(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
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.
- In New Jersey, Penn State corralled five of the top 11 prospects
- PSU got two of Maryland’s top 12-rated players
- The Nittany Lions got one of the top six players in D.C.
- A top-five player in Connecticut
- The No. 3-ranked player in Virginia
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.