More than football in December for Penn State

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Penn State coach James Franklin has more on his mind than just the Pinstripe Bowl.

The Nittany Lions (6-6) will face Boston College (7-5) on Dec. 27 at Yankee Stadium, Penn State's first bowl-game appearance since the 2011 season because of NCAA sanctions related to the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.

Franklin said Saturday he and his staff are making sure the players finish their semester strong academically, developing younger players within the program during their 15 allowable bowl-related practices, and recruiting current high school seniors prior to the upcoming NCAA dead period.

Coaches are not permitted to recruit from Dec. 15-Jan. 14.

Penn State has 20 verbal commitments and can offer five more. The NCAA restored their full allotment of 85 scholarships. That number was at 65 after sanctions were levied in 2012.

"We're at an interesting time of the year right now where we're trying to balance two full time jobs," Franklin said.

Franklin said the process has been 50 percent concluding the end of the season, and 50 percent getting a head start on spring ball.

"So far, so good," he said. "It's been fun, it's been exciting."

EAGLE WATCHING: Boston College is still on Franklin's mind. He knew all of BC's pertinent statistics on offense and defense as well as their formations. He also praised BC quarterback Tyler Murphy.

"He's been a big part of their success, a big part of their offense," Franklin said. "He's going to be a major factor in the game and in the running game."

Murphy has passed for 1,526 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 1,079 yards and 10 scores.

RESERVE QUARTERBACK TO TRANSFER: Third-string Penn State quarterback Michael O'Connor will transfer to another school.

O'Connor, a Canadian-born quarterback who played scholastic ball in Tennessee and at IMG Academy in Florida, redshirted at Penn State this fall. Trace McSorley was named second-string quarterback behind Christian Hackenberg early in the season and also redshirted.

O'Connor has yet to announce his new collegiate destination.

INJURY UPDATE: Franklin said he expects linebacker Brandon Bell (shoulder) to play in the bowl game. He missed the Lions' last two regular-season games.

"I think that's going to be really important for us, especially against a team that runs the ball," Franklin said.

THE JUNIOR COLLEGE ROUTE: Penn State received a commitment from junior college player Paris Palmer, a 6-foot-8, 305-pound offensive tackle.

Palmer,who played at Lackawanna College in Scranton, decommitted from the Univerity of South Carolina and was the top-ranked offensive lineman in the junior-college ranks.

TICKETS WENT FAST: Franklin cited how the university's allotment of more than 11,000 Pinstripe Bowl tickets sold in short order.

He said he was thanking students who were in line Saturday morning attempting to purchase tickets. Hundreds of students were turned away after their allotment of about 750 had been sold.

MORE THAN A TACKLE: Penn State coaches have said throughout the season that defensive tackle Anthony Zettel (6-foot-4, 276 pounds) could throw a football 70 yards and drive a golf ball 300 yards.

Not true, according to Zettel, a junior.

"I can consistently hit over 350," Zettel said. "It's not straight sometimes."

He also said his ability to throw a football "75 or 80 yards" comes from the fact he was a shot putter in high school in West Branch, Michigan, and knows how to use his hips to throw.

Zettel leads the team in tackles for loss (15), sacks (8) and interceptions (3), which impressed defensive coordinator Bob Shoop.

"That doesn't happen a lot," Shoop said. "That's kind of a strange hat trick right there."

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