RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Tim Buckley left Penn State behind in hopes of helping hometown North Carolina State in its secondary.
The redshirt freshman was the first of the Nittany Lions players to transfer after the NCAA imposed heavy sanctions following the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Buckley went to high school a short walk from the Wolfpack’s Carter-Finley Stadium and is now working on the nearby practice fields in a crash-course effort to pick up N.C. State’s plays.
“I feel like I’m adjusting well,” Buckley said Saturday during the team’s preseason media day. “I’m learning from one of the most productive secondaries in the country. … Every day I’m getting better, and that’s all I’m trying to do right now.”
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Buckley didn’t want to talk much about the turmoil of his year at Penn State, saying it was difficult to leave behind close friends after the NCAA imposed a four-year bowl ban among other severe penalties. The NCAA allowed current Nittany Lions to transfer immediately to play for other schools.
Buckley was a former walk-on at Penn State who decided to return home just before the Wolfpack opened preseason workouts. Eight more Penn State players had followed suit since the sanctions were announced July 23.
All-American cornerback David Amerson, who led the nation with 13 interceptions last year, said Buckley had impressed him in early workouts as a good tackler who breaks well to the ball. But he said the Wolfpack players haven’t quizzed Buckley on what it was like to be at Penn State when the scandal hit.
“That’s none of our business,” Amerson said. “I know it’s hard on him so we just stay out of that. He’s on our team now so we try to support him as much as possible.”
Buckley’s arrival helps bolster the depth in a secondary that lost two safeties via transfer. Coach Tom O’Brien said Buckley could be a reserve safety and help on special teams.
“He’s fit right in,” he said. “You can tell he’s a good football player. He understands football, he’s in the right position. I think he’s still learning our system and learning our calls on what we’re doing, so he’s still a little hesitant back there.”
He’s also still thinking about his former teammates at Penn State. Buckley said he has remained in contact with several since his return to Raleigh.
“I just know they’ve got a good coaching staff and I know those guys are all good players,” he said. “They’re motivated by it. This is going to motivate them this year. I’m going to be excited watching them play every Saturday.