expectations. You want to keep trying to out-play the limitations that people put on us. That's what I live for. I want to keep out-dueling those expectations."



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: James Franklin Practice Update - Bye 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 practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday of the bye week. The Lions return to action on Nov. 21 against Michigan. Take a look at an update from Coach Franklin on the team's week.




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Nittany Lions Spend Off Day Volunteering in Community

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service_blog1.jpgUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Approximately 30 members of the Nittany Lion football team used the first day of the bye week as an opportunity to volunteer in the State College area.

Four different groups participated in community service activities at the Centre Furnace Mansion, State College Food Bank, Youth Service Bureau House and Life Link.

The volunteers helped with a wide range of activities, including landscaping, organizing canned foods for donation and painting.

"It's really important to get out and help folks in the community," said freshman quarterback Tommy Stevens. "I think it's important to give back to the community because of the position that we are in. It makes a big difference for the team and community when we get out and participate in events like this."

"It's great to give back. We truly enjoy doing events like this because it means a lot to give back to other people when we have the chance," said freshman wide receiver Brandon Polk.

Because the annual United Way Day of Caring fell on a game week earlier this fall, the Nittany Lions wanted to use the bye week as an opportunity to give back in several areas around State College.

"We need to help people out with service any time that we can, so with it being the bye week, we had some extra time and we wanted to be out helping others. It's very important to help your local community," said freshman cornerback John Reid.

Core value No. 1 for Penn State Football is to compete in everything you do. That is evident on the practice field every day. It's also evident at community service endeavors.

"We are out with our friends, and we honestly enjoy it. It's great to be a little competitive about it, but we enjoy being out here with one another while giving back," said Polk.

The Nittany Lions take the responsibility of giving back to the community very seriously. The 30 student-athletes jumped at the opportunity to spend time with one another while giving back to the community. The Nittany Lions completed more than 2,000 hours of community service during 2014-15.

"I love doing things for other people. It just makes you feel great to do things for others, and personally, it is a lot of fun to be out in the community," Polk said.

"As football players, it's really important to do way more than just that, we want to get out and help the community in any way that we can. Guys really do enjoy it," said Reid.

The Nittany Lions return to the practice field on Tuesday of the bye week in preparation for the home finale against Michigan on Nov. 21.



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Monday Notebook: Nassib Stands Alone with Sack Record

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11469581.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior defensive end Carl Nassib's journey to the Penn State starting lineup is a tremendous success story by itself.

Now, the standout defensive end will add another chapter to what is becoming a storied legacy in Penn State lore after becoming the program's season record holder in sacks on Saturday afternoon.

It's almost unfathomable to think that Nassib had not started a single high school or college football game until the season-opener at Temple. He was not a five-star recruit coming out of high school, and he wasn't even sure he was interested in playing college football at the time.

But a driven mindset and an undying work ethic since the day he arrived in the football program has steered Nassib to a truly remarkable senior season.

With his solo sack in the fourth quarter at Northwestern on Saturday, Nassib passed Larry Kubin (1979) and Michael Haynes (2002) as the program's all-time season leader in sacks with 15.5.

Simply put, Nassib plays with the mindset that no one can stop him. No matter how many snaps Nassib is on the field, he plays like it is his last. He practices the same way. He lifts weights the same way. And he's truly unique in how much effort goes into the success he has achieved.

"He works hard. He's humble. He keeps his mouth shut," said defensive coordinator Bob Shoop. "You guys have probably seen it; he doesn't enjoy all of the attention. He's kind of turned off by it. He practices hard every day. He's a great teammate. He's a guy who is going to be successful in whatever happens."

A semifinalist for the Bednarik and Rotary Lombardi awards, Nassib has tallied at least one sack in every game this season. He's had more than one sack in five of Penn State's 10 games. He has 4.5 sacks more than the second-highest individual sack total in the nation.

Nassib has also been instrumental in helping the defense notch at least 2.0 sacks in 10 straight games and at least 5.0 tackles for loss in 18 consecutive games.

Congratulations to Nassib for a record-breaking season as the Nittany Lions now prepare for their final two contests of the regular season.



Late Bye Week
After four weeks of training camp and 10 weeks of games, the Nittany Lions are on a much-deserved bye week. Standing at 7-3 overall and 4-2 in Big Ten play, the Lions will finish the season against No. 15 Michigan and No. 14 Michigan State, respectively. The bye comes at a unique time in the program's history. This is the latest a first-bye date has come on Penn State's schedule since 1958 when the team had it's only bye on Nov. 22. In addition to Penn State, Wisconsin is also on a bye this week. Nebraska's is the Big Ten team with the latest bye, with its lone bye coming on Nov. 21.


