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March 4, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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TribLive ep. 30: Penn Staters heading to the NFL, plus how Scranton holds the key to the Lions’ ’15 OL

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This week, talk on the show revolves around two things: The nine Penn State players prepping for the draft and an NFL future, and the prospects for who will provide the reinforcements in 2015 for the Nittany Lions’ woebegone offensive line.

 

Since the top three candidates for the latter all previously played in Scranton, we had the Scranton Times-Tribunes’ longtime Penn State beat writer, Donnie Collins, on as a guest.

 

 

Listen here with one click:

 

And download the podcast here:

http://sportstalk.triblive.com/download/304PSU15.mp3

 

 

Thanks, as always, for listening.

 

 

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February 25, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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TribLive ep. 28: Breaking down the Penn State defensive depth chart, chatting offseason news

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Midway between Signing Day and the start of spring practice, my Penn State TribLive Radio show spent this week’s episode going down the Nittany Lions’ depth chart — position by position – on defense.

 

 

The defensive line has gone from the deepest unit on the team into a group (particularly at end) that has a large void and plenty of question marks. The linebacking corps at Linebacker U was thin last season and lost its heart and soul in Mike Hull – what young players could step up? In the secondary, the apparent move of two-year cornerback starter Jordan Lucas to safety helps clarify that position, and there is an abundance of young talent at cornerback. Who will fill critical roles?

 

 

Longtime York Daily Record Penn State beat writer Frank Bodani joined me over the final segment of the show to assist in the defense breakdown and also to talk about signing day, spring practice issues and the Nittany Lions’ schedule this fall.

 

 

Worth a listen?

 

 

Listen here with one click:

 

 

Or download the podcast link here:

http://sportstalk.triblive.com/download/225PSU15.mp3

 

 

 

Thank you for listening.

–Adamski

 

 

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February 11, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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TribLive ep. 26: Exclusive interview with basketball coach Pat Chambers, recruiting talk with Adam Friedman

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With signing day having come and gone, we go back to our tour of Penn State’s other sports (there is life beyond football) – and what college sport (other than football) is bigger nationally than men’s basketball? For this week’s TribLive Radio show, we were joined by Nittany Lions men’s basketball coach Patrick Chambers.

 

Chambers discussed (among other things) the NBA debut of former PSU player Tim Frazier, the status of the program as he approaches the end of his fourth season, the reasons for Penn State basketball’s traditional struggles, recruiting in Pennsylvania (and Pittsburgh) and the development of Shaler’s Geno Thorpe.

 

The second half of the show was devoted to Rivals.com Mid-Atlantic recruiting analyst Adam Friedman, with whom I discussed Penn State’s newly-signing 2015 incoming class, whom Nittany Lions coaches are targeting for the 2016 and ’17 classes, where PSU under James Franklin sits in both the national hierarchy and the new-look Big Ten East Division hierarchy and who are some of the WPIAL’s top juniors and sophomores.

 

 

Worth a listen?

 

 

Do so here with one click:

 

 

Or click here to download the podcast:

http://sportstalk.triblive.com/download/211PSU15.mp3

 

 

 

 

 

If you’d allow me to indulge in a somewhat-personal note that I’ll try to make as brief as possible…

 

I am officially off the Penn State beat, so I will not be making any more substantive blog posts on here. From now on, this is the domain of new PSU reporter Bob Cohn. Assuming he allows, I intend on hopefully continuing to post links to the weekly TribLive Radio Penn State shows on here. Yes, that show will continue on a weekly basis year-round, and I am happy and honored I was asked to stay on as host.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed humbly working my best to provide PSU coverage over the past two years, and I met scores of wonderful people – players, coaches, staff members, PSU sports information personnel, fellow writers/media members and many fans. Far too many individuals to single any out by naming names.

 

Nittany Lions fans, I’m sure you’ll enjoy and appreciate Bob’s coverage. He’s a far finer and more accomplished writer than me; Bob is a veteran journalist and true pro. But I’m off to a new full-time role joining Ralph Paulk in assisting Mark Kaboly in the Trib’s Steelers coverage. So I’ll be blogging over at The Steel Mill henceforth.

 

 

 

As always, thank you for reading and listening.

 

 

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February 6, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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‘We’ve been ahead of the curve for years,’ negative recruiting, ‘kids see through everything’ and ‘awakening a giant’

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(((Programming note: Check out this week’s special Thursday edition of the Nittany Nation show on TribLive Radio. I talk Penn State recruiting with Greg Pickel of PennLive.com and Scout.com. We also have Chris Peak, publisher of PantherLair.com, on for the final segment to touch on Pitt/Penn State alleged animosity. Download the podcast link here:

http://sportstalk.triblive.com/download/205PSU15.mp3)))

 

 

 

STATE COLLEGE – Throughout the entirety of a 35-minute signing day news conference Wednesday at Beaver Stadium, Penn State coach James Franklin mentioned “Pitt” one time. The context was, “the last five, 10 years, most of the western PA kids were going to West Virginia and going to Ohio State and going to Pitt.”

 

 

During about 10-15 minutes each while Nittany Lions offensive recruiting coordinator Josh Gattis and defensive recruiting coordinator Terry Smith were holding court with media and I was listening, I never heard “Pitt.” Later that night, when Franklin was addressing a crowd of about 1,500 at Rec Hall who were celebrating PSU’s newest players, he did utter “Pittsburgh” several times but only because he, while talking about each new signee, listed the players other scholarship offers.

