Last year didn't exactly inspire confidence in Penn State football. A quarterback battle ended with the winner throwing five interceptions against Florida. The defense was abnormally average and struggled to stop any running game that forced the linebackers to move laterally. And the recruiting effort, already struggling with low caliber talent in the natural recruiting area, featured star athletes at positions of need who were told that offers that didn't come for several months (if at all) were "in the mail."
Stating the obvious, Joe Paterno is 84 years old. While he's probably the spryest octogenarian anyone's seen this side of Hugh Hefner, it's natural to be wary of anyone telling you that Paterno has a newfound energy and passion. Considering the last high school recruit he visited at home was this guy, no one imagined Paterno would be back in recruit living rooms again this year.
Think again, Penn Staters, because JoePa's hitting the road again - the virtual road, that is. Paterno is using SKYPE to speak with recruits.
Yes, really. We've even got a picture to prove it.
It's apparent that Joe loves his new toy. Since getting in touch with top shelf defensive line prospect Noah Spence two weeks ago, Joe's now been inside the home (and phones, and laptops...) of Camren Williams, Armani Reeves, Eugene Lewis, and Will Mahone. All elite level prospects. All of whom have either verbaled to Penn State or have the Nittany Lions at the top of lists filled with heavy hitter programs. The response from these recruits, who are used to being woo'ed by the likes of Nick Saban and Will Muschamp, has been exceptional.
"It was [Paterno] and Coach Johnson in his office, right next to each other," Spence told Rivals.com. "We were in my computer lab -- me, my dad and coach. It was real fun. It was entertaining, I didn't know JoePa was that funny. He's a real cool guy though. He talked about him being around and everything, which was great, that was our main concern with the program. He talked about me playing early and everything like that. It was nice."
"I think when you look at Penn State, it's such an old school type of program with a lot of older coaches," Williams said. "And [when] they do a lot more stuff like this, like adding on Facebook and Skyping and all the things with new technology, it shows recruits that they're really still on top of things. So I think it definitely helps them out a lot."
Of course, sometimes the shortest responses are the sweetest. Will Mahone, via Twitter:
Jo pa on skype!
For all of Paterno's self-styled conservative demeanor, he's been awfully progressive when it comes to technology. A few years ago when a reporter asked him about downloading music, Paterno claimed he couldn't "download a jar of peanut butter." Last year, he referred to Twitter as "tweedle dee." Even so, Penn State's coaching staff has embraced Twitter as a way to connect with fans and alums. Now, Paterno will probably claim to have no idea how to say "Skype," but it's apparent he knows exactly what he's doing. The famous Paterno charm knows no bounds. It even works through a screen.