White-Hot Red Zone Offense Rolls On
The Nittany Lions continued a streak of superb efforts in the red zone on Saturday at Northwestern. During the last seven weeks, Penn State has converted 25 of its last 26 trips inside the 20 into points. For the season, the Lions own a 92 percent conversion rate (33-for-36). The Nittany Lions are ranked 12th nationally and second in the Big Ten in red zone offense through nine games this season.


Barkley Closing on Freshman Records
Following a 120-yard, two-touchdown effort in Saturday's game at Northwestern, true freshman running back Saquon Barkley is now closing in on a host of Penn State freshman rushing records. With four 100-yard performances, Barkley is now one shy of D.J. Dozier's record five in 1983. Additionally, Barkley is now tied with Dozier for the true freshman rushing touchdown record with seven. On the true freshman rushing yardage list, Barkley has 836. That mark is second only to Dozier, who finished with 1,002 yards in 1983.

Barkley has averaged 104.5 yards per game, which is ranked No. 18 in the nation and No. 2 in the Big Ten. He is second nationally in rushing yards by a freshman. Barkley has averaged 6.29 yards per carry this season, which is only second to Ezekiel Elliott's mark of 6.45 yards per carry in the Big Ten.


What's Ahead
The Nittany Lions will have a lighter practice week with it being the bye. Penn State practiced on Sunday, as it normally does, before an abbreviated week. The student-athletes will have some time off from practice towards the end of the week before resuming game preparations on Sunday.

The Lions will finish off their home schedule with a matchup against No. 15 Michigan on Nov. 21. The Wolverines are 7-2 overall and 4-1 in Big Ten play following a 49-16 victory over Rutgers on Saturday. The Michigan game will feature the Penn State White Out, along with Senior Day festivities.



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: James Franklin Postgame Press Conference - at Northwestern

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EVANSTON, Ill. - Head coach James Franklin talks with the media following Penn State's 23-21 setback at Northwestern.






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VIDEO: Postgame Player Remarks - at Northwestern

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EVANSTON, Ill. - Hear from several Nittany Lions as they talk with the media following Saturday's 23-21 decision at Northwestern.





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2015 Gameday Live - Penn State at Northwestern

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EVANSTON, Ill. - Welcome to live, interactive coverage of the 2015 Penn State football season. The Nittany Lions will meet Northwestern at Ryan Field. Follow along for live updates from gameday.

Live Blog 2015 Gameday Live - Penn State at Northwestern
 

2015 Photo Blog - Penn State at Northwestern

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EVANSTON, Ill. - Welcome to live coverage of the 2015 Penn State football season. The Nittany Lions will meet Northwestern at Ryan Field. Follow along for photos from gameday.

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2015 Gameday - Lions Travel to Northwestern

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

Coach Franklin Wednesday | Coach Pry Q&A | Notebook | Lions in NFL

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Having won seven of its last eight games, Penn State heads on the road Saturday for a matchup against Northwestern.

The Nittany Lions (7-2, 4-1) will battle the Wildcats (6-2, 2-2) in a 12 p.m. (ESPNU) kick at Ryan Field in the penultimate road game of the season. Penn State will be seeking its third-straight victory following a complete team effort in a 39-0 triumph over Illinois.

11433983.jpeg"Going on the road in the Big Ten is never easy," said head coach James Franklin. "And obviously, you are talking about a team that started the season really well with a win over Stanford and Duke out of conference and a team that has played good football in our conference. It's going to be a tremendous challenge. We're going to have to find a way to make some plays, especially on special teams."

Junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg was masterful in directing the offense to its largest margin of victory in a Big Ten game since 2008 last week. Hackenberg finished with three total touchdowns, including two through the air to Chris Godwin and Geno Lewis and one receiving score on a pass from Nick Scott. The Nittany Lions finished 7-for-7 in the red zone against Illinois.

The Nittany Lion defense turned in a stellar outing against the Illini in the first shutout during a Big Ten game since 2009. Penn State limited Illinois 167 total yards on 71 plays. Sophomore linebacker Jason Cabinda led the defense with seven stops, while linebacker Troy Reeder made three stops and snagged the first interception of his career.

Led by head coach Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern returns to action following a bye week. The Wildcats opened the season 5-0 before dropping two-straight to Michigan (38-0) and Iowa (40-10). Northwestern has two wins in Big Ten play, including a 27-0 triumph over Minnesota and a 30-28 victory at Nebraska in the team's last game. Non-conference victories over then-No. 21 Stanford (16-6) and at Duke (19-10) highlights the season for the Wildcats, who were in the Associated Press Top 25 for five-straight weeks earlier this season.

The Nittany Lions and Northwestern rank among the Big Ten's best in penalty yardage. The Nittany Lions are No. 1 in fewest penalty yards in the Big Ten (37.6) and Northwestern is No. 3 (40.3). Additionally the Lions and Wildcats field two of the top pass defenses in the conference, ranking second and third, respectively.

