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December 12, 2013

Take Three: Senior banquet, Return to Rec & Troy Apke

In "Take Three", a new weekly feature, BWI's Tim Owen will examine a grab bag of three Penn State-related news topics.

To begin, Owen comments on Penn State's Senior Awards Banquet Sunday, the basketball team's Return To Rec on Saturday, and an under-the-radar wide receiver who is verbally committed to Penn State.


Sunday is the Senior Awards Banquet at The Penn Stater hotel. With coaches and families in attendance, it'll be the last goodbye to the 17 graduating seniors. The State College Quarterback Club, the host of the event, will also honor the Nittany Lions' top senior.

At this event last year, Michael Mauti was presented with the Outstanding Senior Player Award. Obviously he was the clear-cut winner, but for 2013, the winner doesn't seem as certain. Offensive guard John Urschel will be a heavy favorite for the obvious reasons. Glenn Carson has been a stalwart at middle linebacker since his freshman season and deserves consideration, while defensive tackle DaQuan Jones has quietly built the best NFL resume of them all.

I'm interested to hear who you think deserves the award, but my pick goes to No. 91. Urschel and Carson have left their mark at Penn State, but Jones will be the most difficult to replace on the field.

Most recently, Jones, a 2013 co-captain, accepted an invite to play in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 25, further illustrating the fact that, on the field, he was the most outstanding member of the 2013 senior class.

Jordan Hill was a third-round NFL draft selection last year, as well as a Senior Bowl pick, and Jones matched Hill's senior season production. Hill battled a knee injury throughout his final season, while Jones was nagged by back and shoulder injuries. If he's healthy enough to impress scouts at the Senior Bowl -- with his combination of size and power -- I wouldn't be surprised to see Jones drafted late in the first round or early second round in April.



There's a pretty big basketball game this weekend. On Saturday, the men's basketball team (8-3) makes its "Return to Rec" as it hosts Princeton (7-1) in Rec Hall for a 2 p.m. tipoff. The game will be aired live on the Big Ten Network, and I hope the place fills to the rafters.

As many of you know, I'm at Rec Hall for every wrestling match, and when full, that place helps generate an atmosphere, an ear-deafening buzz, that is unmatched by the Bryce Jordan Center.

As of Thursday morning at 10 a.m., there were still 300 standing-room-only tickets remaining for Return to Rec. Either way, it'll be a full house, but it still could be fuller.

I remember the press conference in July when Penn State first told the public that it'll return to play a game in Rec. I specifically remember Patrick Chambers' plea to sell out the event.

"Fans please come out. Alum please come out," Chambers said. "Let's make this a special event that this country will be very envious of. Let's make this something that Penn Staters have never seen in all their years of coming to Penn State basketball. That's my plea to the fans."

The wrestling team has maxed that place out for 12 matches in a row, and Sunday's vs. Ohio State should make it 13. That's not to mention how they sold out the BJC last week -- although I'm here to tell you that there was a mess of empty seats at the BJC Dual. An icy snowstorm across the Mid-Atlantic will do that.

This weekend, weather permitting, the least Penn State fans could do is help sell Rec Hall out for one basketball game. Chambers' prediction of having the best back court in the country, with Tim Frazier and DJ Newbill, is quietly coming to a reality. So get a close-up look Saturday at Rec Hall.



If you haven't done it yet, watch Troy Apke's senior highlights. A three-star wide receiver, Apke committed to Penn State in April and has since flew under the radar of four-star receiver commitments of Chris Godwin and De'Andre Thompkins. Hudl came out with game-by-game clips under premium highlights at this link, and after watching all of them, I think Apke might be the gem of this deep receiver class.

Apke played receiver and free safety for Mr. Lebanon (3-6) in Pittsburgh. As you'll see in his highlights, he excelled at both. He makes some instinctive plays along the goal line on defense. On offense, he makes a few pause-and-rewind catches. And in almost every clip, Apke is the fastest player on the field.

Apke also brings versatility. In the first play of his highlights vs. Canon-McMillan, he takes a toss sweep 51 yards for a touchdown. And at the :54 mark of the game vs. Woodland Hills, he makes an incredible one-handed reception in coverage.

But, to me, the most revealing play of Apke's highlight reel begins at the 1:33 mark of Mt. Lebanon's game vs. Penns Hills. After Apke's quarterback fumbled the ball, and a Penns Hills defender scooped it up and began running for a touchdown, Apke tracked him down from behind. With long strides like Wisconsin receiver Jared Abbrederis, Apke outraced every player on the field to tackle the ball carrier 25 yards shy of a score.

That play not only showed his top-end speed -- the kind of speed Bill O'Brien needs if he's going to compete with the likes of Ohio State -- but also his determination and competitive drive.


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