Ron Musselman | Penn State football players earn preseason hype

Penn State and the rest of the Big Ten Conference football teams will kick off fall practice in early August.

But college football magazines have hit local newsstands and several Nittany Lions already are grabbing headlines.

Junior wide receiver Allen Robinson appears on the cover of the Athlon Sports Big Ten preseason preview, senior middle linebacker Glenn Carson is one of three college players on the cover of Phil Steele’s East Coast preseason magazine and redshirt sophomore tight end Kyle Carter is one of two players on the cover of Lindy’s preseason magazine.

Robinson, coming off a sophomore season in which he had 77 catches for 1,013 yards and 11 touchdowns, is the lone Penn State player among Steele’s first-team all-conference picks. Steele also tabbed Robinson as a third-team preseason All-American.

Redshirt sophomore defensive end Deion Barnes, fifth-year senior guard John Urschel and Carson made Steele’s second-team all-conference picks, and Carter was a third-team selection.

Urschel, a brainiac, is entering his second full season as a starter, while Carson is entering his third season as a regular in Happy Valley. He was the third-leading tackler a year ago with 85 stops.

Barnes, the reigning Big Ten freshman of the year, had six sacks and forced three fumbles a year ago and Carter missed three of Penn State's final four games with a wrist injury, yet had 36 catches for 453 yards.

Athlon picked Robinson, Carter and Barnes as first-team all-conference selections.

Urschel and senior defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, who had 22 tackles and forced a fumble in 2012, were second-team picks by Athlon.

Lindy’s magazine picked Urschel and Barnes on their all-conference first-team, with Robinson and Jones on the second team and Carter, Carson and redshirt senior safety Malcolm Willis, who had 45 tackles a year ago, on the third team.

And there is a story in Athlon magazine profiling prized freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg.

The magazine ranks Penn State’s quarterback derby between Hackenberg and junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson as one of the 12 biggest battles in the country.

Athlon also ranked coach Bill O’Brien the third best new coach of a program in 2012, trailing only Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin.

Steele ranked Penn State No. 34 in his preseason poll, Athlon No. 39 and Lindy’s No. 48.

Steele had six Big Ten teams ranked ahead of the Nittany Lions, who open their season Aug. 31 against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Ohio State, which has a soft non-conference schedule, got Steele’s nod at No. 2, followed by No. 16 Nebraska, No. 20 Wisconsin, No. 23 Michigan State, No. 24 Michigan and No. 32 Northwestern.

Steele, though, only ranks the Big Ten as the fourth-best conference in college football, tying with the Atlantic Coast Conference. He ranks the Southeastern Conference No. 1, the Big 12 No. 2 and the Pac-12 No. 3.

“The Big Ten has slipped in the conference rankings due to a lack of national title contenders and poor bowl performances, which includes a 2-13 combined record on New Year's Day in the past three years,” Steele wrote.

“However, it could be in store for a higher finish this year thanks to some advantageous scheduling. Unlike the past few years, Wisconsin and Ohio State, two of the perennial top teams from the Leaders Division, do not play Michigan State and Nebraska, two of the top teams from the Legends Division.

“I have the Buckeyes running the table and playing Alabama for the national title, while Nebraska, Michigan State and Michigan all made my preseason Top 25.”

Cherry the loser, not Malkin

Don Cherry, a hockey commentator for CBC Television in Canada, is a loudmouth who wears loud clothes.

This past week, he told a Boston radio station that Penguins center Evgeni Malkin is a “loser.”

“I wouldn’t give that guy anything,” Cherry said of Malkin, who recently agreed to a new eight-year contract extension worth $76 million with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Granted, Malkin and captain Sidney Crosby, a pair of former NHL MVPs, both flopped in this year’s Eastern Conference finals. Neither produced a point as the Penguins were swept in four games by the Boston Bruins.

Even so, Cherry, known for being obnoxious, was way out of line with his harsh words about Malkin.

“I think he’s a dog, a talented dog,” Cherry said. “He turns it on when he wants to turn it on. He couldn’t play for the Bruins, I'll tell you that.

“You’re going to say, ‘Well, what about (Jaromir) Jagr?’ Jagr’s out there giving every ounce he’s got every time. I don’t know if he can score, but he’s giving every ounce he can. You can’t compare them."

Cherry also said he would not build his team around Malkin, a Russian.

“I wouldn’t have that Malkin,” Cherry said. “I know he’s talented, I know. But to me, he’s a loser, as far as I’m concerned.”

Cherry said his opinion of Crosby, a fellow Canadian, has changed, although Cherry has blistered Crosby in the past.

“When he first came into the league, he was a hot dog, falling down, whining all the time,” Cherry said. “He's a pretty good hockey player. He’s the best hockey player in the world, still, I think.”

Ron Musselman is a freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter@ronmusselman8.