In a series that dates back to 1993, Penn State and Northwestern will meet for the 18th time on Saturday. The Nittany Lions own a 13-4 mark in the all-time series. That includes a 6-2 record in games played in Ryan Field. The Nittany Lions have won six of the last seven games in the series, including each of the last three in Evanston.


Penn State will reach its bye week after the matchup against Northwestern. After four weeks of training camp and 10 weeks of football, the Lions will have a little time off before preparing for the final home game of 2015 against Michigan on Nov. 21.

Welcome to the gameday preview for week 10 - Penn State at Northwestern.

PREVIEW_vs_Northwestern.jpg
Pregame Reading:
What to Watch For - Penn State
11458922.jpeg1. One could make a case that senior defensive tackle Austin Johnson is one of the more underrated players in the Big Ten. The 6-foot-4, 323-pound interior lineman has been disruptive for nine weeks and has played a paramount role in Penn State ranking among the top four nationally in sacks and tackles for loss. Johnson is No. 1 in the nation in tackles by a defensive lineman with 54 stops. He also has 10.0 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks in 2015 a forced fumble, two pass break-ups and a fumble return for a touchdown. Johnson's skillset meshes exceptionally well with fellow tackle Anthony Zettel and ends Carl Nassib and Garrett Sickels.


2. Christian Hackenberg has been a model of consistency during the past six weeks. The junior signal-caller has thrown 12 touchdown passes with zero interceptions during a span in which the Nittany Lions have gone 5-1 overall and 3-1 in Big Ten play. Hackenberg has thrown for at least 250 yards in four of those games and 1,415 yards total. He has not thrown an interception in his last 164 pass attempts, the longest stretch of his career. Hackenberg has been a big piece to Penn State being ranked No. 8 nationally in plays of 30 or more yards. Individually, he is tied for 19th in the nation with 19 pass plays of 30 or more yards.

3. Give a tip of the cap for the resiliency of the Nittany Lion offensive line. The men in the trenches have battled bumps and bruises since the season began on Sept. 4, but are now playing their best football of the season. Last week's victory over Illinois marked the sixth different offensive line combination during the first nine games of 2015. Guard Brian Gaia is the only player to start on the offensive line during all nine games this season. The Nittany Lions have managed to reach the 400-yard plateau in two of the last four games and tallied at least 315 yards during that span.
 


What to Watch For - Northwestern
1. Led by dynamic quarterback Clayton Thorson, the Northwestern rushing attack is ranked third in the Big Ten at 186.1 ground yards per game. Thorson rushed for 126 yards in Northwestern's most recent game, a 30-28 victory at Nebraska. He accounted for six plays of 20-plus yards against the Huskers, and he is ranked No. 2 on the team in rushing with 297 yards. Sophomore running back Justin Jackson is the team's leading rusher with 731 yards (91.4 ypg - No. 45 in FBS).

2. Northwestern's defense has been stingy against the pass throughout 2015. The Wildcats enter the game as the No. 7-ranked pass defense nationally, allowing opponents just 164.8 yards per game. Northwestern is No. 1 in the nation in passing touchdowns allowed (3). Additionally, the Wildcats have yielded just 15 total passing plays of 20 or more yards and just five of 30 or more yards.

3. Sophomore middle linebacker Anthony Walker headlines the Northwestern defense. Walker has tallied 67 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and has recovered two fumbles. Senior defensive end Dean Lowry is tied with Walker as the team's leader in tackles for loss. Collectively, Northwestern is No. 18 in total defense at 310.3 yards per game. The Wildcats make very few mistakes and play sound defensive football.


The Final Word:
The 2015 season marks the 10-year anniversary of a memorable Penn State trip to Evanston. The Nittany Lions scored a dramatic come-from-behind 34-29 victory over Northwestern on Sept. 24, 2005 to remain undefeated. Michael Robinson found tight end Isaac Smolko on a pivotal fourth down play deep in their own territory before connecting with Derrick Williams for the game-winning touchdown. Since that game in 2005, the Nittany Lions are 3-0 in games at Ryan Field.

Saturday's kick will be an early one for the Nittany Lions. The teams are slated to square off at just after 11 a.m. local time in Evanston. Penn State's previous three road games this season kicked at either 3:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. ESPNU's live coverage of the Northwestern game begins at 12 p.m. ET with kickoff slated for 12:02 p.m. Clay Matvick (Play-by-Play) and John Congemi (Analyst) will call the game.



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Northwestern Week Q&A - Brent Pry

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11458525.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions travel to Northwestern on Saturday for a noon kick (ESPNU) at Ryan Field.

Leading up to the contest against the Wildcats, assistant head coach, co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Pry talked with the media on Thursday. Take a look at a Q&A with Coach Pry.

