ARLINGTON, Texas – Deciding whether to stick around for his final season of eligibility or move on to the NFL draft can be daunting for any college football player, and Penn State defensive end Shaka Toney is no exception.
The former Imhotep Charter star has spoken to a number of people, “probably one too many,” he said Thursday at the Cotton Bowl media day at AT&T Stadium. He has made a “pros and cons” list of whether to stay or go and has changed it “probably three or four times.”
Toney said he got so caught up in an enjoyable 2019 season, one in which he took on a larger leadership role, that he didn’t give himself the chance to deliberate on his future until recently.
“I probably should have put a lot more thought into it,’ said Toney, who made second-team All-Big Ten in the coaches’ vote. “I had to take a bigger leadership role this year, be an older guy. Not everybody is ready for that, but when I stepped into that role, I kind of enjoyed it.
“I just got so caught up with the season that I didn’t really think about what I’m going to do. So I’m taking this week to really think about it, and I’ll make a decision” the first week of January.
Toney, who is second on the team in sacks with 6½ and third in tackles-for-loss with eight, said he is gathering as much information as he can.
“The decision is your own, but if you’ve got people that know you well enough, that know who you are, the things that you like, you should go to those people, and that’s what I’m doing right now,” he said.
Reid not sentimental
Cornerback John Reid will close out his Penn State career Saturday against Memphis with his 40th start, but don’t expect him to reminisce about his five years in Happy Valley.
“The guys kind of mess with me about it,” the former St. Joseph’s Prep standout said. “They keep trying to do stuff like, ‘This is your last practice. This is your last game,’ but I don’t really think like that.
“I’m going to prepare the same way I always do. My emotions are always high going into the game, in a positive way. So, I don’t really even look at it like that. Maybe at some point later on I’ll reflect on it, but right now, that’s not really my thought process.”
The Penn State secondary has been a little up-and-down this season, and Reid concedes that blown coverages in big games have been a problem, and communication hasn’t been to the level needed.
““I feel like we keep improving each week,” he said. “It’s just when you play in such close games and stuff like that, you can’t really afford to have one mental error, so it really hurts you. We’ve played such a difficult schedule this year that these are tight games, one-score games, so you can’t really afford to mess up at all.”
Where’s the wood?
Head coach James Franklin is pleased that there have been no distractions within his team during bowl week, but that doesn’t mean he’s relaxing, or that he’s not superstitious.
“We take a lot of pride in the discipline in our program. We seem to have always had a guy on a bowl trip that we have had to send home, and we haven't had that,” he said, pausing to rap the podium and the floor with his knuckles.
“I think that’s a big part of the leadership. The seniors had a player-only meeting to make sure we didn’t have any distractions or issues like that. So I think that’s a real positive for us, and I’m proud of that. But I think a lot of it has to do with that we have a healthy respect for our opponent.”