I’m off from my day job this week — being Penn State’s bye week and all, it’s a good a chance as any to take some time away.
But the Nittany Nation show knows no weeks off. It’ll broadcast 52 Wednesdays a year from 9-10 a.m., with the podcast, of course, available for download any time (see below).
The bye week spares us from having to talk about the Nittany Lions’ humiliating 29-6 loss to Northwestern this past Saturday. And with no opponent this Saturday, what better time than to talk Penn State recruiting?
Pickel broke down the pending announcement Friday of Central Valley senior Jordan Whitehead, who is one of the state’s top 2015 prospects. He also shed some light on James Franklin & Co.’s intentions in regards to getting to a full 25-man 2015 incoming class (or not), the remaining targets to fill those spots as well as 2016 beyond in Penn State recruiting.
Farrell illuminated us not only on some national and Big Ten big-picture recruiting storylines to watch, but also on Penn State’s longterm recruiting prospects and, of most immediate concern, a prediction for Whitehead.
According to Farrell, among Whitehead’s four finalists, he’s heard that Ohio State has been eliminated. That, in itself, is a victory for Penn State — keeping him away from the only other conference rival. Farrell is under the impression that although Whitehead’s visit to Pitt went well, Whitehead will choose either West Virginia or Penn State.
Whitehead is a player who is very important to Penn State’s coaching staff — not only because of his talent and ability, but because his locale (in-state and, more tellingly, from the WPIAL), the fact he plays a valuable position and the fact PSU would be winning a “battle” with regional rivals Pitt and WVU and a conference (and regional) rival in Ohio State. To get where they want to go, Penn State/James Franklin will need to beat Ohio State/Urban Meyer for prospects.
In my mind, Whitehead is one of the most intriguing and anticipated announcements in the WPIAL in recent years — perhaps since Terrelle Pryor of Jeannette was the No. 1 recruit in the country in 2008. Rushel Shell captured the imagination of the region with his gaudy rushing totals. Players such as Dorian Johnson, Alex Bookser, Montae Nicholson, Robert Foster, Paul Jones, Todd Thomas, Dorian Bell, Sterling Jenkins and many others over the past half-decade or so had very high consensus ratings from the recruiting services.
But what makes Whitehead so interesting are a couple things: First, his finalists are the three so-called “local” schools (Pitt, PSU, WVU) and the closest “national power”-like school to Pittsburgh (Ohio State). Not only is Whitehead a local product — where he ends up will likely be a local D-I school. Secondly, Whitehead, a 5-10, 165-pound cornerback, has kept his intentions extremely close to the vest. I’ve been in semi-regular contact with him and his coach (just the occasional check-in) over the past few months, but generally he’s just polite and short. He doesn’t give any hints (and neither does his affable and helpful coach at Central Valley, Mark Lyons, give anything away). I’m far from the biggest recruiting guru around, but other outlets seem just as in the dark. I’ll say this, too: Those in the Penn State program don’t know much more than the media does. They are optimistic and they believe they have a good shot Whitehead picks Blue and White — but it’s far, far from certain.
Whitehead has been a target of the Penn State staff since they took over in January. Franklin & Co. have won their share of recruiting battles — and accolades — to this point on the job. Securing Whitehead (because of the circumstances) would represent as big a win as any they’ve gotten so far. No matter what Whitehead decides, it’ll impact area college football. Throw in the whole Tom Bradley-vs.-Penn State storyline, and it all makes for a captivating announcement being made Friday (At least inasumch as any recruiting announcement can be, if you happen to be into that sort of thing and all…).
Anyway, to the TribLive Radio show…
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Now, back to my paternity leave. Talk to you next Wednesday with a preview of Penn State-Michigan. Until then, have a lovely week.