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Penn State’s “Emmert Curse” claims another victim at Florida State

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Florida State tight end Kevin Haplea will miss the 2013 season after suffering a torn ACL, the school confirmed on Thursday. According to a report published by Orlando Sentinel, Haplea suffered the ACL tear in an off-season workout this week and will hope to return at full strength in 2014.

EDIT: As John Infante points out, I was initially inaccurate on the medical waiver situation. I’ll allow him to explain…

Haplea was one of a number of players to transfer from Penn State last summer after the NCAA allowed all players under scholarship to transfer wherever they wished without having to sit out a year under normal NCAA transfer rules. The transfer exemption was a follow-up to the heavy sanctions levied against the program following the release of the Freeh Report, an investigative report in to the university’s mishandling of the criminal and sickening acts of Jerry Sandusky. With the NCAA banning the Nittany Lions from postseason play for four seasons and reducing the number of available scholarships, it was only right to allow any player to pursue a new opportunity because nobody had envisioned this as a possibility when they initially signed with Penn State.

Haplea was one of eight players to initially transfer out of the program. Unfortunately, for the most part, those who transferred have not exactly had a rewarding experience once leaving Penn State. With Haplea suffering a torn ACL, some are suggesting there is a curse to those who left Penn State, dubbing it The Emmert Curse, in reference to NCAA President Mark Emmert. I don’t generally believe in curses, but I figured this would be worth taking a deeper look at to see if there really is anything to it.

Let’s take a look.

RB Silas Redd, USC


Perhaps the most important player Penn State lost was running back Silas Redd. Fresh off of a 1,241-yard season in 2011, Redd was to be one of the key players for Penn State entering the 2012 season. Instead, Redd decided to join USC for a shot at a national championship with the likes of Matt Barkley, Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and more. The Trojans were already prime to enter the year as a BCS favorite with a lofty preseason ranking, and the addition of Redd figured to beef up the Trojans’ running game.

Unfortunately for Redd things did not quite go to plan in Los Angeles. Redd worked through a shoulder injury early on and an ankle concern later in the season but still managed to lead USC in rushing with 905 yards and nine touchdowns. This spring Redd had to undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus that kept him out for the remainder of spring football. This fall, Redd now a senior, USC is a far cry from a BCS title contender after going 7-6 with a loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl last season. The national championship dream may be out of the picture, but Redd could still be a bright spot for the Trojans in 2013 as he works to improve on his potential NFL profile.

QB Rob Bolden, LSU

Rob Bolden had started the year as Penn State’s starting quarterback in 2010 and 2011 but he struggled to develop behind a shaky offensive line and rarely had time to think, which led to some erratic play in the field at times. Bolden arrived at Penn State as a highly rated quarterback but without the kind of coaching a guy like Bill O’Brien and (Penn State QB coach) Charlie Fisher could offer, Bolden never truly developed in his first two seasons.

At LSU Bolden has yet to get a chance to run the offense, sitting behind Zach Mettenberger last season. Mettenberger will be the starting QB at LSU gain this season and Bolden may have to beat out Stephen Rivers for back-up duty in Baton Rouge.

QB Paul Jones, Robert Morris

Former five-star quarterback Paul Jones never met some of the early hype he brought to State College and a potential position switch to tight end never really panned out under O’Brien’s system. He decided to return closer to his home in western Pennsylvania with a transfer to Robert Morris, where he watched his new school upset Kentucky in the NIT. A return to the FBS is always possible, and I would not be shocked if Pittsburgh becomes an option at some point.

QB Steven Bench, South Florida

Bench is the most recent transfer out of Penn State, with the decision being made following spring football. Bench was likely to be on the outside looking in on the quarterback competition this fall in State College, with JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson and incoming freshman Christian Hackenberg going head-to-head. At South Florida Bench will likely step in as the starter under center. The jury is clearly still out on this move, as Bench will be just a sophomore this fall.

WR Justin Brown, Oklahoma

AP Photo

Of all of the players to transfer from Penn State, Brown appears to have had the most fortunate second chance at Oklahoma. Brown went from being the top receiver to a complimentary player, and that role appeared to fit him very well on the same field as Kenny Stills in Norman. Brown ended the season with a career high 879 yards and five touchdowns, at times causing Penn State fans to question where this level of play came from. Brown actually managed to graduate with a Penn State degree despite his transfer. Apparently being able to graduate with a Penn State degree was important to Brown, who also got to play in the Cotton Bowl with the Sooners.

WR Devon Smith, Marshall

Penn State’s second leading receiving threat, the speedy Devon Smith, also left State College before the start of the season with rumors of being thrown off the team. Smith had gotten in to trouble with drug-related charges in the spring. Despite being allowed by the NCAA to play in 2012 at Marshall, Smith sat out the 2012 season in Huntington in order to preserve a year of eligibility while Marshall appeared set at receiver in 2012. Smith actually left Penn State before the NCAA sanctions were issued but was able to play immediately if needed.

