Stephon Morris called them whispers, but they were more than loud enough for him to hear.
They started when Penn State started 0-2 after disheartening losses to Ohio and Virginia. They returned in October after Ohio State ended the Nittany Lions' five-game winning streak.
Morris heard that all-too-familiar refrain from his younger teammates.
I might not be here. I might not come back.
So the senior cornerback did something about it.
When the chatter in the locker room reached its loudest, Morris decided to step up in front of his teammates and deliver a fairly blunt message.
It would be stupid of you to leave here, said Morris, one of the team's most underrated and valuable leaders who will be honored in senior day ceremonies before Saturday's finale against Wisconsin. Where else would you want to go?
Those whispers, Morris said, have begun to quiet down.
More than any other part of the NCAA sanctions that hit in July, this has been the Lions' most pressing concern.
Not the bowl ban, not the scholarship reductions. No, the Lions feared losing the foundation of their program with players permitted to transfer without penalty until the start of fall practice next August.
This past summer, things hit a low point for three weeks in late July and early August as seven scholarship players and one incoming recruit decided to transfer out.
Now, with the season set to end, Morris and his fellow seniors are trying to keep the Lions intact headed into 2013. Some of Penn State's best players are underclassmen and will undoubtedly be heavily recruited by other schools during the offseason.
Talents like Allen Robinson and Kyle Carter on offense; Deion Barnes and Adrian Amos on defense, just to name a few.
Morris, for one, is very optimistic.
I don't expect those guys to leave, Morris said. I really don't. (Bill) O'Brien, he's a hell of a coach. I don't expect anyone to leave. I expect everyone to be back and everyone to keep fighting.
I'm not a mind reader. I just know what I see, O'Brien said. I see a bunch of guys that enjoy playing football for Penn State and coming out to practice every day and play hard. Obviously, I believe that everybody will be back that's eligible to be back next year. But, again, I don't have a crystal ball and I'm not a genie. But I think they know that they can achieve a lot of their goals here.
I think there's a lot to play for at Penn State, and I think our guys realize that.
Penn State originally listed 30 players who will suit up for the Lions one last time and be honored on senior day. On Wednesday, one more name appeared.
Junior guard Mark Arcidiacono will also be part of the ceremony, as he will not play in his final year of eligibility. A prized recruit from suburban Philadelphia, Arcidiacono did not play this season because of a chronic foot injury that has kept him off the field for months.
Coming into spring practice, Arcidiacono was set to battle for the starting spot at left guard. But the injury kept him out for all of preseason camp and the job went to sophomore Miles Dieffenbach.
Arcidiacono is one of four scholarship players who will be recognized Saturday and not return for a final season. The others are fellow lineman Frank Figueroa, wide receiver Christian Kuntz and defensive back Mike Wallace, who also sat out this season due to injury.
Senior quarterback Matt McGloin is one of 10 semifinalists for the Burlsworth Trophy, a relatively new award given to the nation's top player who started his career as a walk-on.
McGloin has bristled at being labeled a walk-on or former walk-on but is hopeful to be named one of three finalists for the award next week.
Any time you're honored for an award it's exciting and you want to win it, McGloin said. But as exciting as it is, we'll worry about the (Wisconsin) game first, then worry about personal goals and awards.
Wisconsin at Penn State
TV: 3:30 p.m., Saturday. ESPN2
Where: Beaver Stadium, State College
Last Meeting: Wisconsin defeated PSU 45-7 on Nov. 26, 2011.