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Penn State LB Fortt headed to Cal, joins USC-bound RB Redd in Pac-12
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Penn State's loss could turn into a big gain for Southern California.
Star tailback Silas Redd bolted Happy Valley for Los Angeles in a season of great expectations for the Trojans. A 1,200-yard rusher, Redd will join heralded quarterback Matt Barkley on a team already favored to win the Pac-12 and return to the Rose Bowl.
It's a perk that Redd wouldn't have enjoyed at Penn State with the program burdened by harsh NCAA sanctions because of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Among the penalties was a four-year postseason ban, as well as a scholarship reduction.
Another Pac-12 school also took in a Nittany Lion on Wednesday as top reserve linebacker Khairi Fortt said he was transferring to California. Fortt, like Redd, is from Connecticut, and both players will have two years of eligibility left.
Fortt said in a statement issued through his father, Guy Fortt, that he reached a point in his life in which he "was ready for a change," and that he had also seriously considered Cal in high school. The Stamford Advocate first reported Fortt's decision.
"He will miss Penn State," Guy Fortt said.
In light of the sanctions, the NCAA is allowing Nittany Lion players to seek new schools and play immediately, so long as they leave by the start of Penn State training camp next Monday.
Since the sanctions were imposed last week, Nittany Lions coach Bill O'Brien has been trying to keep the team intact by stressing academics, family and the prospect of playing seven home games a year in front of a crowd of 108,000 strong at Beaver Stadium.
For the most part, it seems to have worked even though Redd's departure will be a serious blow to an offense being reconfigured by O'Brien, the former coordinator of the New England Patriots' high-powered attack.
Four players have now left Penn State since the NCAA imposed its landmark penalties on July 23. A fifth player, third-string quarterback Rob Bolden, was removed from the roster this week but had been granted permission to talk to other schools before the sanctions.
Otherwise, Redd and Fortt are the ones who logged significant playing time leaving Penn State, at least so far.
O'Brien had also said last week at Big Ten media days that more than 50 players had indicated they would stay. Six 2013 recruits have also reaffirmed their verbal commitments.
The community has been doing its part as well. An early-morning rally on Tuesday attracted more than 2,500 fans who cheered on their team as walked into a voluntary, offseason workout.
Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner wished Redd and the other transfers well. "I think that certainly we understand and it's within their purview," Joyner said in an interview with The Associated Press.
He added the low number of transfers was "a great testament to Bill O'Brien, and the kind of person he is, the kind of coach he is and the kind of players these are overall.
"This team has a lot of unity."
But it won't have Redd.
Sophomore Bill Belton, a converted wideout, is next on the Penn State depth chart, and that could prove to be a challenge as O'Brien tries to transform the offense on the fly.
Out west, Redd joins a team that finished 10-2 and No. 6 in the final AP poll last season despite its own NCAA sanctions bowl ineligibility and a smaller roster. After Barkley and safety T.J. McDonald decided in December to return for their senior years, USC signed a top-flight recruiting class led by elite quarterback prospect Max Browne.
Redd could make the Trojans even better.
"We welcome Silas Redd to the Trojan Family," USC athletic director Pat Haden said in a statement. "He is an outstanding student and athlete."
USC had been sanctioned for rules violations committed during the 2004 and '05 seasons.
"At USC, we've seen both sides of this issue, having lost a number of players to transfer due to our NCAA sanctions in 2010. But Lane Kiffin and his coaches would not be doing their job if they did not try to improve our team every single day," Haden said. "There is a specific need here for a player like Silas Redd, so Lane and our coaches recruited him within the guidelines set up in this instance by the NCAA."
Fortt wore No. 11 at Penn State a distinction at a program that boasts the nickname "Linebacker U." Former Redskins standout LaVar Arrington and current 49ers linebacker Navorro Bowman each wore the number at Penn State.
Fortt had surgery this spring on his right kneecap. Guy Fortt said it's possible that his son may redshirt this season at Cal, a school that Fortt liked during a high school recruiting visit.
Highly regarded out of high school, Fortt made 11 tackles in his only career start, as a freshman. He had 33 tackles and 2.5 sacks while playing in every game last season as a top backup.
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP