Speaking at a May alumni stop in Baltimore, new Penn State coach James Franklin famously said: “I consider this (Maryland) in-state. I consider New Jersey in-state. I know there are other schools around here, but you might as well shut them down.”
Big words – particularly for the universities of Maryland and Rutgers, which officially join the Big Ten three weeks from now. But thus far, Franklin & Co. are backing them up on the recruiting trail. They have four New Jersey verbal commitments for 2015 (all in that state’s top 10, per Rivals; Rutgers has zero in the top 10) and three Maryland recruits (two in the Rivals top 10; Maryland has none).
New Jersey and Maryland have always been extremely important to Penn State’s football success. But with the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights now conference rivals, will that affect the Lions? Will it be easier recruiting against them (the ability to say your games on the Big Ten Network will be on in your area, plus you’ll be back for a game every other year) – or more difficult (rather than play for a perceived lesser-conference team, now a prospect can “stay home” and still play in the Big Ten)?
That’s up for opinion/debate and is subjective. Over the next two days, I’ll go through and examine just how much of incoming recruiting classes over the past decade have been via the neighboring states to the south and east. Today is focusing on the 2014 roster and on-field contributors from these contiguous states. Tomorrow is the pure recruiting data from the recent past.
A couple things to note:
1. The combined population of Maryland and New Jersey is about 14.8 million, which is about 2 million more than live in Pennsylvania. However, that’s still a pretty apt comparison, seeing as how, after all, Penn State is, well, in Pennsylvania, so you’d naturally be compelled to think that it would more often get more players from its home state. So for the purposes of this blog, PA and Md/NJ (call it New Mary or JersMary?) are equal.
2. The lists of starters/contributors, of course, can change by the time the season starts. I tried to be as flexible as possible. Apologies in advance to, say, Anthony Smith, if he ends up starting all 12 games or to Antoine White if he is a contributor at defensive tackle as a freshman.
3. I used Penn State’s official roster for the home state tallies, although I had to add in the incoming freshmen for this fall for the “total players” and scholarship-player numbers. I will not assume that any of the players who enroll later this month will start or contribute for this list (although I will say that I do expect several to – I just am not gonna play that projection game just yet for a kid who hasn’t enrolled or gone through a practice yet, OK?).
4. The term “starter” is a hazy one, particularly in today’s world of multiple sets and packages on both offense and defense. So, for the purposes of this discussion, yes, two tight ends, for example, can be starters (good thing Kyle Carter is from Delaware or it’d look even more awkward!)
5. I did not count Washington D.C. for Maryland’s total (sorry, Jordan Smith).
OK, first off, the 2014 roster.
Total players: 45
Scholarship players: 18
Other significant contributors: 2
NEW JERSEY/MARYLAND COMBINED
Total players: 25
Scholarship players: 22
Other significant contributors: 5-6
The total players number for Pennsylvania is inflated because of the high number of in-state walk-ons you’d probably see anywhere. What’s more important is the scholarship players and the starters, which are roughly even (I’ll go more in depth below) – and it’s notable that it appears as if there will be more scholarship Mary-Jers players on the field for PSU this season than those from Pennsylvania. Furthermore, as I’ll note below, even the Pennsylvania scholarship total is inflated because of at least five players who earned scholarships after enrolling at Penn State (a phenomenon far more likely for in-state players, judging by a much larger pool of PA walk-ins alone). However, just because guys like Ryan Keiser and Jesse Della Valle didn’t have scholarships when they set foot on campus shouldn’t take away from the fact that each was good enough to be a starter, at times, in 2013. So I won’t discount such players at face value.
Here’s the breakdown:
Projected 2014 starters from Pennsylvania (9): DE Deion Barnes, TE Adam Breneman, G Miles Dieffenbach, LB Mike Hull, TE Jesse James, S Ryan Keiser, WR Geno Lewis, OT Andrew Nelson, LB Nyeem Wartman
Projected 2014 non-starters but significant contributors from Pennsylvania (2): S Jesse Della Valle, LB Ben Kline
Projected 2014 starters from New Jersey (4): LB Brandon Bell, RB Bill Belton, DT Austin Johnson and (at least) one of OL Wendy Laurent/Angelo Magiro/Brendan Mahon
Projected 2014 non-starters but significant contributors from New Jersey (3): DE Garrett Sickels, S Anthony Smith and (at least) one of those three linemen listed above.
Projected 2014 starters from Maryland (4): DB Adrian Amos, OT Donovan Smith, RB Zach Zwinak, CB Trevor Williams
Projected 2014 non-starters but significant contributors from Maryland (2): WR Richy Anderson, DB Da’Quan Davis
Ironically, the balance of “starters” power between PA and NJ/MD could hinge merely on what formation Franklin and offensive coordinator John Donovan use for the first play of the game. Zwinak and Belton aren’t on the field together too often (although I suppose it’s possible), but if PSU goes with two tight ends and two wideouts, then Anderson, maybe, creeps in. Or, conversely, maybe Breneman is left out.
Regardless, we’re mincing words here. The point is, the combined empire of Maryland/New Jersey is, it appears, arguably just as important (if not moreso) to Penn State in 2014 than its home state is.
Tomorrow, I’ll break down recruiting classes over the past decade – who comes from Pennsylvania and who comes from New Jersey or Maryland.