(Sorry for the delay, yesterday turned into one of those days...)
In prepping this week, the BSD staff was throwing around some post and series ideas behind the scenes. With just one game left to play, the long, boring offseason is about to rear its ugly head. Even though Penn State has a couple of big issues to deal with over the next few months, the dead period between early January and mid-August is brutal. So, with the current coaching search in mind, Chris "I've Got Eligibility Left, You Know" Grovich asked two recruiting-based questions, each of which probably deserve their own post. So, I'm going to answer them now.
The answers are: 1) Yes, the 2012 recruiting class CAN be salvaged, but 2) NO, waiting until January to make a head coaching hire isn't worth sacrificing this class over...sort of. Move over, stars debate, there is a new pond-dynamiting topic this week.
The Leg's first question read as follows: can the PSU recruiting class be salvaged? And in typical lawyer fashion, my answer is "It depends."
It depends on what you mean by the word salvaged. You'll notice that this week's post does not have the positional rundown of commits and targets. With so much uncertainty surrounding the program, and with top commits and recruits heading elsewhere, the 2012 class is heading in the wrong direction, and it's near impossible to accurately predict what it might look like on February 1 (Signing Day).
As of right now, the Penn State Class of 2012 is represented by:
The final four are listed as "soft" commits on 247Sports.com's list of Penn State commitments. I'm not sure of the exact criteria for a "soft" commit, but I do know that both Cam Williams (Ohio State) and Nyeem Wartman (Pitt) have visited other schools, so that certainly plays into the assessment. I've heard Virginia Tech's name attached to Skyler Mornhinweg, and I'm not sure who is targeting Malik Golden. Either way, we're down to 13 commitments in a class that has been pegged at around 23 spots available.
So that leaves 10 spots, assuming everyone stays (only Jesse James is a definite, as the McKeesport, PA tight end intends to enroll early in January). Let's further assume that Dave Joyner's 30-day timetable is correct, and that a coach will be named by January 8 (and I think we can further assume that if they don't want to name a coach now, they'll likely wait until after PSU's bowl game, which is January 2). That gives the new coach less than 30 days to fill those 10 spots.
I don't have any doubt that the new coach can fill those 10 spots, which is why I say the class can be salvaged. However, the makeup of those 10 spots will be drastically different than what people had hoped it would look like. We had hoped to close with names like Cox, Spence and Brown; now, it appears we'll end with 10 names that no one knows about yet. Sure, some of the top targets are keeping PSU close, and one or two might even pick the Nittany Lions. But the class of 2012 will not end strong, and will be forced to take players that a top school like Penn State normally wouldn't be interested in taking, unless the new coach comes in and starts snatching up recruits like Urban Meyer. Unfortunately, with less than a month between official hire and Signing Day, that feat is a lot hard than for Meyer, who has a bit of a head start.
Which leads us to The Son of Reggie Roby's second question, the one that will frame our internal debate for the next roughly two weeks: Is waiting until January to hire a coach worth the risk of sacrificing this recruiting class?
Looking at this question logically and without emotion, the answer has to be a resounding "Yes." The long term, greater good is more important to this football program than one recruiting class, especially if the new coach can make an immediate impact in the next few recruiting classes. But that presupposes that there is this mythical Mr. Right (or is it spelled Richt?) that is "the right hire." At some point, the coaching search reaches the point of diminishing returns, and we're quickly approaching that point.
"Let's trust the committee to make the right hire" is the common rebuttal for most people when others start complaining about the length of this search. And I agree; I trust Joyner, Lubert and company will make what they feel is the right choice for Penn State. But that leads me to two sub-questions, the analysis of which actually leads to a coaching prediction.
1) Do you really think that they committee, six weeks into a coaching search, hasn't already found a candidate capable of taking on this scandal, this university, and this football team and leading it back to greatness?
We're six weeks into the search, with little to no information having been leaked. Everyone is speculating, ourselves inclusive. But do you think that the committee hasn't at least reached out to this "perfect hire" and received some sort of comment in return?
Further, there are rumors from supposed insiders that we've got our man, and we're waiting for him to be ready to announce, for whatever reason. If that's true, then sub-question one has taken care of itself, and Joyner and Co. have made their decision. Which leads me to...
2) What benefit does it serve to not name the chosen coach now? If the coach is in-house, and we've waited six weeks, that is ludicrous. Recruits, commits, and current players are struggling with this sense of instability, and to end all of this by taking way too long to name Tom Bradley or Larry Johnson as the next head coach would be another chapter in the laughable saga that is the Penn State Response to Scandal and the Aftermath.
So we'll further assume that the next coach is an outsider. Why wait? Well, the common belief is that we're waiting for one of two things: either for a current collegiate coach to finish his bowl game, or for an NFL coach to finish his season.
If the former is true, and "our guy" is a current college coach with one game left to coach at his soon-to-be-former school, it makes no sense to me. For example, let's say that Mark Richt, a name that has been tossed around recently, is "our guy." The argument goes that Richt wants to wait until after Georgia's bowl game against Michigan State on January 2 before he is announced as the new PSU head coach. But why?
If Richt would be leaving anyway, why wait? I'm certain there is someone else on the Georgia staff that could coach that bowl game, and Richt would be sacrificing weeks of quality recruiting time just to coach one more game. If honor is the argumentative route you take, is it really that much more honorable to stick around and finish out the season and then bolt? Would the Pitt fans have felt better if Todd Graham had stuck around for the BBVA Compass Bowl? As long as Richt didn't handle his departure as mind-numbingly stupid as Graham did, I'd be OK with him leaving now.
Richt would be able to come in and immediately get to work at Penn State on the current class of 2012, attempting to salvage what is left and hit the trail hard like That Guy out in Columbus. Instead, Penn State is left with a rudderless ship, watching top targets head to competitors, and standing by as other teams contact and try to sway current commits.
However, if the latter portion of the above assumption is true, and we're waiting for an NFL guy to finish his season, well that makes sense. We wouldn't have asked Mark Richt to take the job with two games to go in the regular season, nor should we ask any NFL coach to cut short his season, especially if said coach is in the middle of a potential playoff run.
For these reasons, the hiring of an NFL coach makes the most sense to me, at least in light of what has taken place with this search so far. Waiting eight weeks to name Mark Richt as head coach would be an acceptable hire, for sure. But it would have wasted three to five valuable weeks of recruiting so that Richt could get one more game in as Georgia head coach.
Waiting eight weeks to hire Mike Munchak, on the other hand, is just as acceptable, in my opinion, but makes logical sense when you think about his current situation.
In the end, the Class of 2012 will have some quality commitments, but as a whole will likely be a casualty of the process put in place by Joyner. Is it worth it? We'll see soon enough, as February 1 is rapidly approaching, and Penn State is expected to get somewhere in the area of 23 letters of intent. Who signs those letters remains to be seen.