DB Derrick Thomas, Marshall

Joining Devon Smith at Marshall in June 2012 was defensive back Derrick Thomas. Unlike Smith, Thomas did receive playing time right away in 2012 but mostly in back-up duties for the Thundering Herd. Depth at defensive back was a bit of a concern for Penn State heading in to the 2012 season. Thomas was expected to compete for a starting job in State College if he had chosen to stay.

WR Shawney Kersey, Marshall

Penn State was dealt with a bit of a concern at receiver depth early in the 2012 season. With Brown already in Oklahoma, Shawney Kersey was the most experienced receiver on the roster for the fall. Only he did not last too long either. Kersey was officially reported to leave the team for personal reasons just weeks in to the 2012 season but there had been talk of not getting along with the coaching staff or teammates as well that was causing a strain in practices. Kersey joins Marshall this season and should become a starter right away considering the lack of depth the Thundering Herd had at receiver following the 2012 season.

K Anthony Fera, Texas

As it turned out, the transfer of kicker and punter Anthony Fera may have been the most crucial to Penn State, at least in the early going in the 2012 season. Special teams was a disaster for the Nittany Lions at the start of the year as Fera took advantage of his transfer option to move to Texas, where he could be closer to family in a time of need.

Fera played in just six games for the Longhorns in 2012, converting two of four field goal attempts and 23 of 25 extra point attempts. Fera suffered a groin injury prior to the season’s first kickoff.

LB Khairi Fortt, Cal

Although Penn State players were given the option of transferring without sitting out a season, linebacker Khairi Fortt actually did red shirt at Cal last season thanks to a knee injury causing him to miss the 2012 season. Fortt was a promising linebacker recruit at Penn State and figures to help Cal’s defense in 2013 as he looks to be healthy and ready to go.

TE Kevin Haplea, Florida State

Haplea played in all 13 games for Florida State in 2013 but was used primarily as a blocker. At the end of the season Haplea recorded three catches for 15 yards and a touchdown. Entering the 2013 season Haplea figured to continue to provide solid blocking at the tight end position but perhaps also taking on an increased role in the passing game. With a torn ACL costing him the 2013 season, he will have to hope to come back in 2014 at full strength. The loss also poses a depth issue for Florida State at tight end.

S Tim Buckley, North Carolina State

Another case of a player taking advantage of the lifted transfer restrictions in order to return closer to home. Buckley added some depth on the roster in the defensive backfield but with the Wolfpack pretty set at the position Buckley was left on the sidelines in his first season in Raleigh. Buckley was the first player to transfer from Penn State since the NCAA sanctions hit.

OL Ryan Nowicki, Illinois

Illinois was among the most aggressive programs in recruiting Penn State players, but they only managed to pluck a reserve offensive lineman in Ryan Nowicki. Illinois was shallow on the offensive line last season so Nowicki was added for depth. The Illini had one of their more miserable seasons, going just 2-10. Illinois was also trounced by Penn State at home in a bit of a statement game for the Nittany Lions.

OL Khamrone Kolb, Fordham

Khamrone Kolb was not listed on Bill O’Brien’s first depth chart of the summer in June 2012, so his transfer is not much of a shock. At Fordham Kolb was reported to be getting much more playing time for the Rams, who went 6-5 last season.

DL Jamil Pollard, Rutgers

Pollard was recruited by Penn State in the Class of 2012 but was quick to act on a decision to move to Rutgers. The New Jersey product had a chance to stay at home but red-shirted for the Scarlet Knights last season as Rutgers was pretty deep on defense. Pollard actually committed to Penn state twice, needing to improve his grades to win back his scholarship offer from the school. He also made the decision to flip to Rutgers early after the NCAA allowed the lifting of transfer rules.

So is there a curse?

As I said before, I do not believe in curses but some of the early results are rather interesting for the narrative. Silas Redd seeks a national title and loses to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. Anthony Fera and Kevin Haplea suffer injuries. A handful of players red shirt when they may have gotten some early playing time at Penn State.

Remember that these decisions all come down to personal preference. College football players rarely are given a second opportunity to freely change their environment and perhaps their prospects on the field. While the NCAA may have gone overboard with their handling of Penn State (debatable), allowing players a chance to seek a new, fresh opportunity was the right thing to do. It is not my place to determine if the decisions these players made turned out to be good or bad calls, nor is it your place to do so either. Only these players will know for sure.

For many it is also too early to suggest if there is a curse or not anyway.

About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
KevinOnCFB moderator

I realize there are a couple of players I may have missed here. There are a couple players no longer associated with the team but remain on scholarship as well. I did not include them intentionally.