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Penn State Football Is Back, This Is Not A Fluke: Player Interviews

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Key players discuss the Rose Bowl and Penn State football.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Allen, Jr. Safety

On his status in declaring for the NFL draft:

I asked for (a draft status evaluation) just to see where I stand in the NFL. That's all I did. I haven’t heard back yet. I still haven't gone over it with my family yet, but we're still constantly talking. But as of right now, we're just strictly Rose Bowl. That's all I'm focused on.”

What it was like stepping into a leadership role with the linebacker injuries:

I would say it was because when you have a couple of your veteran linebackers down off of injury, it's a lot of pressure on you to like have everybody gather around you, and also because you have like kind of the most experience on the "D."

But then again, it's a relief because the guys that are stepping up, they know what they're doing. They study the game. They pay attention in meetings, and they're very great guys.”

On Koa Farmer, the product of SoCal that is stepping in to fill the latest linebacker void:

“It's pretty cool. He's going to have a lot of playing experience out here on the field in his hometown. His family gets to see him play some more. But you got to understand, you've seen him throughout the season balling, getting sacks, making fumbles. Every time he makes a big play, hits you with a shot, you know what I mean? I have a lot of confidence in Koa because he already showed it on the field.”

He's a character. He's a funny character. Like that's my brother right there. But if you had been around him, he makes the whole room light up, you know. He'll crack a joke here and there, but like you see how big he is, but you expect him to be all like, hey. But he got a soft, light voice, like my voice is deeper than his.

Jason Cabinda, Jr. Linebacker

On the suspensions of Manny Bowen and Saeed Blacknall:

Yeah, we've been through a lot of adversity this year. Obviously, we've had guys go down and it's kind of that same type of situation. That's kind of the approach we're taking at this point. Guys are going to have to step up. Kind of just how it's been, all year. Guys are going to have to step up. Guys are going to have new opportunities to play this game and show up and step up for us. Unfortunate situation obviously but guys are going to have to step up and fill those shoes.

Obviously, it's just disappointing. Those guys really want to play. It's an opportunity they are missing out on, no doubt. But at some point, it's something you have to move on from and prepare, knowing that we're not going to have them. Simple as that.”

His decision to return to the team next season:

I just felt like it's the right thing for me to do and I thought it was in the best interests for me. Obviously, make sure I have my degree, as well and I get to play for Penn State for a whole 'nother year. Not a lot more to say than that. I love playing here and I love this place to death. I'm really excited to be able to come back.

I was always pretty sure I was coming back for the most part. To me, coming to school was about getting my education and making sure I had my degree and that's something I don't have

at this point in time.

I was like 95 percent sure I was coming back. So for me, I just felt like, you know, today, I was ready to kind of make that announcement and really commit to it.

When you have an opportunity to be a part of something special like gunning for a National Championship, all those kinds of things, that's absolutely a factor in being able to come back and play another year, for sure.

Yeah, for me, obviously it's family, parents, it's coaches, teammates, all those kinds of things. For me, I was already pretty sure that I was going to stay. But for me, I just felt like I needed to wait until I felt 100 percent committed to that decision and today I really felt like that.”

His view of USC:

I think from a talent aspect, they are up there with the best of them. They have got really good receivers, big receivers. I don't think we've played receivers as big as USC has, big possession receivers, make big catches. Very good quarterback, in my opinion, a red-shirt freshman. Definitely not playing like a freshman. He's out there and he's really controlled that offense and he's kind of led the way for that offense.

Obviously that O-line, very big O-Line, big, strong, athletic guys, guys that can really move. Their No. 73 at right tackle, he's just humongous. It's going to be a good challenge. Good backs, obviously the type of backs you would expect to see from a place like USC; you have Ronald Jones and those guys. It's going to be a tough challenge, but we're up to it and we're excited.

I think they have a very controlled passing game, intermediate routes, short routes. They like to get the ball into their play-makers' hands and kind of get going. A lot of YACs, yards after catch, all those kinds of things. Very good receivers, JuJu [Smith-Schuster], No. 1, as well. They are good receivers.

Their quarterback, you know, quick release, strong arm, he's accurate. He moves around better than you want him to. I think he's kind of been their game changer. When he came in during the mid-season and took over, I think since then, they have just been on a roll with this guy and impressed with him, as well.

Obviously O-line, big, strong and athletic. They move really well. You know, 73, he's like huge, I. Think he's 6-9, 360.

We so are going to have some challenges. Their running backs, very similar to the type of running back you would expect to see out of a USC team. They are a very talented team and we are excited for the challenge.”

His view of the Penn State team next season:

The future of this program is going in the right direction. We're going to have a lot of guys back, a lot of new, young talent coming in, as well.

