Recruiting Update - Coming Down the Home Stretch

The regular season is over. With many high schools also wrapping up their seasons you can expect the recruiting news to start heating up again. So I figured this would be a good time to update all of you on Penn State's recruiting situation as we round the fourth turn and head down the home stretch toward signing day.

Back in the spring I looked at each position and tried to project how I saw the scholarships being allocated. This was the result of that endeavor.

Projected 2009 Scholarship Allocation
Position Projected Scholarships
Quarterbacks 2
Running Backs 2
Wide Receivers 3
Guards/Centers 2
Offensive Tackles 3
Tight Ends 1
Defensive Tackles 2
Defensive Ends 2
Linebackers 2
Cornerbacks 3
Safeties 3
Total 25

(Note: The links in the table will take you to each breakdown. Keep in mind these were written back in the spring before Chris Bell, Phil Taylor, Willie Harriott, and Chris Baker were all kicked off the team.)

To date, Penn State has 20 verbal commitments from kids to fill these 25 spots. Let's take a look at what we have to date.

TE - Gary Gilliam                             WR - Brandon Felder
K - Anthony Fera CB - Stephon Morris
WR - Devon Smith OT - Eric Shrive
LB - Glenn Carson OG - Frank Figueroa
OT - Nate Cadogan CB - Derrick Thomas
WR - Christian Kuntz CB - Darrell Givens
RB - Curtis Dukes S - Stephen Obeng-Agyapong
OT - Adam Gress OT - Mark Arcidiacono
WR - Curtis Drake S - Malcolm Willis
DT - Sean Stanley C - Ty Howle

So when you stack these up against the my scholarship projections this is what you come away with.

Position Projected
Scholarships
Verbals Deficient
Quarterbacks 2 0 -2
Running Backs 2 1 -1
Wide Receivers 3 4 +1
Tight Ends 1 1 0
Guards/Centers 2 2 0
Offensive Tackles 3 4 +1
Defensive Tackles 2 1 -1
Defensive Ends 2 0 -2
Linebackers 2 1 -1
Cornerbacks 3 3 0
Safeties 3 2 -1
Kickers 0 1 +1
Totals 25 20 -5

Let's go through each position quickly and I'll update you on where I think we are.

Quarterbacks

After not taking a quarterback in the past two years it appeared we were in pretty dire straights to get one this year. Truthfully, we still are. Last year we put all of our eggs in the Terrelle Pryor basket and came home empty. We kind of did the same thing with Tate Forcier and lost him to Michigan. It looked like things were going to be really bad, but then hope was renewed when Kevin Newsome decommitted from Michigan and started giving Penn State a look. So now it looks like we have all of our eggs in that basket. Newsome is planning on taking an official visit to Penn State in December. He plans to announce his choice at the Army All-American game and then he will enroll at the school of his choice for the spring semester. Signs are good for Penn State at this point with Virginia Tech a close second and Ohio State and Boston College tied for a distant third. We're also still holding out a slim hope for Antone Exum, who is also down to PSU and Virginia Tech, but I'm not optimistic there.

If we strike out it's bad, but not a complete disaster. I'm sure we have a few kids in the wings to fall back on like maybe Myles Gibbon. Curtis Drake is an athletic quarterback with potential that could fit into the Spread HD scheme, but I think they would rather use him at wide receiver if at all possible. We also heard Joe praising walk-on freshman Matt McGloin in the preseason, so if we take just one guy I tihnk we'll be ok.

Running Backs

At this time last year we all thought our running back situation was terrible. We hadn't taken one in a few years and the depth chart was getting thin. But we're all pleased with Evan Royster who has another two years of eligibility left. And Stephfon Green has played extremely well as a redshirt freshman and should provide ample depth in the coming years. Add in Brent Carter and Brandon Beachum and we're in pretty good shape for a few years.

We have a verbal commitment from Curtis Dukes who has had an excellent senior year. All of our other targets are off the board, so at this point I think that is all we're going to take. So that -1 in the deficiency column is probably going to stay that way.

Wide Recievers

This was a major position of need this year after missing on targets like Vidal Hazleton and Deon Walker in recent years. The loss of Chris Bell made things even worse. But the coaches have done well in bringing in Felder, Kuntz, Drake and Smith. But like I said, Drake may end up being needed at quarterback. Also, Felder and Kuntz tore their ACL's this fall which may be why we're still talking to Bryce McNeal and Justin Brown as added insurance. And there is a good chance that Je'Ron Stokes may come back on the market with the changes going on in Tennessee. So we're not done here and it's conceivable we may end up with six wide recievers when we're said and done.

Offensive Line

We've met and exceeded my projected quota for offensive linemen. So at this point I think we're done in this area.

Defensive Line

I'm kind of shocked we haven't seen more action on the defensive line, but kind of not too. I really just based those projections on the fact we had so many scholarships to give out that it would make sense to take a few. But truthfully the depth chart doesn't look bad, and that's an area we've always recruited well in the past. Larry Johnson has shown no fear in plugging true freshmen into the rotation. We've got plenty of bodies for next year, so maybe they're going to take a year off and focus on other areas of need like defensive backs and wide receivers. We're still talking to Will Hill, Raynard Randolph, and Jason Ankrah. I don't get a good vibe from Hill and Raynard, and the on-again-off-again relationship with Ankrah seems to be off again. Next year our depth chart will look a lot more attractive to those five star studs.

Linebackers

We really don't need any linebackers this year. The depth chart is overloaded for the next several years. But Glenn Carson is a good get, and we're in pretty good shape with Jelani Jenkins who will probably announce his decision at the Army AA game. Plus we already have a commitment for 2010 from Mike Hull. I have no concerns in this area whether we get Jenkins or not.

Cornerbacks

Penn State desperately needed to bring in at least three cornerbacks in this class after taking only one defensive back last year. And they hit a home run with Morris, Thomas, and Givens. And if things get crowded with all the recievers we're bringing in, we can try moving some of those guys over to defense for added depth.

Safeties

This is another area of need but I'm afraid the coaches are a year late in getting to the party. At this point we really need someone that can step in and play right away in 2009. Obeng-Agyapong and Willis will get a chance to compete for a starting role almost immediately. We're also still in the running for four-star safety Gerald Hodges who is said to be 50/50 between Penn State and Rutgers at this point. Besides Newsome I consider Hodges the biggest must-get still on the board.

Status Report

We're pulling in a nice little class this year. We've addressed the major needs in the secondary, the offensive line, and at wide receiver. We've also addressed minor needs at running back and kicker. But we're still desperately in need of a quarterback, and right now Newsome is probably our only option. Fail to get him and we're most likely looking at starting a freshman or a walk-on in 2011. (Hello? Michigan 2008 anyone?)

I'm also a little bothered by how we blew off the defensive line this year. With so many scholarships to give out I figured we would have pulled in three or four kids. Since the amazing 2006 class that featured Maybin, Odrick, and Evans we've taken a lot of project kids that weren't highly regarded. Now we're probably looking at taking just Sean Stanley who is admittedly very good, but you need four defensive linemen in our 4-3 defense. We're putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to get a good class next year. Otherwise, unless guys like James Terry, Brandon Ware, Chima Okoli, Pete Massaro, and Kevion Latham turn out to be diamonds in the rough we may be looking around in 2012 wondering what happened to all the talent we used to take for granted on the front line.

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