 

 

But just because Penn State’s coaches weren’t going to publicly talk about Pitt, that doesn’t mean they weren’t asked about it. Gattis’ tweets from the previous day ensured that.

 

 

Tuesday was the day that defensive end Kevin Givens from Altoona “flipped” (I hate that word) his verbal commitment from Pitt to Penn State. Late that morning, Gattis sent out a tweet that has since been deleted (apparently at the behest of Franklin):

 

Gattis Tweet

 

It was followed by this:

 

 

Now, a few things here. First off, the theory has been floated that Penn State “flipped” (there’s that word again!) Givens just to, and I’m paraphrasing, “stick it to Pitt.” The great Chris Peak of PantherLair.com, a good guy and reporter, relayed it (paraphrasing) on my TribLive Radio show this week.

 

 

I can tell you from conversations I have had with multiple people at PSU that they never once cited spiting Pitt as a reason to add Givens to their class – and I feel confident that if that was a reason, they woulda told me. (Though to be fair, odds are extremely likely that if they did in fact tell me that, that I wouldn’t have been able to relay that information… that said, I’ll assure you that if that indeed was the case, I wouldn’t relay that it *wasn’t* brought up at all, as I have. Make sense?).

 

 

When it comes to Givens, his first scholarship offer came from Smith about a year and a half ago – when Smith was an assistant at Temple. That relationship goes back longer than, perhaps, even what Givens had with any Pitt coach. Secondly, we know that Penn State had recruited Givens, at least to some extent, for a long time (although it had never offered a scholarship). He’d been to campus – a campus that is only 40 minutes away. Finally – and perhaps most importantly – Penn State was notified by the NCAA within 48 hours of signing day that it was permitted to use three extra scholarships than expected. PSU always had an interest in Givens; the coaches just saw him as too much of the classic end/outside ‘backer “tweener” type. Now that they had three extra scholarships to give, it’s not unreasonable to believe that Givens was next on their list – especially considering the importance of re-establishing the Nittany Lions as an in-state recruiting power. (The Givens-as-a-pawn theory is more believable if it was a “let’s build more goodwill with programs across the area by taking a local kid” type of thing that seems to happen a lot at a lot of places).

 

 

Anyway… make no mistake, Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi – from his time as Michigan State’s defensive coordinator (a conference rival of Penn State’s) – rubbed some people in Happy Valley the wrong way. Like him or not, whether he earned the right to talk or not (and let’s not forget, Narduzzi was in charge of what was arguably one of the best FBS defenses over the past decade in MSU’s 2013 Rose Bowl-champion edition), Narduzzi has a confidence-that-borders-on-arrogance (or at least he comes across as he does) that can irk some opposing teams. Witness his quotes from this 2014 ESPN.com feature that didn’t go unnoticed by Narduzzi’s peers:

 

“I don’t think there’s a team in the country that does what we do. We’re more cutting edge [with] zone pressure. We’re cutting edge with how we play our quarters [Cover 4] coverage… We do a lot of things people don’t do and to be honest, people are trying to copycat it all over the country.”

 

“We’ve been ahead of the curve for years.” 

 

 

Take that all as you wish. Confidence – or cockiness? Taking credit away from the players and heaving it upon yourself – or crediting your assistant coaches? Either way, that is some context as to Narduzzi’s repute (real or perceived) among his peers in the Big Ten while he was in the conference.

 

 

OK… you might be asking… What does this have to do with negative recruiting? Well, maybe nothing. Or, maybe it paints a picture of Narduzzi’s personality and style (one that, from the outside, is similar to how many also perceive of Franklin, by the way) and how he might relate to potential recruits. It also, perhaps, could explain why some opposing coaches might be less willing to give Narduzzi the benefit of the doubt if they catch word he is “negatively recruiting” against them.

 

 

The world of recruiting is a strange one that I don’t fully understand myself. What are the lines that can’t be crossed? Certainly, there’s plenty of gray area. The Trib has reached out to each of the four Penn State signees who were either previously-committed to Pitt or were being heavily recruited by Narduzzi to Pitt over the past month. Supposedly, some or all of these kids would have been the ones who were turned off by Pitt’s negative tactics and relayed these to PSU’s coaches. However, be it aversion to the media, a desire to take the high road or not get caught up in the middle of this (after all, it should be a happy time to celebrate after signing) or – just maybe – because there is no truth to any of this, none of the four would go on the record to expound on any negative recruiting by Pitt.

 

 

So, that leaves it to be a he-said, she-said kind of thing. You could argue some at Penn State misinterpreted things, or player(s) gave them bad information/exaggerated, or that they are blowing things out of proportion. Any of those are reasonable positions someone might take. But make no mistake, people at PSU were miffed.

