After a holiday week off, there is a lot to get to on this brisk Tuesday morning, so let's dive right in.
The Ticket City Bowl has finally come and gone, and WHAT A GAME IT WAS. But now we've come to January 3rd, the day that many people targeted as the day the next era of Penn State football would begin. Is today the day we find out who the next head coach at Penn State will be? Head coaching rumors, speculation, and new "sources" confirming new names dominate the news cycle surrounding Penn State, so recruiting information is minimal right now.
In Dallas for the bowl, acting AD Dave Joyner alluded to having a new coach by the next recruitment period. Well, tomorrow begins the final "contact period", lifting the current dead period's ban on in-person recruiting. The new head honcho will have less than 30 days to not only maintain the current list of commits (not an easy task, having read and seen some of their interviews), but also fill out the remaining 7-10 spots in the Class of 2012.
That list of commits grew by one in a rare bright moment for the Penn State community in the past couple of months when Jamil Pollard hopped back on board after straightening out his academic situation. That puts our current list of Class of 2012 members at 14.
On with the updates on those current commits, and some of the top remaining targets, in a slightly altered Big Board...
Speaking of the current list of commits, a full third of them are in Arizona as we speak, preparing for this evening's Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl. QB Skyler Mornhinweg and TE Jesse James will suit up on offense for the West, while CB Armani Reeves, LB Cam Williams, and DT Brian Gaia will try to stop them on the East squad.
Skyler Mornhinweg was extremely quiet in the initial wake of the scandal, speaking through his parents, and only then to issue a "No comment." His recruiters, Ron Vanderlinden (territory) and Jay Paterno (position) have maintained contact with the St. Joe's prep QB, and recently Mornhinweg reaffirmed his commitment to Penn State. However, as is the case with a decent number of these commits, nothing is solid if the right guy isn't brought on to lead these kids.
Jesse James took his official visit to Penn State ($) three weeks ago, which appears to have been a mere formality. James will be the only early enrollee in the Class of 2012, and is extremely excited to get to Happy Valley and begin his career. This little nugget is very intriguing, given James' 6'7", 250-pound frame:
"They're talking about using me in the slot, kind of like how Rob Gronkowski is used for the Patriots. They want to move me around and create mismatches."
He's the lone TE on the West squad tonight, so he should see a healthy amount of action.
Armani Reeves is currently the highest-rated commit, both in terms of skill and positional need, and is remaining committed to Penn State throughout. He has, however, been looking elsewhere ($), keeping his options open until he knows more. The leader, and really only other suitor at this point, appears to be Michigan, who visited Reeves just before the current dead period in recruiting. If the new coach and/or staff does not sit well with Reeves, expect him to be a Wolverine by Signing Day.
Cam Williams, Reeves' best friend and high school teammate, is in the same position. He is committed to Penn State, but is exploring options just in case ($). For Williams, the other girl is Ohio State. Williams is a fan favorite in this class, and even helped recruit other players to Penn State. Williams will have his hands full tonight, facing three four-star running backs in Jonathan Williams (committed to Arkansas), Todd Gurley (undecided) and Erie's own Greg Garmon.
Brian Gaia is about as strong a commitment as we have, save maybe Jesse "EE" James. He committed to Larry Johnson and Penn state in May, saw two games on the sidelines (Iowa, Illinois), and likely isn't going anywhere. He made the Baltimore Sun All-Metro team, again, as an offensive lineman:
Devastating blocker at 6 feet 4, 295 pounds whom [rival Gilman School head coach] Biff Poggi called the best offensive lineman he's ever coached.
Gaia was recruited as a defensive tackle, though, and his stats on the other side of the ball were just as good: 8 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 43 tackles. In her third appearance of the post, here is the incomparable Beth Long of Scout.com, interviewing Gaia ($) before tonight's game (Warning: if you get squeamish watching moderately awkward interviews, skip this one; Long tries her best, but Gaia is just one of those one-word answer type of guys).
There are a number of other top recruits in Arizona this evening, including some past targets who chose other schools, but of the undecided recruits, there is only one for whom Penn State remains high on the list: PA DB Demetrious Cox. The Jeannette safety has been narrowing his list down ($) and seems set on taking his five official visits (why not, right? Free trips, yo!), with Penn State getting one of those spots.
In Other Cleverly Named Bowl News
Elsewhere in high school bowl land, two additional commits were on hand when Jamil Pollard pulled the trigger for Penn State at the Offense-Defense Bowl in Dallas. Pollard was rooming with Nyeem Wartman, who apparently had a pretty good pop on Eugene Lewis in the actual bowl game.
Wartman is listed as a soft verbal on Scout.com, but you can judge for yourself how strong his commitment is with this recent tweet from Nyeem. As for Lewis, he remains very committed to the Nittany Lions and barring a colossal failure on the coaching search front, Lewis will be the one-for-one replacement of Derek Moye on the 2012 roster.
Wartman and Lewis, whose high schools are less than 40 miles apart, were named to all-conference teams.
No News = Good News?
As for the rest of the commits, there isn't much else to report.
The other two northeast boys, Jake Kiley and Malik Golden, have been relatively quiet. If you're a follower of Kiley's on Twitter, you know that he is solid to Penn State, so there shouldn't be any cause for concern there.
Golden's status has been reduced to "soft verbal" on Lions247, but he took an official visit to Iowa early last month, so that could be the reason for the change.
Brent Wilkerson out of Maryland continues to monitor the coaching search like everyone else, but he should be considered a solid member of the class. Wilkerson did visit Virginia recently with friend and current teammate Mike Moore, but I wouldn't read too much into that visit.
Finally, Derek Dowrey and Austin Johnson remain solid with Penn State. In the wake of the first few weeks of the scandal, Dowrey released an official statement that reads like it was written by someone I would want at Penn State.
As far as my future plans, I stand by my commitment to attend Penn State next year. There are lots of question marks surrounding the team and staff, but one thing that is not a question in my mind is that the team, fan base, and atmosphere at Penn State will weather the storm and continue to be a great football university that it is and has always been.
Johnson, like many of the commits, took home district and conference honors, and remains committed ($) despite getting some interest from a couple of ACC suitors.
The Bad News
The problem from a recruiting standpoint is going to be filling the remaining 10ish spots in the next 29 days. Other prospects that once had interest in Penn State are falling off the board, including NJ QB Devin Fuller, who named a top 6 that didn't include Penn State, and MD DE Ryan Watson, who committed to Purdue a couple of days ago.
We don't have a Big Board up for this Tuesday Recruitin' simply because it's almost impossible to identify some of PSU's current targets. Most of the names who have appeared on the Board are gone, either to other schools or to a "not interested in Penn State" status.
Is it possible Dave Joyner and Ira Lubert have actually made this "homerun hire" that some believe, and that other committed recruits could switch to Penn State? Yea, but every day the announcement is delayed hurts this class even more.
When you consider that the 2011 class wasn't exactly stellar, you're looking a rough couple of years ahead. If the guy is the "right hire" won't matter in three years if he can't win more than 7 games per year. Granted, the Boise State classes aren't typically stellar either. So hopefully Chris Petersen brings some of that magic with him. #Trollgaze2K12