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December 29, 2011

Hill weighing options

By Matt Herb
Blue White Illustrated

DALLAS -
There are few certainties at Penn State as the football program gets ready to launch its new era under a yet-to-be named coach. So what's one more question after all that's happened already?

On Thursday night at a team dinner at Gilley's Dallas, junior defensive tackle Jordan Hill said he was exploring the possibility of forgoing his final college season.

Hill said he requested an NFL Draft evaluation about two weeks ago, and he expects to get the results back in a few days.

"I really want to come back for my senior year," he said. "I love Penn State and I don't want to leave. I'm just weighing my options."

Hill, who ranks third on the team with eight tackles for loss this season, must decide by mid-January whether he will return. He said the results of the evaluation will play a part in his decision, as will the resolution of Penn State's coaching search.

He is enrolled in classes for the spring semester, and he said that unless he discovers that he's a potential high-round draft pick, he'll most likely be back.

"The coaching [situation] is a concern," he said. "But I want to play with this team. All the guys I came in with in this class, I want to go out with them.

"I don't know what will happen in the future," he added. "But right now, my plan is to stay."

• TicketCity Bowl president Tom Starr said there hasn't been much fallout from organizers' decision to invite Penn State to play in their game in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

"I still have not gotten one negative phone call or email," Starr said. "We got one nasty letter, and that's been it."

The big question for bowl organizers now is how much enthusiasm the game will generate among ticket buyers. The team hotel is starting to fill up with Penn State fans, but the university didn't sell out its allotment of 6,000 tickets, and there are concerns about how full Cotton Bowl Stadium will be on Monday.

Starr said organizers are hoping to draw 45,000 to 50,000 fans. "That'll depend on the walk-up," he said.

Starr said there are about 9,000 Penn State alumni in the Dallas area, and he's hoping that many of them show up for the game, along with a few people who may not have any allegiance to either the Nittany Lions or their opponent, Houston.

"It's Texas and it's football," Starr said. "You know how people love football here."

• Bowl organizers have been trying to show the Nittany Lions a good time in Dallas, and one of the stops on their tour of local attractions was Cowboys Stadium, the palatial new home of Jerry Jones' storied NFL franchise.

The $1.3 billion facility was reportedly a big hit with most of the players. But not with offensive lineman Johnnie Troutman. The senior guard from Brown Mills, N.J., is a big fan of the Eagles, who won in Dallas last weekend but saw their slim playoff hopes collapse when the Giants won earlier that day. Troutman said he "boycotted" the trip to the home of the Eagles' NFC East archrival.

"I couldn't go," he chuckled. "It hurt my heart."


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