 

 

So that leads us to Gattis’ tweets. Franklin was asked about them Wednesday, and if Gattis was targeting Pitt:

 

“No, that was a general statement. There’s an aspect of negative recruiting. Guys are competitors and guys want to do a great job of representing their university and getting young men to come, but there’s a fine line to it. You just have to be careful, and Josh is as competitive a guy as there is. But we just want to make sure that we’re always representing Penn State the right way and we’re selling Penn State – we don’t need to talk about other schools; we need to sell Penn State and our education and all the things that we can offer. And every once in a while you’ve got to have a conversation with the assistant coaches as well and say, ‘Let it ride. You don’t need to go on Twitter.’ I love Josh, he’s the best… But, you know, we’ve got a competitive staff, and they believe in doing things the right way and representing this school the right way.  But the competitive juices get flowing sometimes and sometimes you feel like you need to strike back. That’s not always the case.  We want to take the high road.” 

 

 

Pretty clear that Franklin was who muzzled Gattis’ original tweet, no? Also pretty obvious (if thinly-veiled) acknowledgement that PSU perceived that at least some unnamed institution out there is “negatively recruiting” against it.

 

 

So, after Franklin was done at the podium, next came Gattis. He was asked point-blank if his tweets were directed at Pitt:

 

“No team specifically, but we just want to sell our product here. As coach stated, recruiting is competitive, we’ve had a number of teams try to compete with us and we’re fortunate enough for the kids — especially in-state kids that we have offered – we’ve got. We sell our product, we sell our relationships, we sell everything we have to provide. So those kids see through everything and they know how much a Penn State degree means and what Penn State offers as far as an opportunity to be playing in a prestigious program can do for them. So we’re excited about what we have to sell. Obviously in the recruiting process, there’s a lot of things that go on from other different universities and other different angles, and as long as we stick to selling what we can provide for a kid, we truly believe we can get any kid in the nation — and it showed this year.”

 

 

Whoa. A ton of coachspeak and clichés there to wade though, but also some subtle juicy nuggets: “We just want to sell our product here… We’ve had a number of teams try to compete with us… kids see through everything… in the recruiting process, there’s a lot of things that go on from other different universities and other different angles…” And, finally, the equivalent of yelling “SCOREBOARD” via the “We truly believe we can get any kid in the nation — and it showed this year” touchdown-spike ending.

 

 

Gattis is an intelligent guy – both in football and in proverbial “street smarts.” He was just named the Big Ten’s Recruiter of the Year by Scout.com. I see him as a future head-coach type, and he has an ease in speaking with the media that already shows it. But he also is a young guy, and he’s a fiery competitive guy. It’s fascinating how that all comes through when talking about this – 2/3 of politically-correct coachspeak with just a few slight jabs that are subtle enough that they can be denied. You almost have to admire the skill.

 

 

Anyway, there’s only really three or four PSU beat reporters from the Western side of the state – the majority of the PA media doesn’t care about a Pitt-PSU potential beef. But us Pittsburgh/Altoona reporters weren’t gonna let Gattis go without another question or two to clarify his tweets.

 

 

Gattis was asked if all these Pitt “flips” and the “negative recruiting” talk (not that anyone mentioned Pitt, of course!) was going to “stoke the fires” of a rivalry that’s been all but dead for almost a quarter century but will renew with annual games from 2016-19:

 

“One of our hashtags is #PSUnrivaled; we truly believe we don’t have any rivalries. That’s anybody. You look at this recruiting class; we had a number of different players who had committed to different universities all throughout of our conference and out of our conference, so we go out and find the right kid that fits what we want and whether he’s previously committed somewhere or not, we’re going to sell the product to get him here and build relationships to get him here.

Our rivalry is whoever wins the national championship; that’s who we want to rival, that’s truly what we want to believe in and that’s what we want to build or program around. So we don’t have rivals. We’re looking to build them in as far as being in national championship contention and playing for Big Ten championships.”

 

 

OK, mostly speaking like a well-trained politician (or veteran head coach) there. Not much to glean, except for a vague “Hey, we ‘flipped’ kids from several other schools other than the unnamed one you’re referring to – we’re equal opportunity that way!”).

 

 

I gave it one last shot, asking Gattis, “in general terms” (so as not to explicitly make this a “Pitt” thing), where the line is that can’t be crossed in this 50(yard-line) shades of gray that is so-called “negative recruiting”:

 

“You just focus on what you have to sell. That’s all I ever do, that’s all we ever do as a staff. Unfortunately it’s not always like that in the recruiting world; there’s some situations where kids tell you certain stories of coaches are saying this, saying that. But we just sell what we have to sell: A world-class education and an opportunity come to a prestigious and storied program and an opportunity to play in Beaver Stadium, which provides an unbelievable atmosphere for any college football player and an opportunity to chase your dreams at the highest level. It gets no bigger than Penn State, so we’re proud of where we are, we’re proud of what we have to sell, and you can tell by this recruiting class the kids believe in it. They believe in the direction we’re headed in at Penn State, and we’re excited about the future.”

 

 

Again, reading between the lines, Gattis’ message he was trying to get across was clear: “We just sell what we have to sell… Unfortunately it’s not always like that in the recruiting world; there’s some situations where kids tell you certain stories of coaches are saying this, saying that.” Yet another subtle-but-obvious takeaway that he is saying that some players have told PSU coaches that (unnamed) “coaches” are “saying this, saying that” (re: negatively recruiting).

 

 

What does all this mean? Who knows? We do know that people at Penn State believe that Pitt was recruiting negatively against PSU. We don’t know exactly what was said, or if this crossed any sort of line or violated any kind of gentlemen’s recruiting agreement that’s widely held and adhered to. We also don’t know if Narduzzi – a first time head coach (and coordinators, as he most recently was, typically are LEAST involved in recruiting and are least important to recruiting than any staff member) – has “learned a lesson” from it. Or if he needed to. Or if, perhaps, this was blown out of proportion (by stupid beat writers composing 2,500-word blog posts!?).

