One week ago, Happy Valley played host to nearly 20 high school football players, the majority of which were current Class of 2012 Penn State commitments. Almost everyone had good things to say, no one decommitted after meeting the new bosses, and it appears that the newly assembled staff passed their first test.
This weekend, more visitors arrive on campus, only this time, they're all prospective prospects. With Signing Day rapidly approaching and Penn State sitting tenuously on 15 commitments, the staff will have to work hard to save the Class of 2012.
At least six visitors are confirmed for this weekend's visit, and all six are relatively new faces to those that follow Penn State recruiting. Taking over in Happy Valley with just a month left wasn't easy for the new staff, so quickly finding available prospects was the first order. Ohio State may be signing top-level commit on a seemingly daily basis, but the recruits left on Penn State's radar seem to be solid contributors that can hopefully make a difference in Happy Valley.
A couple of players from Maryland's Calvert Hall school will be on campus this weekend. If that school sounds familiar, it's because rising sophomore Adrian Amos is an alum, and is close with both WR Trevor Williams and DB Da'Quan Davis. Both recruits are currently WVU commits, but don't be surprised if at least one of them pulls the trigger and joins the Class of '12. In fact, the phrase "Penn State is my dream school" was recently uttered by one of these guys.
Williams is a three-star two-way player, but is being recruited to Penn State as a wide receiver. Davis, also a three-star recruit, is likely a cornerback at the next level. His style meshes well with that of the new defensive coaches, which includes a lot of bump-and-run style play from their corners. Being from Maryland, each were recently pursued by Larry Johnson, Sr.
An old name resurfaces this weekend, as NY RB Akeel Lynch intends to visit. A recent Boston College decommit, Lynch is the running back Penn State needs to take in this class. There haven't been many other names thrown about at the position since the new staff took over, so getting a commitment from Lynch will go a long way to shore up concerns at depth. A three-star back with an impressive slate of offers, Lynch has been talking to Charles London, his potential position coach.
Another position of need in this class is quarterback. Right now, Penn State holds a verbal commitment from PA QB Skyler Mornhinweg, but his commitment and his father's future employment both have Nittany Lion fans nervous that Mornhinweg will never suit up in blue and white. That's why it was somewhat of a relief to see that GA QB Steven Bench would be visiting this weekend, and that a commitment is entirely possible. Bench currently does not have an offer, but I wouldn't be surprised if he not only leaves with one, but also leaves as a member of the Class of '12.
Bench is a two-star pro-style quarterback that seems to be flying under the radar during his recruitment. He has impressed some scouts and has heard from some high-profile teams, including a recent visit from Mississippi State. He is a current commit to Rice.
Potentially looking to bolster the line of scrimmage AND the academic roster, Penn State recently extended an offer to NJ OL Wendy Laurent. (Yes, Wendy. I dare you to say something to his face about it.) Coming from The Hun School in Princeton, Laurent does not have an impressive offer sheet, but the three-star lineman has been getting looks from many programs. Further, with a new, established offensive line coach (a SINGLE OFFENSIVE LINE COACH), anything is possible.
Finally, another familiar name will be on campus, and another addition might soon be made to the father-son list of players at Penn State. WR Jonathan Warner will be here looking to follow in his father Curt's big shoes. Warner has been working with a personal trainer in his home near Seattle, and has been impressing some onlookers late in the game. They can keep looking, though, as Warner seems to be all Penn State.
Admittedly, I have not read Black Shoe Diaries since its inception (sorry, Old Mike), so I don't know if we've ever witnessed what might shortly go down. Of the six names mentioned, there is a good possibility that as many as four will commit by Monday. Have we ever done a two-siren post? We might soon find out.
Additionally, the staff has been going after some other, more highly sought after recruits, including some committed elsewhere. The return interest level for some of these guys remains questionable, but it has been confirmed that the staff has, at the very least, contacted the following athletes:
- MD CB Ronald Darby - uncommitted; has ruled PSU out, but you have to love the new staff's effort here
- IN QB Gunner Kiel - Notre Dame (by way of Indiana AND LSU); is enrolled at Notre Dame after a weird recruitment, but again, love the effort
- NY QB Chad Kelly - Clemson
- TN QB Chad Voytik - Pitt
- PA DB Will Parks - Pitt
- AL LB Beau Hankins - uncommitted
- AL LB Harding Harper - uncommitted
- PA DE Evan Schwan - uncommitted
Coach O'Brien recently gave a free interview to Fight On State in which he discussed his recruiting philosophies. There is a lot of good information there, but the part that stuck out to me was his answer to the question about recruiting areas for each coach (emphasis mine):
[Mark Brennan, editor, FightOnState.com]: In the past, Penn State has really focused on a 300-mile radius (around State College). Is that something that will continue? Do you kind of have to keep your own house in order first before looking outside? Or do you look outside immediately?
[Coach O'Brien]: There's three main (things) we have to do to make sure we have the best program in the Big Ten. Number one is we've got to take care of that 300-mile radius. We've got to do a great job in the state of Pennsylvania. We've got to be able to go into Ohio. We've got to be able to go into Chicago. We've got to be able to go into New England and New York. And then, the mid-Atlantic states, especially with the job Larry Johnson has done recruiting in the Baltimore/D.C. area. That's definitely one of the objectives.
Then we've got to do a great job of recruiting the East Coast. So we're going to have three or four coaches in the state of Florida. We're going to have two coaches in the state of Georgia. (They'll be) looking for the types of guys we think will be a great fit for Penn State. But we've got to build our program, the foundation of our program, has to be with prospects from that 300-mile radius. Then we have to go down to Florida and Georgia and use the connections that we all have from when we recruited for different schools and find some Penn State players.
Then the third category I would say is anybody on our staff, including me, who has a connection to a guy who is playing in Texas or maybe California. Maybe it's an alum's son or something like that. We definitely will look to other parts of the country. But we have to concentrate on the East Coast.
Today's Pop Quiz: Name the last time Penn State signed a player from each of these four named states. Getting into new areas seems to be a priority for these coaches, and that is a fantastic first step. Hopefully by the end of today, we'll add a Washington state commit, two Marylands, a New Jersey, a New York, and one Georgia gunslinger.
Stay tuned as we learn more from what should be an action packed weekend.