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Penn State’s recruiting in Maryland and New Jersey over the past decade


James Franklin and his staff, thus far, have made good on Franklin’s brashness that Maryland and New Jersey are “in state.” Not only did they need all of two weeks on the job to pillage flip Rutgers’ highest-rated (per 2014 recruit from the Scarlet Knights’ back yard, the PSU staff has already nabbed four of New Jersey’s top 10-rated players in the 2015 Class (Rutgers’ highest is No. 18). In Maryland, the early returns have been similarly gloomy for the fellow Big Ten newcomer Terrapins – Penn State has verbal commitments from two of the top five-rated prospects (three overall) from just across the Mason-Dixon Line. Randy Edsall’s team has none of the top 10 in-state players.


The sample size is ridiculously small, and none of these “commitments” means anything until signing day in February. But that said, the early returns suggest that Maryland and Rutgers’ inclusion into the Big Ten will only help the Nittany Lions hold down their traditional recruiting footholds in those areas. Even more impressive, they are doing it without former recruiting wiz and assistant coach Larry Johnson, who, er, dominated the Washington D.C.-Maryland-Virginia recruiting area.


Some of Penn State’s best players over the years have hailed from Maryland or New Jersey. Some of the Lions’ best teams over the years were stocked with players from those states. Even over the past decade (and on the current 2014 team, as we examined yesterday, the JeseryLand is a boon for Penn State), the areas’ importance cannot be understated when it comes to PSU’s success.


I went through incoming recruiting classes back to 2004. I counted the 2015 verbal commitments, which, of course, are still pending. (All recruiting class information is courtesy of research on’s Penn State commitment lists over the years). (For the purposes of this blog, I went straight by the “Location” listed on these charts… I was not going to get into the whole where-was-he-born/where-did-he-go-to-prep-school/where-did-he-go-to-high-school parsing minutia).


Over that 12-year span, Penn State signed 61 recruits from either New Jersey or Maryland (an average of just more than five per season) – split remarkably down the middle with 31 from the Garden State and 30 from, well, whatever Maryland’s nickname is. (Complete list below).


That’s an average of more than five incoming scholarship players per year from NJ/MD – over that time span, Pennsylvania accounts for 74 players, or 6.2 per incoming class. When you eliminate 2004 and ’05 from the discussion and use just the past 10 years, the score is PA 57, NJ/MD 54. Almost equal.


(As I mentioned yesterday, the combined approximate populations of Pennsylvania’s 12.8 million and New Jersey-plus-Maryland’s 14.8 million are close enough to use as a comparison as equals).


Only two incoming classes did NOT include a New Jersey signee (2007 and ’08) and only one did not have a Maryland native player (’07). The most combined came in 2006, when half of the 24 signees that year were from MaryJers. Five were from NJ that year (most of any class I looked at) – the most in a year from Maryland was the eight in 2009.


In fact, 2009 had a combined 11 players from NewMary, including future standouts Gerald Hodges, Glenn Carson, Sean Stanley and Malcolm Willis.


Counting 2015’s verbals, if you go back to 2006, in those 10 recruiting seasons, only four times has Penn State signed more Pennsylvania kids than it did those from MaryJers. In 2011, it was five prospects from PA and five from NJ/MD; only in 2013, ’07 and ’08 did Keystone Staters trump these two neighboring states when it came to PSU signees.


Unless Rutgers or Maryland will be able to make any better inroads into Pennsylvania now that they’re in the Big Ten, it would seem that these numbers can only be seen as troubling for Terrapins coach Randy Edsall and Scarlet Knights coach Kyle Flood. Even without Johnson, Franklin & Co. seem willing and able to keep Penn State’s strongholds in these areas – areas that are now within their conference’s footprint.




Signed recruits to Penn State in each of the past 12 seasons, by state (per

(*-2015 numbers are for verbal commitments as of June 11, 2014 – verbal commitments are non-binding, and class could grow or change)



2015*: 2

‘14: 2

‘13: 1

‘12: 4

‘11: 2

‘10: 1

‘09: 8

‘08: 0

‘07: 0

‘06: 7

‘05: 1

‘04: 1



New Jersey

2015*: 4

‘14: 4

‘13: 3

‘12: 2

‘11: 3

‘10: 1

‘09: 3

‘08: 1

‘07: 0

‘06: 5

‘05: 3

‘04: 2




2015*: 6

‘14: 3

‘13: 5

‘12: 4

‘11: 5

‘10: 7

‘09: 7

‘08: 6

‘07: 8

‘06: 6

‘05: 7

‘04: 10



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Author: Chris Adamski

Chris Adamski joined Trib Total Media's Steelers coverage team in 2014 after spending two seasons on the Penn State football beat for the Trib. Before that, he had worked in Pittsburgh sports media for more than a decade, extensively covering the Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, Pitt, Duquesne and the WPIAL.

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