 

 

The only tangible impact of any alleged negative recruiting would have been if any prospects were so turned off by it that they picked PSU over Pitt as a result (even partially). None of the possible candidates for this will go on-record saying that publicly. However, all four did, in fact, sign with Penn State, and Pitt ended up with the worst-rated recruiting class among any Power 5 conference program in the country. Even forgetting any player recruited by Paul Chryst, Penn State got all four prospects that they pursued that Narduzzi was also after. If this was Round 1 of an alleged longterm recruiting match, if it wasn’t a knockout, it was certainly scored heavily in favor of PSU.

 

 

In the end, this is all very silly. But I understand why it’s a fun and conversation-starting (argument-starting?) topic in these parts. If you’re a Penn State fan, you have to be pleased with the recruiting class, by any reasonable measure. That’s all that matters.

 

 

With a full recruiting cycle to work as a staff, we’ll see how Narduzzi & Co. do at Pitt, and if it has any impact on Penn State’s efforts. The Nittany Lions are off to a good start in 2016, getting a player generally accepted as the top junior in the WPIAL – if not the state – in Woodland Hills’ Miles Sanders. Is there a recruiting rivalry to be had? Is real animosity between the coaching staffs?

 

 

We know there is between some fans of each. Either way, Sept. 10, 2016 at Heinz Field, an actual football game will be played between the schools.

 

 

Bless you if you made it reading this far.

 

 

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February 4, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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Live from University Park: Penn State signing day 2015

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Signing Day Franklin

James Franklin speaks with new signee, WR Irvin Charles, via FaceTime in the PSU sigining day “war room”

 

 

 

(First off, #shamelesspromotion… A link to the podcast of my appearance by phone from State College on TribLive Radio, talking Penn State signing day: http://sportstalk.triblive.com/download/204PSU15.mp3

And also, check out the story on early impressions from signing day that’s up on the Trib site)

 

 

 

 

 

STATE COLLEGE (or if you prefer, UNIVERSITY PARK, as I go back and forth from on campus and off it throughout the day) –

 

 

I am NOT using the “D-word” today.

 

 

I refuse to. It’s lazy, clichéd and been way overused. Yes, James Franklin uttered it during his introductory news conference at Penn State – so he caused all of this, and he deserves to be judged on it, because, well, again, he’s the one who asserted his program would d——- Pennsylvania and, also, the entire mid-Atlantic region.

 

 

I’ve used the D-word in recent stories I’ve written describing Franklin & Co.’s introductory class (with an assist from the great Jerry DiPaola), so I am not going to do it again.

 

 

I will, however, relay how Franklin fared in his first full recruiting cycle both in Pennsylvania and in the region.

 

 

First off, the state. Penn State signed 11 players from PA high schools (and a 12th from a Scranton junior college who is considered universally as one of the top JUCO O-linemen in the country). That’s the most in-state prospects the Nittany Lions have secured in at least 15 years – and likely much longer. There is quantity there. But what about quality? We’ll defer, as always, to the major recruiting services.

 

 

  • Per Rivals, PSU got four of the top five, seven of the top 10 and 11 of the top 23 HS prospects.
  • Per Scout, PSU got the top three (including No. 1 Philadelphia CB John Reid), four of the top five, seven of the top 10 and 10 of the top 19 HS prospects.
  • Per 247Sports, PSU got each of the top four (including No. 1 RB Saquon Barkley), seven of the top nine, 10 of the top 16 and 11 of the top 21 HS prospects.
  • ESPN only, as far as I can see, ranks its total 300, which includes six PA HS prospects. PSU got four of those six.

 

Perhaps most notable: According to data on Rivals.com, Penn State extended offers to 14 Pennsylvania prospects. It got 12 of them (one of the two it missed out on, though, stung badly: Central Valley CB Jordan Whitehead. Incidentally, the other, unless I’m missing someone, is Warrington RB Josh Adams, who went to Notre Dame).

 

 

Now, regionally. I’m just going to use Rivals for this because frankly it’s not worth the time to dig deep into four sites.

 

 

 

True, no New York players and no Ohio players (Ohio has NEVER been a stronghold, though, for obvious reasons and New York isn’t the hotbed that New Jersey and the ol’ DMV — #recruitingspeak for the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area — are. But this class was not nearly as national as some classes. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I guess in the end, all that matters is whether or not they got good players.

 

 

I am no scout, no recruiting expert, no big film-watcher. I have seen just a couple of these kids live. So this is not my opinion. I rely on the long-established industry leaders in recruiting. And I am just relaying the information that all four of them (Rivals, Scout, 247Sports and ESPN) rank Penn State as No. 2 in the Big Ten and among the top 15 in the country.

 

 

Sure, the failure to land Whitehead stung Penn State’s coaches, as did missing out on a handful of other prospects (Matthew Burrell, Christian Wilkins and Ricky DeBerry are a few that immediately come to mind, not to mention the “flips” that left: Brandon Wimbush, Adam McLean and Josh Barajas). But even Alabama swings and misses sometimes – as they did with a couple of Penn State’s signees this season.

