Medical issue forces Zembiec to leave football

UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State quarterback Jake Zembiec announced Tuesday that his football career is over due to an unspecified injury.

Zembiec was a three-star recruit out of Rochester, N.Y., who redshirted in 2016 and didn’t see any action last year. He posted the following on his Twitter account:

“I am extremely saddened to announce that I have accepted a medical scholarship due to an ongoing injury. I will not be suiting up for my last two seasons as a Penn State football player. I want to thank my family as well as my Penn State brothers and coaches for supporting my decision.

“I look forward to having a new role and perspective on the team, offering my knowledge of our offense and leadership as a third-year student-athlete. I cannot wait to celebrate the many victories and championships to come. Thank you to all Penn Staters for welcoming me into the family and helping me earn a meaningful degree and put blue & white in my blood forever!”

Zembiec competed with Sean Clifford for the third-string quarterback job, with Clifford pulling ahead in the competition over the past year. Offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne said Saturday that Clifford has continued to progress well.

“I was really extremely pleased with Sean Clifford,” Rahne said. “He approached the summer the way he should. He was very business-like. He got bigger, faster, stronger, but based on what he did (Friday), and the questions he’s been asking in meetings and things like that, he also took a very mental approach to the summer and made some major strides there, too, which I was very pleased about.”

Be like Mike

The Nittany Lions face a big question mark trying to replace Mike Gesicki at tight end. Nick Bowers and Jonathan Holland are competing for the top spot, along with two true freshmen — Pat Freiermuth and Zack Kuntz.

“I would say, first of all, they have had a major upgrade in coaching, so that’s been a positive statement there,” Rahne, the tight ends coach last year, joked about his replacement. “Coach (Tyler) Bowen is a great football coach, scheme and technique. That’s been a great deal for us.”

As for the individuals competing for the job, Rahne didn’t offer any specifics.

“It’s always going to be hard to replace a guy like Mike,” Rahne said of Gesicki, a second-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins. “You watch the clips coming out of Dolphins camp right now, and he’s making all these one-handed catches and these guys are amazed. And I’m like, yeah, like I wrote on Twitter the other day, I don’t know if that makes the top 20 (catches) I’ve seen. It’s hard to replace that.?”Where I think I can replace that, though, is a group effort. Every single guy who went in there yesterday and as I can envision them going in there, I see productivity and I see guys who can play in the Big Ten. I think that we have a very high level tight end group and I’m very excited about it.”

LB Johnson in mix

The Lions have a hole at middle linebacker, and while Manny Bowen might end up there eventually after being allowed back on the team, senior Jan Johnson figures to be in the mix for the spot.

Johnson hasn’t played a great deal in his career, but he’s been around a long time and knows defensive coordinator Brent Pry’s schemes.

“I’m a big Jan Johnson fan,” Pry said. “You know, his story would be somewhat similar to (former walk-on Brandon Smith’s). Jan is very physical, tough. Has done a great job of growing into the position. You know, he’s certainly in the thick of things.?”I’m not in a hurry to decide (about the middle spot) to be honest right now. I’m not sure at any of the three spots at linebacker how that is going to take shape. I know we’ve got some great candidates. I love the competition right now. I’m going to roll guys through different spots and you know, after a week or two, we’ll take a closer look. But right now, it’s just getting reps and having a chance to evaluate these guys and continue to get them better.”

Journey appearance?

Redshirt freshman Journey Brown has world-class speed, and he could find himself getting opportunities returning kicks.

“He hits a crease, he’s gone,” special teams coordinator Phil Galiano said. “There’s no one that’s going to catch him, so that excites me. And how physical and how strong he is. One of the things you’re looking for in a kick returner that you’re look is a guy that’s able to hit a hole and break tackles, and he’s a big, physical, strong, fast runner, which excites you.”

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