Star tailback Silas Redd has bolted Penn State for Southern California.
The 1,200-yard rusher opted Tuesday to leave a Nittany Lions program facing heavy NCAA sanctions handed down because of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Among the penalties was a four-year post-season ban.
The NCAA gave Penn State players the option to transfer immediately and play for another school this year. Redd visited USC over the weekend and heard coach Lane Kiffin's pitch to be a key cog for a Trojans team expected to be highly ranked and contend for the Pac-12 title. The junior with the dazzling spin move will have two years of eligibility.
Redd became the second player to leave Penn State for a new program since the sanctions were announced July 23. The other was backup safety Tim Buckley, who joined North Carolina State on Monday.
Penn State said later Tuesday that tight end Kevin Haplea was also no longer with the team. It was unclear where the junior, who started one game last year, was headed. And then, there is the case of Rob Bolden, the backup quarterback, who was dropped from the roster as well. LSU has shown interest in Bolden, but he's yet to choose a destination.
But Redd, by far, is the most significant loss. He joins a program that is not unfamiliar with NCAA discipline. The Trojans, too, have been sanctioned by the NCAA — for rules violations committed during the 2004 and '05 seasons.
"We welcome Silas Redd to the Trojan Family," USC athletic director Pat Haden said in a statement. "He is an outstanding student and athlete."
"At USC, we've seen both sides of this issue, having lost a number of players to transfer due to our NCAA sanctions in 2010. But Lane Kiffin and his coaches would not be doing their job if they did not try to improve our team every single day. There is a specific need here for a player like Silas Redd, so Lane and our coaches recruited him within the guidelines set up in this instance by the NCAA."
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien and his staff have been working hard to keep the team together despite the sanctions. But Redd was his best offensive player on a team that will have a new offence patterned after the scheme run at O'Brien's previous employer, the New England Patriots.
O'Brien said last week at Big Ten media days in Chicago that he didn't anticipate losing any core players. It took less than a week for that to change.
Now, O'Brien may have to rely on a converted wideout, sophomore Bill Belton, to carry the load at tailback.
Most players interviewed after a rally and voluntary workout early Tuesday morning said they hoped Redd and others would stick around, but would honour their decisions regardless.
"Each player came here for different reasons and with different objectives," tight end Garry Gilliam said. "When it comes down to it, I'd like them to stay, but if they don't I'll respect their decisions."
Penn State opens training camp on Aug. 6. The season opener is Sept. 1 vs. Ohio at home.