 

 

Is this the ceiling for PSU? Well, it got no five-star (Rivals) prospects. It also, of course, did not rank No. 1 in the Big Ten nor in the top 10 nationally (except by Scout.com). Whether it’s realistic or not, Nittany Lions coaches believe they can (and even, perhaps, should) be doing all those things. I’ve talked to a couple national analysts who agree that Penn State can do even better. Scout.com’s Brian Dohn implied that PSU was a “sleeping giant” for years at the end of the Joe Paterno tenure.

 

 

But for now, 13 months into a third coaching staff over the past four years, 3 ½ years following a vile revelation of what happened on its campus and just a few weeks removed from the dissolution of historic draconian NCAA sanctions, any Penn State fan can’t complain and must be pleased with this recruiting class.

 

 

Now, will it correlate directly into the equivalent wins on the field? That is yet to be seen. Who knows? That story will be told over the next 4-5 years. But for now, this is all we have to judge the Penn State incoming Class of 2015 on.

 

 

 

 

 

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February 2, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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More on Penn State’s recruiting in Pennsylvania over the past decade

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In the lead-up to national signing day Wednesday, I was asked to do a story summing up Penn State’s recruiting class. The writers for Pitt and West Virginia were asked to do so, too. The editors decided mine would go first and be the longest, a nod to the fact it was by far the highest-rated by the industry experts and websites. But instead of doing the general, easy “this class is rated so high – boy, can James Franklin recruit!” angle that would be, frankly, lazy, I wanted to dig into it and see if any other trends could be identified.

 

 

We had already done the locally-pushed angle of the PSU-vs.-Pitt aspect of this, too. After considering a positional breakdown or a look into the types of athletes/players/kids that were committing, it ended up the trend that was most identifiable was the in-state aspect of recruiting. In fact, what I found was surprising.

 

 

Citing Frankin’s “dominate the state” mantra, again, has become clichéd and passé. Too many people have taken it and run with it. But at the same time, he did say it, and he knew when he did (he had to) that he’d be evaluated on it. So, that’s a start. It takes away the “OHMIGOD THIS CLASS IS SO GOOD” look at it and instead break down a particular segment of it.

 

 

I knew Penn State had zero of the (per Rivals) top 10 PA players last season. But what I was absolutely blown away by was that, even well before the sanctions – and even as the team was in the top 10 on the field and playing in major bowls – that it STILL was not getting much at all of Pennsylvania’s top talent over the final decade of the Joe Paterno tenure.

 

 

I went through and looked at the top 10 prospects in Pennsylvania every year that Rivals provided them (dating to 2003). I was floored at, on whole, how few were going to Penn State. As I wrote, just a quarter of the top 10 from each of those years (30 of 120) did. Since 2008, it’s been even worse. Tossing aside a strong contingent of six from the overall-solid 2010 incoming class, there were a total of six from the previous six classes! That’s almost unfathomable to me – astounding that a large, Power 5 conference school with rich history playing at the second-biggest stadium in the country would do so poorly in attracting kids from its home state.

 

 

Again, I’ll say that Penn State was largely successful on the field in this time (until the NCAA stepped in, anyway), which just proves the overall point that (for better or worse) Pennsylvania isn’t as rich of a talent base as some here like to believe. But still – six kids in six classes? Again, as I wrote in Monday’s Trib article, just as an example, New Jersey (Rutgers) and Connecticut (UConn) are the only “name” state schools in 2015 have not attracted one of the top-10 Rivals prospects. (In some states, it wasn’t THE state school, but even in some states, I used 2-3 schools, such as Florida/Florida State/Miami, for example – and they all got at least one top-10 kid).

 

 

This is all a long way of saying that Franklin and his staff emphasizing the home state doesn’t sound very revolutionary. But the facts show that it’s a different strategy than what PSU has used as a recipe in the past (or perhaps they are just much, much better at executing it than the staffs of Paterno and Bill O’Brien were).

 

 

All of a sudden, in one year Penn State went from the equivalent of Rutgers or UConn to its home state kids to being THE choice for almost all of them. According to the data on Rivals.com, Jordan Whitehead is the lone Pennsylvania senior who received a scholarship offer from Penn State who elected to go elsewhere. Yes, Whitehead is Rivals.com’s No. 1 PA senior and yes PSU wanted him badly, but the 91 percent (10-for-11) “success” rate in getting who they wanted to get in-state is as astounding as the 25 percent rate of getting top-10 PA kids PSU had lugged over a span of dozen years into the Franklin era.

 

 

I’ll insert my usual disclaimer here that recruiting rankings are what they are. They’re imperfect. They’re bound to overrate some and underrate others. They don’t necessarily correlate to on-field wins-and-losses. Heck, even the four major sites themselves can’t agree on much. Look at each’s ranking of the top PA seniors: They all have different No. 1’s.

 

 

So, by that alone, you see how silly it is to put too much stock in it.

 

 

That said, many people do. (Way too much, in my opinion, but that’s a digression for another time). And that’s all we have to evaluate things on now – and I’ll leave it to the professionals at the industry-leading websites that do this kind of stuff for a living.

 

 

Anyway, here are some packages of data that did not make it into the print edition today (for space reasons) that I had compiled to accompany today’s story.

