Mauti determined to keep Nittany Lions upbeat

Associated Press
Penn State football players Michael Mauti and John Urschel, right, sign autographs for fans as part of Big Ten Media Days and Kickoff Luncheon, Friday, July 27, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
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CHICAGO (AP) — Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti said Friday he knows of only two or three players who are planning to leave the Nittany Lions after the severe sanctions imposed earlier this week by the NCAA.

Speaking at Big Ten media day, the senior said the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal isn't the players' fault, but added it's a situation they must deal with. One way he sees to do that is go out and play inspired football under first-year coach Bill O'Brien.

"We didn't want to be in this position," Mauti said. "At the same time we're not going to let anybody tear this program apart."

Mauti did not say specifically who he thought would leave. Asked about star tailback Silas Redd, Mauti says the two have talked and he hopes Redd will make the right decision.

"I spoke with him and his dad. I lived with Silas for a year and a half. Silas and I are very close and I talked to him," Mauti said. "I just hope Silas makes the right decision for him and for the right reasons."

Redd was a second-team All-Big Ten selection last year, when he ran for 1,241 yards in an offense without a star quarterback.

Mauti also made it clear that he didn't appreciate the presence of Illinois coaches in State College this week, even though he acknowledged they were not breaking any rules by being there. Penn State players, under the NCAA sanctions announced Monday, can transfer without sitting out a season.

"They weren't hounding me personally. But I know for a fact they reached out to our players," Mauti said.

"I don't want to make this a feuding thing. But at the same time, if you're from our conference and you're going to try and steal our players and then wish us well, then I got a serious problem with that."

New Illinois coach Tim Beckman said Thursday that his coaches were not on campus but at establishments in State College where they were available to talk to players about their desire to leave.

"Don't get me wrong. He's not breaking any rules because there are no rules," Mauti said. "It's been set up right now for our team to just fall apart ... piece by piece and guys just go everywhere they want because that door is open."

But Mauti said that's not going to happen, even though the Nittany Lions are banned from bowl games the next four years.

"Somebody leaves, it's their decision, a big decision," he said. "We'll wish them well. We're not going to worry about those guys when we put the pads on."

Nittany Lions guard John Urschel, who earned a math degree in just three years, said he's been contacted about leaving, but wouldn't disclose who was interested. He said a lot of players have been contacted by a lot of schools.

"Everyone's getting calls. We've got some really good players on our team. We're all just trying to stick together," he said. "Coming out of high school, I didn't get much attention or get many offers. I believe I owe it to Penn State to stay here and finish my career. I'm in 100 percent. Penn State has been too good to me."

Defensive tackle Jordan Hill said he never gave a thought to leaving.

"Nah," he said.

And being cast as the team who has to play after the imposition of sanctions is not what the team is dwelling on with fall camp starting early next month.

"What matters to us is how we fought through it. For us, that's all we'll ever think about," Hill said. "We'll get together when we're old guys and we're not going to talk about the sanctions and how bad that was, we're going to talk about how we fought through it and how we went out there and kicked people's butts."

Mauti said he'd read the Freeh report and didn't want to elaborate on its findings.

"No one (current player) had anything to do with that, but, yeah, we're paying the consequences and that's OK," he said. "That's the situation we're in. ... We're looking to create a new legacy here, something special."

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