It's hard to tell what Corey Hertzog will do next.
If Hertzog finds himself in a game situation, even he doesn't know what ankle-turning move he'll discharge on his opponent. His unpredictability is apparent everywhere -- both on and off the field.
"He always does the unexpected -- stuff you wouldn't think he'd do," forward Treavor Gelsinger said. "Sometimes it's just so unexpected you don't even know what to think."
About 10 minutes before a recent practice, a hunched Hertzog wore a long-sleeved blue Penn State shirt. While holding red and black shin guards in both hands, Hertzog batted the ball lightly in the air. He juggled from left shoulder to right shoulder, right shoulder to head, head to foot, and foot back to head. For two minutes, he produced no predictable ball routine. Nobody knew where the ball would go next -- maybe not even Hertzog himself.
Perhaps more unexpected than mere ball handling drills was Hertzog's game-winning goal against Gonzaga. Flipping the ball over a Bulldog defender, Hertzog regained possession and booted it into the net's corner.
Or even more unexpected may be the celebration after his second goal against Hofstra when he waved off teammates wanting to congratulate him so he could turn a back flip. Corey's dad Ralph Hertzog said his son learned the trick at an orphanage in Penn State soccer's summer trip to Brazil.
"These little kids were doing it off a little dirt hill," Ralph Hertzog said. "He saw it. He went and tried it, and he wanted to do it."
Corey's spontaneous attitude doesn't exist in Ralph Hertzog's mind because he saw his son progress from reserved to outgoing over the years.
Ralph Hertzog's wife Susan Hertzog remembered her son as a 5 year old going to his first Mt. Penn U-8 Soccer Club practice. While teammates were pelting balls into and around the net, Corey watched with his parents instead of trying himself. It took Susan and Ralph a while just to convince Corey to retrieve the balls for the other kids. Eventually Corey got around to booting balls himself.
"He warmed up to it," Susan Hertzog said. "Growing up, he always was cautious. He's grown out of that -- doing back flips and things like that."
Now Corey doesn't hesitate to approach teammates, greet midfielder Mackenzie Arment as "the Kenzinator" or, as defenseman Andres Casais said, ask unforeseeable questions in the locker room.
"He plays exactly how his personality is," Arment said. "He's very -- he's not sporadic -- but he'll just pull something out of thin air, and it's amazing to watch."
Casais felt Corey's unpredictability established camaraderie among players. Although planned beforehand, it was Corey's free-styling, in-the-moment demeanor that had the Penn State players run to the Penn State sideline and dive headfirst, arms sideways and feet upwards into Jeffrey Field's wet grass after the forward's first goal versus Hofstra. Even goalkeeper Warren Gross left his net to slip and slide.
"Corey is just unpredictable anywhere," Casais said. "Imagining defending Corey -- he could be really unpredictable; you don't know what he's going to do."
Hertzog, who is still short-spoken and laid back in the presence of a recorder, said he'll only use an unforeseen move on the field when he's forced to, and scouting reports show him which side of a defender's body he should exploit.
"You think about it," Corey said. "But during the game, it just happens."
Penn State coach Barry Gorman feels Hertzog will only improve in unpredictability from sideline to sideline as the sophomore starts to read fellow forwards Jason Yeisley and Gelsinger better.
Discovering teammates' movements on the field might come for Corey, but his comrades may never decipher his instinctive brain.
"He always seems off in his own world," Arment said.
Gorman also acknowledged Hertzog's far out personality.
"Put it like this," Gorman said. "Corey proves that there is alien life on other planets."