 

 

Penn State’s 2015 verbal commitments who are from Pennsylvania high schools
Position/Name/hometown                 In-state Rivals.com rank
RB Saquan Barkey, Whitehall                         2
CB John Reid, Philadelphia                             3
OL Ryan Bates, Warminster                           4
DE Ryan Buccholz, Malvern                            5
OT Sterling Jenkins, Baldwin                          8
DE Shareef Miller, Philadelphia                     9
RB Andre Robinson, Harrisburg                      10
TE Nick Bowers, Kittanning                             18
LB Jake Cooper, Warminster                          19
S JohnPetrishen, Central Catholic                   21

 

 

 

Penn State superlatives in recruiting sites’ Pennsylvania 2015 class rankings:
(x) Rivals.com: Four of the top five, seven of the top 10,
(x) Scout.com: Top three, seven of the top 10
(x) ESPN: Four of the top six
(x) 247Sports.com: Top four, seven of the top nine

 

Rivals.com rankings for recent Penn State recruiting classes
Year     recruits            4-star recruits*           PA top-10 recruits       B1G rank         national rank
2004    25                    4                                  5                                  4                      29
2005    19                    4                                  2                                  4                      19
2006    24                    15                                4                                  1                      6
2007    21                    8                                  4                                  4                      24
2008    14                    4                                  1                                  6                      43
2009    27                    7                                  1                                  4                      24
2010    20                    12                                6                                  1                      12
2011    16                    5                                  2                                  5                      35
2012    19                    2                                  1                                  7                      51
2013    17                    4                                  1                                  6                      43
2014    25                    6                                  0                                  3                      24
2015    22                    11                                7                                  2                      13
*-Includes six five-star prospects (QB Christian Hackenberg, 2013; DB A.J. Wallace, 2006; DB Justin King and WR Derrick Williams, 2005; QB Anthony Morelli and LB Dan Connor, 2004)

 

 
PENN STATE Class of 2015
Rivals.com ranking: 12
2-stars: 0
3-stars: 12
4-stars: 11

 

Notable verbal commitments: John Reid (5-10, 175), CB: One of the best pure athletes in the state, the Philadelphia native has potential to play immediately; Juwan Johnson (6-4, 205), WR: Johnson teams with the 6-4, 207-pound Irvin Charles to give PSU two big, athletic new receivers from New Jersey; Paris Palmer (6-8, 284), OT: PSU’s lone junior-college transfer part of a strong offensive line group in this class.
What they’re saying: “You’re recruiting with the Penn State education, the fan support, the tradition – and now you have an energetic staff out there recruiting. This is where Penn State recruiting should be.” – Brian Dohn, Scout.com national recruiting analyst

 

 

 

Enjoy signing day. I’ll be in State College (technically, University Park) providing coverage.

 

 

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January 28, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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TribLive show No. 25: Recruiting talk with Scout’s Brian Dohn, plus 7-time national champion volleyball coach Russ Rose

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For this week’s TribLive Radio show, we had Scout.com national recruiting analyst Brian Dohn and legendary Penn State women’s volleyball coach Russ Rose on as guests.

 

 

A week before signing day, Dohn discussed the theory that Penn State was something of a sleeping giant during the final years of the Joe Paterno tenure, the propensity for schools to recruit players of younger and younger ages, the ways in which the Nittany Lions plan on wrapping up their class and who PSU’s recruiting rivals truly are.

 

 

Ross, a winner of more than 1,000 career matches and seven national championships, addresses the pressures associated with guiding a team that has won six of the past eight national titles, of where today’s top volleyball athletes tend to come from (western PA isn’t as far down the list as you might think) and what it takes to be as successful as his program has been over the past two decades.

 

 

 

 

Listen live with one click here:

 

 

And the link to download the podcast here:

http://sportstalk.triblive.com/download/128PSU15.mp3

 

 

Next week the show will broadcast live on a THURSDAY because Signing Day is Wednesday and not only would “news” be “breaking” as players send in their faxes during the 9-10 a.m. hour, it also would likely be out of date by the time the podcast was listened to by many. So, again, that means Nittany Nation episode 26 will be THURSDAY, February 5 at 9 a.m.

 

Enjoy your week.

 

 

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January 27, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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Penn State’s 2015 recruiting class nears its completion with Nick Bowers verbal commitment

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Not long after taking over as coach at Penn State, James Franklin invoked a dating/engagement/marriage analogy to describe the recruiting process.

 

“Once you stand up and shake my hand and look me in the eye and say this is where you want to go, we’re engaged,” Franklin said at a news conference that kicked off 2014 spring practice.  “There is no more dating and there is no more flirting. Come signing day, we get married, and there is no divorce.”

 

For more than six months, Nick Bowers and Penn State seemed to be like a pair that made goo-goo eyes at each other from across the room but were too shy to come together.

 

Monday, that mating dance at last came to an end when Bowers verbally committed to be the 23rd member of the Nittany Lions’ incoming 2015 recruiting class. He previously was verbally committed to Pitt but had made an official visit to Penn State this past weekend.

 

Bowers’ commitment was the third to Penn State over a 30-hour span, and when the dust settled the Nittany Lions were ranked No. 11 in the Rivals.com national class rankings. Bowers is the ninth member of PSU’s class from a Pennsylvania high school – only the second of which who is not among the Rivals.com top 10-rated prospects in the state.

