Penn State Football

What Penn State football’s last remaining 2018 captain said about transfer-filled offseason

McSorley doesn’t want to put a ceiling on the next group of players

Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley talks about the younger players talent after the Citrus Bowl.
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Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley talks about the younger players talent after the Citrus Bowl.

Trace McSorley competed in a skills competition in Dallas, and safety Nick Scott trained at XPE Sports in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Meanwhile, Blake Gillikin — the only 2018 captain left on campus — spent his Monday addressing the state of Penn State’s program.

Gillikin, James Franklin’s starting punter, was on-hand at the Morgan Academic Center on Monday night, taking part in Penn State’s annual academic celebration. The Academic All-American rode a fork lift up the wall and revealed a 90 percent graduate success rate for student-athletes through the 2018 fall semester. He was there, along with Penn State president Eric Barron and athletic director Sandy Barbour, to recognize the university’s 204 Academic All-Americans and 6,329 Academic All-Big Ten honorees.

After the ceremony wrapped up, Gillikin — a rising senior and returning leader — talked football. And in doing so, he became the first Penn State football player or coach to speak with the media about the transfer portal headlines that have consumed the offseason.

“It’s difficult to see guys leave. It’s kind of the nature of college football at this point, just the landscape of it,” Gillikin told the CDT. “I think we have a really good leadership group on our team right now. Maybe guys who weren’t leaders on the team last year but have stepped up into that spotlight. I think guys are responding to it really well.”

Since the end of the regular season, 12 Penn State players have declared their intent to transfer. DE Torrence Brown (Southern Miss), TE Danny Dalton (Boston College), LB Jarvis Miller (UMass), DB Isaiah Humphries (Cal), OL Alex Gellerstedt (Virginia), LB Dae’Lun Darien (Delaware), LB Brelin Faison-Walden (Charlotte) and OL Sterling Jenkins (Duquense) have confirmed their next landing spot. WR Juwan Johnson, WR Brandon Polk, DB Zech McPhearson and DB Ayron Monroe have yet to announce their next move.

Franklin, who last spoke to the media immediately following the Citrus Bowl, has not addressed the outgoing transfers.

Other schools have been affected by transfers, too. But the sheer number of departures — combined with five early entrants to the NFL draft — have made this offseason a frustrating one for Penn State fans.

But Gillikin kept a level head when discussing the roster attrition.

“Every situation is different,” the punter said. “Guys move on every year for different reasons, and I think most of our guys have graduated and made that decision for themselves.”

That’s true. Ten of the 12 confirmed transfers either have their undergraduate degrees already or will be securing them in the spring.

“The new rules have changed stuff. The portal has changed how stuff is handled,” Gillikin added. “But we’re trying to put all that stuff behind us and focus on our offseason work.”

Gillikin isn’t alone in making that push, either. While McSorley and Scott aren’t there in the Lasch Building to speak up, others have filled their shoes.

Gillikin said a “core group” of leaders, including quarterback Tommy Stevens, safety Garrett Taylor, linebacker Cam Brown, cornerback John Reid and offensive linemen Michal Menet, Steven Gonzalez and Will Fries, have stepped up this offseason.

And Gillikin said that they’re all looking forward to starting spring practice in March — even if the roster is a little lighter than it was in December.

“It’s tough when you’re not playing football for a month,” the punter added with a smile. “We’re really excited for it.”

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