Taking advantage of an additional year of college life, including the daily grind of playing Division I football, isn’t for everybody.
It became official Tuesday that three academic seniors with the opportunity to remain for an additional season — defensive tackle Kyle Baublitz, offensive tackle Garry Gilliam and wide receiver Alex Kenney — would opt not to do so upon graduation. Instead, these three players will be honored among a 17-player Senior Day celebration prior to Saturday’s game against Nebraska.
Baublitz announced these plans to reporters after the Purdue game on Saturday, and was mentioned in the original press release on Sunday that outlined the expected seniors to be honored.
But the latter two came more as a surprise on Tuesday — Gilliam in particular. The tight end-turned offensive lineman has seen a large amount of playing time at tackle this season and has started four games in 2013 after gaining more than 40 pounds from the previous season.
Coach Bill O’Brien said he’d rather not get into the specifics of the decision for Gilliam — who redshirted his freshman year, then was granted a medical redshirt season in 2011, thus becoming eligible to return for a sixth year.
“I’m not going to get into the discussions because those are personal between myself and some of these guys, including Garry, Kyle Baublitz, Alex Kenney,” O’Brien said. “Those guys basically sat down with me and they’ve decided to move on to the next stage of their lives next year.”
O’Brien cited Gilliam and Baublitz as two players who have taken on added responsibilities as leaders in 2013 and have shined in these roles.
The second-year coach said Baublitz has been playing with a “bum ankle” for the past three or four weeks and this hasn’t gone unnoticed by teammates.
“I know the younger players look up to a guy like that and know he’s contributed a lot to this program,” O’Brien said.
Kenney’s career, however, hasn’t progressed as consistently. The receiver jumped on to the scene with 12 catches for 129 yards in the first five games of the 2012 season. But in the 17 games since, Kenney has recorded just eight catches for 68 yards.
Despite the receiver’s major dropoff in results throughout O’Brien’s two-year tenure, the coach said Kenney has continued to play and practice hard.
“It hasn’t probably worked out for him on the field as much as he would have liked it to,” O’Brien said. “But he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. Can’t say enough good things about Alex.”
Lehman awaits decision on medical redshirt
O’Brien said injured tight end Matt Lehman, who has been out for the year since a major knee injury in the first game of the season, is only going to be honored on Saturday as a “just in case deal.”
“We’re still waiting to hear on his application for a sixth year,” O’Brien said. “That’s a just in case.”
Lehman, a transfer from Shippensburg, is already a graduate student, but could also be eligible for a sixth-year senior season if he is granted a medical redshirt season for 2013.
John Stuetz can be reached at email@example.com or (814) 865-1828. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnStuetz_PSU.