Silas Redd finally returned to action last week, playing for USC for the first time this season because of a knee injury suffered in the spring.
But he didn't take the field for Lane Kiffin, the former Trojans coach who infamously boasted that he rounded up his coaching staff in a Mercedes jet last summer to recruit Redd away from Penn State.
Kiffin was fired last month at an airport a few hours after losing to Arizona State. Interim coach Ed Orgeron was at the helm when Redd made his 2013 debut.
All of this is to say that for many of Penn State's departed players, life has still been pretty strange even after transferring away from the scandal and sanctions that rocked Happy Valley.
Some left for a chance to win a championship or play in a bowl game. Others for a fresh start and more playing. A few were dismissed from the team outright. Here's a look at all of the scholarship players who have left the Nittany Lions since Bill O'Brien took over in 2012.
2013 stats: 22-52, 324 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
• After being edged out by Tyler Ferguson during spring practice, Bench was on track to be Penn State's third-stringer this fall, leading to his transfer. As a newcomer at USF, however, he opened the 2012 campaign as a third-stringer anyway. After the Bulls' wretched 0-3 start, losing to FCS McNeese State and Florida Atlantic, Bench got the start against nationally ranked Miami, going 13-of-27 for 189 yards and a touchdown. That was his lone start, however, as Bobby Eveld has been under center for wins over Cincinnati and UConn with Bench as the No. 2.
2013 stats: Has not played
• Bolden was on his way out of Penn State even before the sanctions hit. Though he was eligible to play right away, he redshirted for the Tigers in 2012. He almost certainly won't see the field for the powerhouse Tigers in 2013, either. Bolden is, at best, the team's fourth-string quarterback and does not appear on the team's depth chart. Bolden has one year of eligibility left after this, but two of the three guys ahead of him are in line to return next season. Unless he transfers to an FCS school for his final season, his football career may be over.
2013 stats: 75-154, 987 yards, 9 TD, 6 INT
• After leaving the Lions midway through last season, Jones ultimately transferred down to the FCS level, returning to play just outside of his hometown near Pittsburgh. Jones, a former five-star recruit by some services, quickly won the starting job for the Colonials, with mixed results midway through the year. His best asset — his great arm strength — has led to a handful of deep touchdown passes, but his completion percentage has been stuck south of 50 percent for much of the season.
2013 stats: 19 carries, 80 yards, 0 TD
• The most noteworthy of Penn State's defections had a solid first year at Southern Cal but a torn meniscus in his left knee suffered during spring practice kept him out of the Trojans' first five games this year. He returned last Thursday against Arizona in a rotation with Tre Madden and Justin Davis in the backfield. USC eased him back into action, giving him the bulk of his carries after the Trojans had built a 28-10 halftime lead.
2013 stats: 20 rec, 369 yards, 2 TD; 15 punt returns, 16.3 ypr, 1 TD
• Unlike most on this list, Smith didn't transfer of his own volition but was dismissed by O'Brien following a drug-related citation. That happened before the sanctions, meaning Smith sat out last year at Marshall. He has seen plenty of snaps for the Herd so far, starting twice and catching a touchdown in a triple-overtime loss to Virginia Tech. His biggest impact has come on special teams, where he has been one of the country's best punt returners, ranking sixth in the nation in average while adding a 77-yard score.
2013 stats: Has not played
• Haplea's role was set for a second straight year as a blocking tight end for the Seminoles. But his season ended in June when he tore an ACL during a summer workout. Because he didn't redshirt at Penn State, he can use it this year and still have one more year of eligibility, should he choose to return.
2013 stats: Has not played
• At his third different school in as many years, Nowicki is still looking for his first collegiate snap. Most Penn State players were given a pass by teammates for transferring last summer. But Nowicki wasn't so easily forgiven because he went to another Big Ten team — Illinois, no less, which infamously swooped into State College to immediately recruit Penn State players. Nowicki, who redshirted at Penn State in 2011, was the only one who left for the Illini but did not play in 2012. He transferred again, this time back to Arizona, where he was a standout high school player. Nowicki is currently the second-string right tackle for the FCS Lumberjacks behind a redshirt freshman.
2013 stats: 14 tackles, 9.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 2 forced fumbles
• Oakman ran into into some disciplinary issues in spring 2012 and ended up being the first player dismissed by O'Brien in his tenure at Penn State. After sitting out last season, Oakman is now a second-string defensive end for undefeated Baylor and has happily devoured other teams' backups as the Bears have outscored opponents 63-18 on average. He leads the team in tackles for loss.
2013 stats: Has not played
• Pollard had an incredibly difficult upbringing while dealing with tragedy in his family. When the sanctions hit and incoming freshmen were released from their letters of intent, Pollard elected to stay closer to home and play for Rutgers. But his career has apparently ended before it began after a redshirt in 2012. Rutgers coach Kyle Flood announced in September that an undisclosed injury will keep Pollard off the field permanently.
2013 stats: 44 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 0.5 sack
• The Lions could have used Fortt this season with their injuries at linebacker this season. But the West Coast has suited him well. After redshirting in 2012 to continue rehab from knee surgery, Fortt returned to the field this season as the Bears' starting weakside linebacker. He has made a significant impact so far in Berkeley, leading the team in tackles.
2013 stats: 11 tackles, 2 pass breakups
• Like Devon Smith, Thomas was dismissed by the Lions before the sanctions were announced and ended up at Marshall. As such, he sat out 2012 before returning to the field this fall as the Herd's top backup at cornerback. He has appeared in all six games but has not started.
2013 stats: 8-9 FGs, 24-24 XPs; 31 punts, 42.4 ypa
• Fera's first year with the Longhorns was derailed early on by a groin injury. When he returned, he wasn't nearly as effective as he had been with Penn State and lost the starting job for stretches. This season, Fera has returned to form as the team's starting kicker and punter. He has been reliable in both jobs and went 3-for-3 last week in the Horns' critical upset of Oklahoma, including a 50-yarder.
• WR Justin Brown graduated after one year at Oklahoma, where he was a solid No. 2 option for the Sooners as a senior. He was drafted in the sixth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers but was beaten out for a roster spot by former Penn State teammate Derek Moye. Brown was not claimed on waivers and signed on with the Steelers practice squad.
• WR Shawney Kersey ended up at Marshall after leaving Penn State after two games last fall. But he never played a down for the Herd and left that program this September.
• WR Curtis Drake and RB Curtis Dukes left Penn State a year apart from one another. Both had eligibility remaining but did not resurface at another program.
• Three players left the Lions but elected to stay enrolled at Penn State on scholarship. LB/TE Dakota Royer graduated last spring. OL/DL Luke Graham and OL Anthony Stanko are still in classes this semester.
©2013 The Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)
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