This post is Part Two of a two-part series known as Point/Counterpoint, the first installment of the series on the new Black Shoe Diaries. Yesterday, Jeff Junstrom made the case for defensive end prospect Noah Spence. Check back tomorrow to choose a winner.
Armani Reeves is from West Roxbury, Massachusetts. He is not from Pennsylvania.
I mention this because that very topic has been divisive amongst those that follow Penn State football recruiting. There are those who will argue that Penn State has failed to recruit their own backyard effectively, at least in the same manner in which the Longhorns have recruited Texas and the Buckeyes recruited Ohio. Aside from the fact that Noah Spence is immensely talented, this is the primary reason that he's important to this class. We didn't win the Terrelle Pryor sweepstakes, LeSean McCoy spent his career toiling away in Oakland, and Chad Henne ended up in Maize and Blue.
I, like Armani Reeves, am also not from Pennsylvania, which may explain why I'm befuddled by the fixation on "locking down our backyard." In truth, Penn State has never been the only major program to recruit in its home state - besides sharing the state with the University of Pittsburgh, power programs like Alabama and Notre Dame have been very successful with Pennsylvania high school recruits. It's also not as if Penn State has depended solely on Pennsylvania recruits for its success, either. Penn State's backyard has also historically encompassed New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Maryland, and Virginia. That success has even spread as far as South Carolina. As the original Beast of the East, Penn State has long been the dominant power on the eastern seaboard.
In other words, it doesn't much matter to me if a prospect is from Pennsylvania. Maybe we missed on Terrelle Pryor, but we scored big with Daryll Clark. While LeSean McCoy barely spent a career at Pitt, Evan Royster was breaking rushing records and tutoring the next big thing in Silas Redd. A great player in New Jersey (or Connecticut, or Maryland) is the same as a great player from Pennsylvania.
There's no question that Noah Spence is a fantastic talent. A game changer. A player who is capable of dominance, particularly in a Larry Johnson-system. But with all due respect to young Mr. Spence, the most important target in the Class of 2012 is Armani Reeves.
Armani Reeves is a 5'11, 185 pound cornerback. A four-star prospect on both Rivals and 247 Sports, Reeves holds offers from across the country, including Stanford, UConn, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri, Utah and Virginia. At this point, the favorite appears to be Penn State, with Notre Dame and Boston College nipping at the heels.
Like Spence, Reeves is one of the top players in the country, both overall and at his own position. However, all things considered, Spence is a luxury. Reeves is a necessity.
In spite of last year's underperforming group, Larry Johnson's defensive lines have been exceptional. While the superstars have often been highly touted players coming out of high school, Johnson and Tom Bradley have gotten production on the line from under the radar-types for years. There is plenty of talent on the roster in the coming seasons; more than enough to create at least a competent front four.
Take one look at the defensive back depth chart and you'll realize why Reeves is a must-get. D'Anton Lynn, Chaz Powell, Nick Sukay and Drew Astorino are in their final seasons of eligibility. Derrick Thomas had a disciplinary or academic issue that kept him off the field last year. Alex Kenney would prefer to play offense, but will stay on the defensive side of the ball for depth reasons alone. In short, the defensive backfield is stable, maybe even excellent, for the 2011 season. Starting in 2012, things get much more dicey. A commitment from a shutdown cornerback prospect in Reeves would ease the burden in filling next year's depth chart.
Penn State has a great foot in the door with Reeves. His high school teammate, linebacker Camren Williams, committed to Penn State in March and has been in his ear constantly. Another one of Reeves' close friends, under the radar recruit Jake Kiley, committed last week. Whether these kids are from Sto-Rox or West Roxbury, Penn State needs defensive backs. There's no better player out there for the Nittany Lions than Armani Reeves.
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