Q: Can you talk in general about your group, and how would you evaluate them at this point in the season?
Pry: "A combination of Troy (Reeder), Jason (Cabinda) and Brandon (Bell) is a good enough combination (to be very successful). They can all play at a high level. Jason has adjusted to the 'Mike' position pretty well. There are still some things that creep up here and there as part of the learning curve. Troy is a guy that is a redshirt freshman. He still hasn't played near the ball that Jason and Brandon have played. He's still growing into the role a little bit. He's gaining valuable game experience. Brandon has been nicked up with injuries and missed a game or two. He's just getting back healthy. He's experienced and very smart. He's been very valuable and the plays he's made for us. I think we've got some ground to make up with our second group in bringing those guys along - (Jake) Cooper and (Manny) Bowen and the combination of (Gary) Wooten and (Ben) Kline. It's very hard to take Cabinda out of the game right now. He's very valuable running the show. We've got some ground to make up with the twos, but I feel good about that first group."

Q: At this point of the season, what has Nyeem (Wartman's) role been with the unit?

Pry: "I'm very proud of how Nyeem has handled this situation. He's always got a smile on his face. He's got an incredibly positive attitude. He's always around. He's in meetings. He's in position meetings. He's in team meetings. He's very much a part of our group. He's still a leader and an inspiration to not just the linebackers but everybody on the team. He's doing tremendous with his rehab. Everything is positive there. He's working like crazy in the weight room. I joke with him that he will finally bench 300 (pounds) coming out of this thing. He's really putting the time in there. I'm very proud and pleased. He's certainly still very much a big part of our football team."

Q: What are a couple things you are looking at with Jason in terms of areas to work on as a young player still growing into the "Mike" position?

Pry: "When you are running the show and the quarterback of the defense, you can't be locked in on one side of the formation or the other, like you could at "Will" or "Sam". He's got to see the whole picture all the time. I think one of the things are the motions, shifts and adjustments that a guy like Vitale brings. There are alignment things that have to happen when he's moving around that affects the "Mike" and "Will". There are some things in coverage that people are doing that are new to him playing in the middle of the formation. Jason is a guy that has to continue to play with good pad level and knee bend, and play healthy. He's a guy that when he's hurt, he struggles in space a little bit. And he knows that. He's gotta play with his pads rolled over, good footwork and good knee bend and the fundamentals he prides himself in. From day one, he's been a guy who has really be coachable. He's worked at his craft from a physical standpoint. He's just a guy that knows he is a little bit raw and little bit rough on his body mechanics, and he's got to play in the cylinder with good pad level, no false footwork and good reaction, and he really works at that. When you move to "Mike" linebacker, there is so much more on your plate from a mental standpoint. Sometimes the personal things, the techniques that are required at the position or required for his skillset to be successful sometimes, he loses sight of those. He's gotta always play with that good pad level that makes him a good player...It's a challenging spot, and I'm very proud of the way Jason has stepped up this fall."

Q: Why do running quarterbacks give a defense trouble and how far do you think your defense has come along in that respect?
Pry: "I think running quarterbacks give everybody trouble across the country. I think it's something, in my mind, you have to prepare for those guys like it's an option team. You have to devote that kind of time and that kind of study and be prepared as coaches and players to defend it. We've certainly emphasized that the last couple weeks to be better there. I think it's something that gives a lot of people fits. And it's something we've opened our eyes to. We've got to do a better job defending it. We've certainly prepared a little harder for the quarterback runs."

Q: How difficult is to prepare for a dual-threat quarterback like Clayton Thorson (Northwestern)?

Pry: "I think he's a real threat at the quarterback position. It's like having an extra player out there when you have a triggerman that can run the football, as well. This guy is a big, durable guy. He's a strong runner. He's a physical presence. I think they come in all shapes and sizes. Trace McSorley is built completely different, but poses the same threat. To have that knack and that vision, that's what Thorson has. He's got a good running style. I think he's somebody we certainly respect, not just how he throws the ball but how he runs it. He's had some tremendous runs on plays where he was just scrambling out of the pocket...I'd be surprised if he wasn't a big part of their gameplan."

Q: What are your thoughts on Northwestern's "superback" Dan Vitale, and what type of challenge does he present for your group?
Pry: "We have to always know where Vitale is. He's a guy who might line up in a slot. He can line up on the line as a tight end. He can line up off the ball in the backfield as a fullback or h-back. He moves around a lot. There is a lot of motion and shifting with him. He's a very good blocker. He's their leading receiver. They even get him the ball on some shovel passes. He's definitely a weapon. He's a mature guy that's played a lot of football. He's a guy who is definitely No. 1 on our radar as far as knowing where he is and knowing what he is up to. We have tremendous respect for him."
    


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