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Feb. 7—UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State was able to retain much of its coaching staff this offseason — at least so far — but did make one change.

That was, evidently, a change of plans for the Nittany Lions.

Penn State head coach James Franklin said prior to the Rose Bowl that he hoped to retain most, if not all, of his coaching staff. That was not the case, however, as the program fired wide receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield.

While Franklin declined to comment on the decision, saying he felt it was inappropriate, he did make note of how impressive he found Stubblefield's replacement, new wide receivers coach Marques Hagans.

"Our excitement for Marques Hagans is really high," Franklin said. "If you look at his resume, he's got a really good resume. ... A guy that played quarterback and played quarterback at a high level for a really good coach, who was in a complicated West Coast system. ... Everybody you talk to just loves Marques."

The newest Penn State assistant was hired by the program on Jan. 23 as the new receivers coach and offensive recruiting coordinator, a decision that will take him out of the state of Virginia for the first time in his career. More specifically, it will be his first time leaving Charlottesville, where he was with the University of Virginia for the last 13 years — with 11 as an on-field staff member and two as a graduate assistant.

Hagans, who was introduced to the media for the first time Tuesday afternoon, said the time was right for him to pick up and leave.

"Just having the opportunity to work for Coach Franklin and Penn State was a great opportunity that I couldn't turn down," Hagans said. "It wasn't an easy decision but I couldn't turn it down."

Those drastic life decisions can be difficult, with all of the familiarity of the last decade-plus with the Cavaliers going out the window. The change that comes with it outside of football — moving, learning an area and every other life decision — only further complicates a hard choice.

Fortunately for Hagans, he's not doing it without help. Penn State safeties coach Anthony Poindexter, like the wide receivers coach who played quarterback at UVA in the early 2000s, is a Virginia legend and someone he has spent years forming a deep bond with.

"In the UVA community, he's admired," Hagans said. "He's probably one of the best that has played at UVA. So just the respect that he has and the respect that he garners every day, is one of the reasons why my son's name is Christopher Dex."

Evaluating the receiver room

Part of Hagans' job will be to immediately evaluate what he has on hand and how best to utilize the talent in his position room. The Nittany Lions will have to replace their top two wide receivers from the 2022 team after Parker Washington and Mitch Tinsley have moved on to the 2023 NFL Draft.

Fortunately, he will have added help this season to replace them. Former Florida State wide receiver Malik McClain has already joined the program while former Kent State receiver Dante Cephas announced his commitment with an expected enrollment this summer.

Hagans said he's already liking what he's seen from the group in his limited time.

"Just on the surface level right now," Hagans said. "... I think I have a good foundation of where the guys are and just building from there. But just having the opportunity to coach and be around them today for the first time was a good experience. ... I like the guys that we have in the room."

Franklin was only able to talk about McClain because Cephas has not enrolled with the program and is still finishing this semester at Kent State, but when asked what a second hypothetical receiver addition would look like, was very succinct.

"Really good," he said with a smile. "Really good."

Adding more talent can never hurt, but the program must also balance how that talent will assimilate into an already established locker room. There's a natural push and pull of established players coming back that want to see the fruits of their labor with the program and those joining from the portal who may step into roles despite not putting the legwork in at the school.

That is one of the intricacies of the portal that Franklin said his staff has done well with and he's already seeing signs that it's the case with McClain and former North Carolina CB Storm Duck, who also joined the program this semester.

"Everybody's been really impressed," Franklin said. "We've been fortunate that the guys that we have gone into the transfer portal (to get have been) really good fits culturally. If you look at the last couple years. And so far, it seems to be the same way with these two guys."

Finding new leadership

One of the best aspects of the 2022 iteration of the Nittany Lions wasn't necessarily one that was evident on the field at all times. The group's leadership, with Sean Clifford, PJ Mustipher, Ji'Ayir Brown and a slew of others was vital in helping the team bounce back from losses to Ohio State and Michigan that could have turned a season negative.

Instead, the team closed out strong on its way to a Rose Bowl victory over Utah.

Now Franklin said this group must find its leaders.

"Obviously we've got a ton of work to do (this offseason)," he said. "I think the biggest one is leadership. Really identifying leadership as a staff and players as well. And being transparent and open about that and then really working hard and trying to resolve that."

That could start with quarterback Drew Allar, the team's presumed starter, but it has to happen soon.

While Allar has not previously displayed the immediate vocal leadership qualities that could be necessary, he has led by example and slowly increased how vocal he is throughout the season.

That's a positive sign for Penn State, because Franklin said if his unit is still worrying about leadership come September, then it will be too late.