I think we are going to be able to – now we have a bit of a formula. We had that off-season formula of kind of how we get here and now everybody can say we won a Big Ten Championship but nobody in the room can say they have won a National Championship. That's obviously going to be the goal and at that point, it's going to be, all right, no one's won this; now we have a new formula. We have to work even harder than we did this past off-season, because we didn't achieve that this year, you know what I'm saying.

It's all about building on what you did last year and what you did the week before, the day before, all those kinds of things.”

Describing What Marcus Allen Brings To The Table:

Energy. A ton of energy. He's a leader out there in that secondary. Brings the toughness and comes down and hits guys and not afraid to hit anybody. Brings all those kinds of things toour defense and energy, pumping up the crowd, all those kinds of things, I think is really critical. He's a critical piece and obviously he's made a ton of huge plays for us, really season-changing plays for us: That fourth and one stop against Wisconsin; the block kick against Ohio State. He's done a lot for us and we wouldn't be where we are today without him.

Oh, yeah, that guy, he's always got a smile on his face. He's one of the more sillier guys, fun guys. But when it's time to lock in, he does that. I think that's how it is with a lot of guys on the team. You start to see guys' character and personalities and stuff like that but when it comes to business, they lock inand that's really important. That's what he's about. He's a fun guy, always laughing, silly, likes to make people laugh, all those kinds of things.

John Reid, Soph. Cornerback

On the announcement that Jason Cabinda will return to PSU next season:

It's great, because you know, he's a big part of the defense. He's a leader, very vocal. Just the command he has over certain parts of the defense and the defense as a whole, it's been great. He always knows what he's doing. He watches a lot of film.

He works really hard and everybody has trust in him, so when he makes a call, boom, that's it, that's the call we're going with. There is no questions. We may talk about it on the sideline but when we're in the midst of the game and everybody is on the field, we trust what he's seeing and the calls he's going to make from it.”

Studying USC:

The way I watch – it depends. The way I watch film is I watch it in cut-ups. So I'll watchful games to see how tempo is, to see how guys are playing and see what it's like for each player during certain plays, how did they play in the first and how did they play in the second quarter. But a lot of times, I break it down in cut ups and things like that, third downs, situational football and things like that, when I'm watching guys.

Most likely I'll be watching every game throughout their whole entire season. I'll be noticing who is in personnel and things like that. That I'll definitely take into account.”

The Rose Bowl Experience:

Disneyland was fun. It was I think some guys, first time riding roller coasters and stuff. It was exciting, get to be with the team as a whole throughout the day, was really fun. Preparing for today, just locking in.

We're pretty much ready to begin the actual prep for the game. We've done a fair amount of it already, but now that we're here in L.A., to start that game prep again, it's been great. Everybody was really locked in today at practice. Just getting back to it.

I'm just kind of happy to be here. Grew up wanting to go play in the Rose Bowl Game. Never been on the West Coast. First time being in California, Los Angeles. I'm just happy to be here. I'm actually glad that it's hot but and there's no humidity. You can actually breathe out here.”

Evan Schwan, Sr. Defensive End

The challenge of facing USC’s skill positions:

They have really big, physical wide receivers. Their quarterback obviously has a really good arm and can stretch plays. Their offensive line is massive, especially their right tackle, who I'm going to be going up against. He's like 6'9", 360 pounds. It's going to be a fun day, and we're just going to have to play good fundamentals. Their running backs are another group that do a very, very, very good job, and they're big backs and they're tough to take down, so it's just going to all come back to playing fundamentals and getting those guys down.”

About perceptions of the team nationwide:

Yeah, it's been a long season. We've made it here, and there's still people that are doubting us, calling the season a fluke season. Winning 11 games isn't a fluke. Winning the Big Ten Championship and being down by 21 points going into half against a really good Wisconsin team and coming back and winning, that's not a fluke. You know, what do we have to prove? That Penn State is back.”

On the leader of the defense, Brent Pry:

Coach Pry is a really good dude. I wish he could hear me right now. He's just a really good coach, motivates you, but is always 100-percent honest. He always critiques when we're watching film, he critiques the performance, not the performer. He doesn't make it personal. And I think that's a really good quality to have in your coach, because you never want to make it personal because the players always think, oh, this guy hates me. But outside of football, you know, he has good taste in music. He's a big Allman Brothers fan, so any time that comes on at practice, I always yell like, Pry. He's like, yeah. He's a really good guy. I'm blessed to be able to be coached by him.”

For those of you younger folks, here is an Allman Brothers Classic that was written by Gregg Allman shortly after his twentieth birthday. This version is 18 minutes shorter than the ‘At Fillmore East’ performance that was a 1970’s staple around fire-pit beer parties. This is the sound that coach Pry hears in his head as he is leading the PSU defense.