UNIVERSITY PARK — A handful of Penn State seniors will play their last home game because they’ll be out of eligibility when the football season wraps in just 11 days.
A few others are calling it a career a year earlier.
Garry Gilliam, Kyle Baublitz and Alex Kenney will be honored along with 14 other Penn State seniors when the Nittany Lions (6-4, 3-3) play Nebraska (7-3, 4-2) on Saturday at Beaver Stadium. All three players have a year of eligibility left, however.
“This senior class has contributed quite a bit,” Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said. “I think when you look at it there are a lot of different personalities in this senior class. You have guys that are obviously really good players that have played a lot of football for us. You have guys that are great students. We have a number of top-notch students.”
Among them is guard John Urschel who earned Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-District honors and is a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award, given to the top student athlete in the country. Urschel is working on completing a second masters degree in math and has been joined on the Dean’s List by linebackers Glenn Carson, Stephen Obeng-Agyapong. Carson, Obeng-Agypong and fellow senior Adam Gress are also working toward second degrees.
Meanwhile, Penn State is losing a handful of seniors who have played a large volume of snaps over the last few seasons. Combined, Urschel, Carson, Obeng-Agyapong, Gress, Malcolm Willis, Ty Howle, Brandon Felder and DaQuan Jones have racked up 332 man games played and 156 starts over the last four seasons.
No one has seen more time than Carson. The middle linebacker began his career in 2010 and played in all 13 games. Since then he’s played in every game and started all but two. His 33 career starts top all active Penn State players. Willis checks in next with 27 starts.
“This year has really flown by,” Willis said. “But being here five years, it's hard to say that everything went by quick, but this year definitely has gone by really fast.”
A win against Nebraska would guarantee Penn State and it’s current crop of seniors a winning season.
“Obviously it means a lot. I'm a football player. I came here to win,” Howle said. “That's one of the reasons I came to Penn State because at Penn State you're going to win. It means a lot. But also process means a lot. How we went through the season and how game by game we've grown on the field and as a team. It's probably the most important part so.
Careers are ending quicker for others.
Baublitz announced after last week’s game that he will not play next season. Instead, the junior defensive tackle from York will pursue a teaching career. He’s got a student teaching job lined up at State College High next year. O’Brien revealed Baublitz has been playing on a “bum ankle” this season.
Despite having been granted a sixth year of eligibility, Gilliam, a fifth-year senior, will not return to Penn State next season either, O’Brien said Tuesday.
O’Brien said he met with Gilliam and acknowledged the offensive tackle has decided to move on. Gilliam was open to switching to offensive tackle after playing tight end last season as he thought a position switch would give him a better shot at making an NFL team. It is not clear if Gilliam will pursue an NFL career and O’Brien said the specifics regarding Gilliam’s decision to forgo his senior season will be kept between them.
Kenney, a State College native who played in 11 games with one start last season, has struggled to earn playing time this year. He hasn’t played since the Illinois game and has played in just six games this season. Known as one of the team’s fastest players, Kenney is on pace to graduate and could seek a return to the track, according to his dad Larry Kenney, where Alex ran for Penn State as a freshman.
Kenney was a multi-medalist in PIAA competition while at State College High.
On the injury front, running backs coach Charles London broke his foot and will be in a boot for four to six weeks, O’Brien said.
Follow Travis Johnson on Twitter @bytravisjohnson.