With each passing week, the nightmare in Happy Valley unbelievably keeps getting worse. The revelations kept pouring out, the statue was removed on Sunday, and then yesterday, the NCAA dropped the guillotine on the head of Penn State football. That part of the state is more like Death Valley.
When it comes to this mess, I'm maintaining my stance from last week - not touching it. I can only imagine how despondent I'd be if this was happening to our beloved Blue & Gold, so I'm not about to hop on a holier-than-thou pedestal. But the sanctions passed down by Mark Emmert on Tuesday do have a direct impact on Pitt football. This week's shooting star and depressing dog are after the jump.
In light of the punishments meted out by the NCAA, Penn State players are unquestionably going to be leaving to play at other schools. Who can blame them. With a four year bowl ban and a decrease in scholarships, the future looks bleak for the Nittany Lions. Not exactly the type of environment where a blue-chip recruit dreaming about the NFL will be propelled to success. Yesterday Bryan wrote an excellent piece about the imminent exodus of players from Penn State and how Pitt could benefit. As he points out, even if the NCAA doesn't lift the cap on roster scholarships, Pitt is currently six under its scholarship limit for next season. That's at least six open slots on the Panthers roster where some current Penn State players would look mighty fine. The class of 2013, just entering their senior years of high school, is probably the most likely to deflect since they still have yet to even sign a letter of intent. The most notable of those players, as Bryan points out, OL Dorian Johnson.
Dorian Johnson, OL, Belle Vernon, PA - Obvious target #1. The elite offensive tackle from Fayette County slipped away from Pitt after a great visit to Penn State. That Pitt was the runner up from Johnson should mean that he's Pitt's to lose. He also visited Columbus before his commitment, so look for Ohio State to get back in the mix.
A few players, in addition to Johnson, who intrigue me are former Pitt commits Bill Belton and Ben Kline. Both were committed to the Panthers in 2010, but reneged once Dave Wannstedt was fired. Belton, especially, was a highly-regarded four-star recruit who you'd think would strongly consider returning to his original school of choice. Bryan also points out some top WPIAL talent that Pitt missed out on a few years back who could potentially return home in lineman Miles Dieffenbach and linebacker Mike Hull. I'd bet that once the first few transfers are announced the floodgates will open and guys will start moving all around. For those who opt to stick it out, I salute their unwavering pride in their school. For those who leave, I hope Pitt is it.
Bear (downward trending): Former Pitt CB Aaron Berry
After a respectful career at Pitt, Berry signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Lions in 2010. He's back in the news, for the wrong reasons.
Berry was charged with three counts of simple assault for allegedly pointing a gun at three people from a car. This happened less than one full day after Berry entered a diversion program for first-time offenders, based on a DUI arrest that happened after witnesses saw his BMW hit two parked cars.
Nice. As the article points out, this is the 29th arrest of an NFL player this offseason, so it's not something entirely out of the ordinary. Second arrest in less than a month, though? C'mon, man. Not only is that embarrassing for Berry, but it cost him his shot on the team, as he was cut yesterday. Just a bad situation involving a former Pitt player. I don't know if Berry is good enough to land with another team, but you'd have to think his chances aren't very good. His stock: falling.