 

Bowers committed to Pitt almost a year ago to the day (Jan. 27, 2014 – also on a Monday. But he had previously been offered a scholarship by then-Temple assistant Terry Smith. Smith is now Penn State’s defensive recruiting coordinator (and cornerbacks coach), and one of his primary responsibilities is recruiting in the WPIAL. On the day he was introduced in University Park, Smith told the Trib’s Kevin Gorman “My role is to secure Pittsburgh and Western Pa.,” Smith said. “Any top talent there, I’ve got to get it. That’s my responsibility.”

 

He keeps making good on that pledge. Smith, Franklin, PSU offensive coordinator/tight ends coach John Donovan and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop (an Oakmont native) were at Bowers’ home today.

 

 

Bowers, who calls himself an “outdoors guy” rather than a city dweller and is said to have long admired Penn State, initially impressed Nittany Lions coaches at an on-campus 7-on-7 camp last summer. But be it the fact Bowers was already committed and was loathe to back out of it, or that Penn State was short on scholarships because they still had a year of NCAA sanctions to wade through – or both – the two sides couldn’t come together.

 

That changed beginning in September when the NCAA pulled back its remaining scholarship sanctions on Penn State (its consent decree has since been entirely declared void). Armed with unexpected additional 2015 scholarships, Penn State’s coaches’ first offer was to Bowers.

 

The 6-foot-4, 244-pounder never publicly backed out of his Pitt commitment, but he told the Trib’s Matt Grubba on Monday that when the Panthers lost coach Paul Chryst to Wisconsin, that changed things.

 

“I’m from a small town, and this whole process has been hard,” Bowers said. “A little bit of attention is nice, but you know I don’t like to talk to people all the time.”

 

After Bowers’ flip, Penn State has secured 15 of the 16 senior prospects who held offers from both Pitt and Penn State and chose one of them.

 

Bowers is the second tight end for the PSU 2015 class, joining Jonathan Holland of Potomac, Md. The Nittany Lions have four scholarship tight ends on the roster – rising senior Kyle Carter, rising junior Brent Wilkerson and Mike Gesicki and Adam Breneman, each of whom will be a sophomore by eligibility in 2015.

 

Bowers joins Baldwin tackle Sterling Jenkins – who enrolled in classes at University Park earlier this month – as WPIAL seniors who committed to Penn State. Counting Jenkins and two other early enrollees, the Nittany Lions’ class stands at 23. They are expected to add two more prospects to it.

 

One of PSU’s outstanding offers is to Central Catholic safety John Petrishen, who is choosing between Penn State, Pitt and Virginia. Petrishen confirmed to the Trib’s Jerry DiPaola that Smith, Shoop and Franklin made an in-home visit to him Monday afternoon. He reiterated — again — that he will not be making any decisions until after this visit to Virginia this weekend.

 

Since Franklin took over, Penn State has extended scholarship offers to 10 WPIAL prospects (four in the 2015 class and three each in 2016 and ’17). Of that group, four have verbally committed to a college – three picking Penn State. Petrishen could make four, if he does.

 

The highest-rated prospect of that WPIAL 10 by Rivals.com is Woodland Hills junior running back Miles Sanders (a “6.0,” whatever that means), who committed to Penn State. However not far behind that  the WPIAL prize of the class of 2015, Central Valley defensive back Jordan Whitehead (a “5.9” by Rivals, again, whatever that means), shunned and stung PSU by choosing Pitt.

 

 

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January 23, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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Penn State on TribLive Radio this week: Donovan Smith, Deion Barnes, Guy Gadowsky, Jeff Rice

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A busy week of Penn State coverage on TribLive Radio. During the weekly Nittany Nation show that broadcasts live on Wednesday, we had Jeff Rice of Lions247.com talking last Friday’s ripping up of the NCAA-PSU consent decree, Nittany Lions recruiting storylines and where the program stands. Jeff’s been covering Penn State in some capacity for 15 years now, so we appreciate his insights.

 

Also on the show was Lions hockey coach Guy Gadowsky. In only its third year of existence, Penn State, now past the midway point of the season, leads the Big Ten and has the nation’s second-leading goal-scorer in the nation in Casey Bailey. Gadowsky also addresses the “409” decal situation that became so controversial.

 

 

For Nittany Nation Episode No. 24, listen directly here with one click:

 

 

Or to download the podcast, use this:

http://sportstalk.triblive.com/download/121PSU15.mp3

 

 

 

Then on Thursday, former Penn State players Donovan Smith and Deion Barnes joined Ken Laird and Josh Taylor on the air live from Mobile, Ala., during practices for the Senior Bowl. Smith, the Lions’ left tackle, and Barnes, its pass-rushing defensive end, each declared for the NFL draft a year early following their redshirt junior seasons. They talk about what the week is like and who has impressed them the most in practice, as well as what went into their decisions to leave school early.

 

 

Listen to the interviews directly here with one click:

 

 

Or to download the podcast, use this:

http://sportstalk.triblive.com/download/122PSU15.mp3

 

 

 

As always, thank for reading and listening. Check out Friday’s other Penn State blog posts.

