UNIVERSITY PARK — Run the 40-yard dash in less than 4.6 seconds? Own experience as a high school cornerback or safety? Want to compete at the Division I level while paying your way through school?
Today offers a life-changing opportunity.
Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said Tuesday that the football team is conducting walk-on tryouts after this afternoon’s practice.
O’Brien revealed few specifics, such as the number of participants, regarding the tryouts. But he said the Nittany Lions are looking to bolster their secondary depth.
The current roster includes 13 defensive backs. Only seven toted scholarships when they joined the program.
“I would say positionally you would love to have a couple of DBs in the crowd there,” O’Brien said. “That’s the position right now that we’re looking for because of numbers. Other than that, I just want to get out there and see if we can find some good football players. Guys that are just hungry to play football that can move around a little bit.”
Walk-ons could secure expanded roles in the next few seasons because of the NCAA sanctions against the school. The sanctions cap the number of scholarship players at 65 beginning in 2014. Most of Penn State’s competitors will carry 85 scholarship players.
The Nittany Lions are also limited to adding just 15 scholarship players per academic year for a four-year period beginning in 2013-14. The NCAA permits non-sanctioned schools to add as many as 25 players per academic year.
O’Brien and his staff started constructing an ambitious walk-on program after the NCAA announced the sanctions on July 23.
“I hope we get athletes,” senior center Matt
Stankiewitch said. “If we get 10 guys, if we get zero guys, Coach O’Brien is going to pick guys that we need as a team and who are going to be assets for our football team. Hopefully we get some good guys (today).”
Belton, Day listed as possible
Different week. Same injury report for some of Penn State’s key offensive players.
O’Brien said that running backs Bill Belton and Derek Day are still “day-to-day” because of injuries. Belton injured his ankle in the third quarter of the season-opener against Ohio University. Day suffered a separated shoulder in a Week 2 loss at Virginia.
Neither player appeared in last week’s 34-7 victory over Navy. Both players are listed as possible for Saturday’s game against Temple at Beaver Stadium.
“I would say Day’s probably a little bit ahead of Belton as far as where that is injury-wise,” O’Brien said. “We will just continue to monitor that. These guys get beat up during the season. They’re running backs. That’s the nature of the position, so the next guy has got to be ready to go.”
Redshirt freshman left tackle Donovan Smith’s status for Saturday is also uncertain because of an ankle injury that prevented him from playing against Navy. O’Brien said Smith is “day-to-day.” Smith is not listed on the injury report released by Penn State.
O’Brien said he doesn’t expect true freshman linebacker Nyeem Wartman, who blocked a punt against Ohio University, to return soon. Wartman suffered a knee injury at Virginia.
Planning to redshirt
O’Brien said it’s unlikely that any true freshmen who didn’t appear in the first three games will be used this season. Six true freshmen — Wartman, defensive backs Da’Quan Davis and Jordan Lucas, quarterback Steven Bench, wide receiver Trevor Williams and tight end Jesse James — have played.
“I would say right now going into the fourth game it’s more of a plan to try to redshirt these guys that haven’t played,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien added the injuries could alter his plan.
“This is a very strong freshmen class that I think has a really bright future here,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes the rest of the year.”
Robinson added to watch list
Sophomore wide receiver Allen Robinson’s fast start has landed him on the Bilentikoff Award watch list. The award honors the nation’s top receiver.
Robinson leads the Big Ten with 24 receptions for 322 yards. Both totals rank 10th nationally. Robinson had three touchdown receptions against Navy. He caught just three passes in 2011.
Follow Guy Cipriano on Twitter@cdtguy.