Slade to transfer, signing day news
UNIVERSITY PARK — Ricky Slade came to Penn State as a five-star recruit, but after a tough 2019 season in which he lost his starting job, the sophomore running back appears ready to leave the program.
Slade has entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal, according to published reports Wednesday.
Slade had 214 yards rushing this past season, averaging 4.6 yards per carry on 47 attempts, and scored two touchdowns. His production dipped from his freshman season, when he had 257 yards rushing, six TDs and averaged 5.7 yards per carry.
Both Journey Brown and Noah Cain surpassed Slade on the depth chart, and there had been wide speculation Slade would seek a transfer.
James Franklin discussed the transfer portal during his signing-day news conference Wednesday, although he did not talk about Slade or anyone else specifically. Franklin said the transfer portal “has changed everything” with regards to estimating what the roster and 85 scholarships will look like.
“There’s just a path of least resistance now,” the coach said of players entering the portal.
“I don’t think it’s the right thing for college athletes,” he added. “I don’t think it’s the right thing for our society. I feel like college athletics was one of the few places left where people had to battle through adversity and overcome, and now we’re just like everything else where there’s an easy way out.
“But I get it. I get both arguments. I also think a lot of the people that have strong opinions don’t understand all the other challenges that come with it, and there are so many.”
Quiet signing day
Penn State signed its entire recruiting class on the early signing day in December, so there were no new commits on the traditional signing day Wednesday.
The Nittany Lions finished with the 15th-ranked class, according to 247Sports. Ohio State was No. 5 and Michigan No. 14 from the Big Ten. Georgia beat out Alabama for the No. 1 class, while Clemson was third.
Franklin opened his comments Wednesday by addressing the three coaching staff changes since the end of the season.
“That’s probably the hard part is I view my job as the head coach is to serve our players and serve the staff and helping everybody achieve their dreams, whether that is to graduate, whether that is to get a job on Wall Street, whether that is to go to the NFL, a combination of those things, or whether that’s guys being able to have the opportunity to grow professionally,” Franklin said.
“It’s pretty cool when you look at it,” he noted of the opportunities for the coaches. “Obviously it’s challenging, and I’m not saying I love it. But also it’s cool when you look at. We’ve had two assistants (Joe Moorhead and Ricky Rahne) leave to become head coaches. We’ve had two assistants leave to be offensive coordinators, one assistant now at the NFL in Sean (Spencer).” The latest departure was Spencer last week, as he’s now defensive line coach of the Ne York Giants.
“Sean was kind of one of the few guys left that’s been with me from the beginning, so for me and Brent (Pry), you’re talking about kind of our road dog for 10 years,” the coach said. “We’ve been together for a long time. Sean was great, very up front about the whole situation, and obviously being from the region and his wife being from New York, it just made sense.”
As for not bringing back offensive line coach Matt Limegrover, Franklin didn’t offer any specifics.
“We’re very appreciative of the time that we had, and Coach did a great job. Coach did a great job,” Franklin said. “His family is awesome, all those types of things. But I felt like a change was needed, for a number of reasons that I don’t know if are necessarily appropriate in this setting.”
Kirk Ciarrocca was available to the media for the first time since becoming the Lions’ new offensive coordinator. He said PSU being a Top 10 team and being in contention for a College Football Playoff berth was attractive to him.
“The other thing that I really loved was I felt like Coach (Franklin) has done a great job getting the program there, and they hadn’t done it in a while,” Ciarrocca said. “I felt like I wanted to be a part of something like that. It felt special to me.
“The third thing was the fact that I grew up outside of Harrisburg and grew up as a Penn State fan. A chance to come back and coach at a school that I dreamed about playing at — which I was not good enough to do — it’s really a dream come true.”
Ciarrocca said the coaches have been working at merging his offensive system with what already has been in place at Penn State.
“Taking the things that I’ve noticed they’re already doing here, doing really well, that I think compliment and add to the system of what we’ve done at Minnesota,” he added.
“Ultimately, it’s about what do your players do best? Accentuate their strengths and limit their weaknesses. That’s something I’ve always been able to do, no matter where I coached. I’m excited about doing that here. I love the talent we have here to do that.”
Ciarrocca also was asked about his first impressions of quarterback Sean Clifford.
“I love Sean,” he said. “When I got down to the Cotton Bowl, I’m pretty sure he was the first guy I had a conversation with. As soon as I got out of the car, they were coming out and he saw me, came over and introduced himself.
“We got to talk, and I felt a real connection with him right away. Very intelligent, very hard worker. Absolutely wants to be great and he’s willing to pay the price to accomplish that. Really excited to work with him and help him realize his potential.”
Mum on lawsuits
Franklin and Penn State are defendants in two lawsuits — one by a former team doctor and the other by a former player who has claimed hazing — and the coach was asked about those Wednesday.
“I think we’ve already released statements on those things,” Franklin said. “I think the same statement we had before covers it, as well.”