The Importance Of Being Adam: Keeping The Top Pennsylvania Talent IN Pennsylvania

In just over two days, one of the most highly sought after recruits in the state of Pennsylvania will make his college choice known, as Cedar Cliff tight end Adam Breneman has set a 7 p.m. announcement in the Cedar Cliff gym this Friday. The finalists are believed to be Penn State, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Maryland, and probably in that order. Breneman has long been considered a heavy Penn State lean, and him choosing anyone but the Nittany Lions would be something of a shock.

Which made me wonder about top in-state talent and "uber hype" prospects (a definition I hope to make clear in a little bit). So I ran some numbers, and what I found was a little surprising, though for people that have followed Penn State recruiting for the last decade, it likely isn't too surprising. Penn State just doesn't sign a lot of in-state talent.

First, the data. Using Scout.com, I tracked every four- and five-star prospect from Pennsylvania between 2002 and 2012. A few early notes, though.

  1. We're talking strictly commitments, as I am most interested in learning about the time right up until a player commits/signs. As such, later transfers/drop outs/etc. aren't really taken into consideration.
  2. We're also only looking at the perceived (yes, by star ranking) talent level of each recruit/commit. A number of these prospects ended up being busts, but before that, they were highly regarded recruits.
  3. Only high school players were included, not JUCO transfers or any other type of commit.
  4. Since we're only a month into the recruiting cycle for the Class of 2013, these players were not included. In fact, Scout has only identified five players so far that would qualify in the current class (though an update to their rankings is expected sometime soon).
  5. Finally, I tried to put aside all individual facts known about some of the commits. It's easy to explain away certain commits (e.g., Rushel Shell was never going to leave western PA, Delvon Simmons was a basket case, etc.). Rather, the data were analyzed as a whole.

So, the data set.

Owtchart__1__medium

Analysis below the fold...

Some initial reactions from the raw numbers shown. I'm actually surprised that the Notre Dame, Michigan, and/or Ohio State numbers aren't higher. None of them averaged more than one Pennsylvania commit per year, despite being three major recruiting powerhouses within a relatively close proximity to the state.

Digging a little deeper, though, these numbers are likely due to the quantity of quality Pennsylvania recruits. 139 players qualified for this analysis, or an average of about 12.5 four- and five-star recruits in the state of Pennsylvania every year. If you presume, based on the chart above, that Pitt and Penn State are going to secure roughly half of those commitments, that only leave about six elite prospects in the Keystone State.

The "other" schools make a high number of commitments, but none of these schools had more than three commitments across this time span. However, the quantity of schools that have been able to successfully recruit Pennsylvania talent is surprising. 26 schools not named above were able to get at least one elite commitment in the past 11 years, including two (!) Akron commitments.

So what about the Penn State commitments? What does it say that Penn State was only able to secure 26% of the top level players in its own state for over a decade? Given that over the course of this analysis there were only two BCS-level programs in the state, you would expect this number to be higher. Locking down local talent was the bread and butter of the successful Ohio State teams across this same time span. So why couldn't Penn State keep the Pennsylvania talent within the borders?

Further, of the 36 eventual Penn Staters, only 7 of them were five-star players. So while Penn State managed to land only 26% of the top recruits, they were even less successful with the VERY top recruits. Which brings me back to the "uber hype" recruits that initially got me thinking about this topic.

With Breneman's decision looming, and with an immense amount of hype surrounding the young tight end (roughly 35 offers and a televised March announcement....that's "uber hype"), would his selection of Penn State, if he does in fact select Penn State, be one of the few big name recruits Penn State has landed in the last decade? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. And hopefully for Nittany Lion fans, this ushers in a new era of top talent staying in state.

The last "uber hype" player to pick Penn State was probably Justin King, in 2005. Sure Penn State has landed five-star talents since then, including two in the Class of 2010. But neither Mike Hull nor Paul Jones' recruitment was followed by so many, with so much attention placed on their decision.

Breneman's commitment (again, IF he chooses Penn State) is almost as important for what it stands for as it is for the player that will be choosing Penn State. Breneman is a highly talented football player, and projects to having a great career at whatever school he chooses. But Penn State simply hasn't had success with these types of recruiting stories in recent years. Add in to the mix Coach Bill O'Brien's concerted effort to diligently recruit Pennsylvania, and you may be seeing an end to the 26% and one "uber hype" player every six years.

Then again, maybe Adam just really likes Penn State.

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