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January 23, 2015
by Chris Adamski


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Are Penn State and Pitt really recruiting rivals? More on the Pennsylvania recruiting battle

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By now, I hope you’ve read the story that ran in Friday’s Trib discussing the ramifications of Pat Narduzzi’s hiring as Pitt’s head coach on Penn State recruiting and on the recent social media banter between coaches of the two schools. Colleague Jerry DiPaola did the lion’s share of the writing, so I am comfortable in promoting it as a well-written piece (unlike most of the stuff I provide!).

 

In preparing for it, I went trying to see if any trends could be identified in who’s recruiting against whom – are Penn State and Pitt truly recruiting rivals? After all, these are two schools in differing conferences, from two completely different campus/town settings who haven’t played each other on the field in 15 years. Yes, we in Pittsburgh take a provincial look at this – we’re all about Pitt and Penn State, Pitt and Penn State. (With a side of WVU). But what is the view from the outside on this?

 

Indeed, the two national recruiting analysts we interviewed for the story – one each from each of the two services that are generally regarded as the premier sites in the industry – all but laugh off the talk of a Pitt-PSU (recruiting) cold war. Rivals’ Mike Farrell said, ‘Penn State is the alpha dog in-state,” Rivals.com recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. “Pitt fans can yell and scream about that all they want, but that’s the way it is.” Scout’s Brian Dohn’s take: “You want that rivalry to take place, but it can’t be a rivalry until both sides win… When you go to Penn State, you have 100,000 people there. When you go to a Pitt game, you have a lot of yellow seats.”

 

The point of this post is not to pile on Pitt (nor was the story). I know many Panthers partisans won’t believe that. Just relaying messages. That said, in researching for this story, I wanted to see how often, in fact, Pitt and Penn State go head-to-head in attempting to attract a prospect. Is it regularly? More often than their respective conference rivals? More often than other schools in the state? More often than schools that are also known for recruiting the Pennsylvania footprint?

 

So what I did was examine all of the 2015 verbal commitments for Pitt, Penn State and a handful of other relevant schools (nearby West Virginia, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, plus recruiting dynamo Alabama for comparison’s sake). I used Rivals.com to see what schools had offered scholarships to each. To compare, I made a chart (that I hope will show up well in blog format) of each school’s “record” in recruiting against each school (in other words, among prospects who had offers from, say, Ohio State and Penn State and made a verbal commitment to one or the other, eight chose PSU and six OSU. Thus, that is reflected by an “8-6” under Penn State and “6-8” under Ohio State).

 

I hope that makes sense. I also want to emphasize that this is FAR from a perfect measure. For one thing, we are relying completely on Rivals.com for our info. They do a fabulous job in covering recruiting and I have no reason to doubt them, but it’s always unsettling to depend on someone else’s information. Secondly, the term “offer” can be, at times, subjective. Thirdly, there’s a theory that some schools will not offer a kid they know they aren’t going to get — while the philosophies of others is one of, in effect, “it can’t hurt to try.” Finally, the timing of this makes it particularly unfair to Pitt (and Michigan) because they have just gone through coaching changes and, as a result, have much smaller classes at the moment.

 

One final note: I compiled this on Tuesday, and all I have updated since are the Pitt recruits (PSU hasn’t  had any additional ones as I post this late Friday morning). But if by chance Alabama or Ohio State, etc., added anyone, it won’t be reflected here.

 

Capiche? (I don’t even know if that’s how you say that word). Anyway, here is what I found:

 

 

PENN STATE (20 recruits, ranked No. 12 nationally)

13-2 vs. Pitt     8-0 vs. WVU    8-6 vs. OSU      4-1 vs. Mich    8-2 vs. MSU     4-4 vs. Bama

 

PITT (13 recruits, ranked No. 61 nationally)

2-13 vs. PSU    6-4 vs. WVU    1-3 vs. OSU      1-2 vs. Mich    4-3 vs. MSU     0-1 vs. Bama

 

WEST VIRGINIA (21 recruits, ranked No. 27 nationally)

0-8 vs. PSU      4-6 vs. Pitt       2-8 vs. OSU      1-2 vs. Mich    1-3 vs. MSU     3-5 vs. Bama

 

OHIO STATE (24 recruits, ranked No. 7 nationally)

6-8 vs. PSU      3-1 vs. Pitt       8-2 vs. WVU    8-2 vs. Mich    11-2 vs. MSU   6-11 vs. Bama

 

MICHIGAN (6 recruits, ranked No. 101 nationally)

1-4 vs. PSU      2-1 vs. Pitt       2-1 vs. WVU    2-8 vs. OSU      2-1 vs. MSU     2-3 vs. Bama

 

MICHIGAN STATE (15 recruits, ranked No. 34 nationally)

2-8 vs. PSU      3-4 vs. Pitt       2-1 vs. WVU    2-11 vs. OSU    1-2 vs. Mich    1-3 vs. Bama

 

ALABAMA (26 recruits, ranked No. 1 nationally)

4-4 vs. PSU      1-0 vs. Pitt       5-3 vs. WVU    11-6 vs. OSU    3-2 vs. Mich    3-1 vs. MSU

 

 

One last note on the “Commonwealth Cold War” between Pitt and Penn State. When looking at in-state schools Pitt is recruiting against, among Panthers’ 2015 verbal commitments, as many have offers from Duquesne as do from Penn State (two). And that group features three times as many players with Temple offers (six) than Penn State.

 

 

Enjoy your weekend. Check out my other two blog posts from Friday.

 

 

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