Issah's issues draw scrutiny for Penn State
Bill O'Brien's 13 months as Penn State's football coach have been notably light on player misconduct.
Zayd Issah is providing an important exception.
A freshman early enrollee from Central Dauphin High School, Issah is alleged to have used counterfeit money to buy McDonald's food in the Harrisburg area.
He faces a preliminary hearing next month. As an 18 year-old with no previous offenses, Issah is unlikely to face jail time. But he reportedly has had his scholarship pulled, and O'Brien's handling of all this, especially in light of the scrutiny Penn State's program faces 24/7/365, will be watched very closely.
There's little track record. Tiny wide receiver Devon Smith left Penn State prior to the 2012 season after facing marijuana charges. O'Brien kicked defensive end Shawn Oakman off the team after a retail theft incident last spring.
That's about it.
Issah is no longer listed on the roster on Penn State's web site. He had been working at linebacker this spring.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, O'Brien said that Issah won't be playing at Penn State this fall. However, he said, Issah could still land at Penn State in the future, and the player's next move "will be determined by him."
At 6-foot-3, 220, fast and mobile, Issah played at least five positions in high school. He is considered an athletic type who may have been able to play early, especially on special teams.
"A guy like (linebacker) Brandon Bell or Zayd Issah, we'll be looking for those guys to come in here in the summertime and see what they can do,'' O'Brien said at a press conference March 18.
"Can they help us on defense? Most importantly, can they help us on special teams? That will be big.''
Police reports say officials intercepted Facebook messages from Issah to another suspect in the counterfeit operation, indicating he knew the money was fake, which if nothing else calls his intelligence into question.
It hasn't scared Issah away from social media. From his Twitter feed (@zaydissah) of late:
"When true adversity hits on the true ones stay in your corner.''
"minor setback for a major come back."
"poor choices create tough decisions."
n In just a few weeks on the job, safeties coach Anthony Midget has established himself as a high-energy dynamo.
It makes him a good match with John Butler, the guy he replaced when Butler was named Penn State's defensive coordinator.
"I'm energetic,'' he said in a media teleconference Tuesday. "I have a lot of passion. John is the same way. We coach 'em hard, but you have to be demanding to get what you want.''
Midget played at Virginia Tech, and coached at Georgia State under coaching legend Bill Curry from 2008 through 2012, rising to defensive coordinator last year.
Curry retired after last season. Midget was hired as a defensive assistant at Marshall in January, and worked there for a week and a half before O'Brien called.
He learned the defense while the coaching staff broke down last year's film for player evaluations.
"It's actually been an easy transition,'' Midget said, adding that senior safeties Malcolm Willis and Stephen Obeng-Ayapong have been, "basically coaches on the field.''
Midget will recruit South Florida and the Cleveland area.
Nit-Notes: The NCAA sanctions mean for Penn State to succeed in recruiting, it will have to hit the jackpot with unheralded kids.
Which brings us to Austin Johnson.
Johnson, a redshirt freshman from New Jersey, was as much a basketball player as a football player in high school. He did not travel the football summer evaluation camp circuit, and his only other scholarship offer was from Villanova.
But he's 6-4, 302 pounds (20 more than a year ago), very athletic, and according to sources hanging around spring practice has emerged as a possible starter at defensive tackle. …
Gerry DiNardo, the former Indiana coach and Big Ten Network analyst, says O'Brien is the most hands-on head coach in the conference.
To a large extent, O'Brien position-coaches the quarterbacks and tight ends. At practice, he does so very visibly. When part of practice was open to the media last week, at least once O'Brien actually stepped in at quarterback and took a live snap out of the shotgun. …
O'Brien is, in his own words, not a Twitter guy. Less so, probably, after RB Bill Belton and WR Allen Robinson took to Twitter to announce they were transferring Monday.
No comment from BOB. No public comment. Belton and Robinson likely heard a few. …
Penn State is roughly halfway through spring practice, which ends with the Blue-White game April 20 at Beaver Stadium. ...
The Penn State coaches' caravan will stop in Lancaster for a luncheon at the Marriott at Penn Square from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, May 2.
O'Brien will be there, along with Penn State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson and women's volleyball coach Russ Rose.
Cost is $30 for Penn State alumni association members, $45 for non-members.
Email sports columnist Mike Gross at email@example.com