"That needs to be a major point of offense, defense and special teams," he said. "Because we're not going to be one of these teams, one of these programs, that you hear the coach say, 'well we need to develop leadership.' It's too late to do it at that point."

Quick Hitters

— Hagans is close friends with NBA hall of famer and former Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson, who he said is like a big brother.

— Franklin glowed about four-star OT Chimdy Onoh who joined the program as the only signee on National Signing Day on Feb. 1. "I thought Chimdy was a really good get for us late. A guy that we think has tremendous upside."

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(c)2023 the Centre Daily Times (State College, Pa.)

Visit the Centre Daily Times (State College, Pa.) at www.centredaily.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

KeyWords:: SC-Why-now-was-right-time-WRs-coach-Marques-Hagans SC Why now was right time WRs coach Marques Hagans

Feb. 7—A Midwestern sports bar chain is now a step closer to opening a new location in downtown State College, after borough council approved on Monday a liquor license transfer — with limited conditions — that could've otherwise ended the chain's plans.

Brothers Bar & Grill, which has 17 locations nationally and five in other Big Ten towns, will take over the site of the former Amazon Pickup Store at 134 S. Allen St. The Wisconsin-based chain founded in 1990 is known for its daily drink specials and casual dining with a menu that features burgers, chicken sandwiches and wings.

An official opening date has not yet been determined but, according to chief marketing officer Anthony Cortese, Brothers would "absolutely love" to open its doors sometime in 2023. Significant renovations remain.

"Brothers Bar & Grill will not disappoint the borough," Cortese told the CDT in a written statement.

Monday's approval wasn't without debate and the bar wasn't without its detractors. Because the liquor license was transferred from Fuji & Jade Garden and, because Fuji's former Westerly Parkway location received its liquor license from outside the borough, council was legally able to impose restrictions on the transfer that it couldn't have otherwise. But it largely decided not to.

Last month, during a public hearing, State College Police Chief John Gardner recommended requiring 60% of Brothers' sales to come from food, not allowing alcohol to be sold in containers above 22 ounces (i.e. no pitchers) and not permitting advertising or drink specials. The chief justified his recommendation by pointing out specific studies and data that showed the bar/restaurant opening could result in an additional strain on police. (For example, Gardner reported the average number of police calls to establishments with restaurant liquor licenses was 16 times greater than calls to other borough properties.)

Chain owners Eric and Mark Fortney, along with their attorney, intimated in January they couldn't open under such conditions. And some council members believed it was unfair to impose such limitations on Brothers, especially considering their competitors had no such restrictions.

Councilman Gopal Balachandran reiterated that stance Monday night.

"... I think what is legally available is different than what I think is fair to businesses," he added.

At least one member of the public wanted to address council before a vote but, because a public hearing was held last month, the borough solicitor said it was no longer an appropriate time to comment. Mark Huncik, president of the Highlands Civic Association, publicly opposed the bar and grill last month due to concerns over crime. However, borough staff also acknowledged last month that similar municipalities with a Brothers location said the owners were good partners.

Council voted 5-1 Monday to approve the liquor license transfer with limited conditions — and none of the harshest proposed restrictions by Gardner — such as alcohol sales being allowed only when food is still being served. (Brothers' owners have said the full menu is available until 10 p.m. with a limited menu then available until close.)

Peter Marshall was the lone dissenting vote, and Divine Lipscomb was absent and did not vote. Marshall believed council should better take into consideration the research Gardner had undertaken, while Deanna Behring softly countered that council also shouldn't serve as staff's rubber stamp.

The proposed Brothers Bar & Grill in downtown State College is expected to have 232 seats at tables, with another 35 seats at the bar. And it would remain open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Although no renderings of the restaurant have yet been made publicly available, the owners previously said they hope to have an "operable storefront" that would allow up to 20% of the restaurant to have a sort of open-air feel.

Food prices mainly range from $12-$20, and weekly specials are a staple at other locations. In Columbus, Ohio, near Ohio State, Tuesdays feature $2 cheeseburgers and Wednesdays feature 40-cent wings while in Bloomington, Indiana, near the University of Indiana, it's $2 cheeseburgers on Tuesdays and 25-cent wings on Wednesdays.

This story was originally published February 7, 2023 1:43 PM.

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(c)2023 the Centre Daily Times (State College, Pa.)

Visit the Centre Daily Times (State College, Pa.) at www.centredaily.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

KeyWords:: SC-Sports-bar-chain-step-closer-to-opening-in-downto SC Sports bar chain step closer to opening in downto

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