With the 2014 signing day approaching, let's turn back the clock 5 years. Penn State had just won the Big Ten conference title and gone to the Rose Bowl, finishing the season 11-2, ranked 8th in the final AP poll. A large upperclass was moving on, particularly along the O-line and D-line, and Penn State expected to sign,--by its standards--a large class in February 2009.
We did. When the fax machine finally stopped, Penn State accepted 27 Letters of Intent. Twenty-seven - that was, and still is, an abnormally huge class for the Lions, who more typically sign in the 16 - 22 range each year. Six teams in the top 25 managed to exceed Penn State's tally: Texas A&M and Auburn both signed 28; South Carolina and UNC signed 29 each; Arkansas signed 31; and Ole Miss ,with new ball coach Houston Nutt, signed 37. Alabama, UCLA, and Mississippi State tied the Lions at 27.
But despite the Lions' success on the field in 2008, Penn State's class ranked 24th in the nation by Rivals, and just 4th in the Big Ten, behind #3 Ohio State, #8 Michigan, and #17 Michigan State. The "Recruited By" column in the table below lends a hint at a possible reason why.
|Pos||Player||Hometown||Rivals Rating||Recruited By||Games Started||Graduated|
|OT||Eric Shrive||Scranton, PA||6.0||Mike McQuery||2||Yes|
|QB||Kevin Newsome||Portsmouth, VA||5.9||Bill Kenney||2||No|
|WLB||Gerald Hodges||Paulsboro, NJ||5.8||Ron Vanderlinden||25||Yes|
|MLB||Glenn Carson||Manahawkin, NJ||5.8||Ron Vanderlinden||36||Yes|
|WR||Justin Brown||Wilmington, DE||5.8||Mike McQuery||24||Yes|
|CB||Darrell Givens||Indian Head, MD||5.8||Larry Johnson||0||No|
|CB||Derrick Thomas||Greenbelt, MD||5.8||Larry Johnson||0||No|
|C||Ty Howle||Bunn, NC||5.7||Larry Johnson||15||Yes|
|DT||Sean Stanley||Gaithersburg, MD||5.7||Larry Johnson||14||Yes|
|WR||Shawney Kersey||Woodbury, NJ||5.7||None Listed||5||No|
|WR||Brandon Moseby-Felder||Oxon Hill, MD||5.7||Larry Johnson||22||Yes|
|WR||Devon Smith||Waldorf, MD||5.7||Larry Johnson||8||No|
|CB||Stephon Morris||Greenbelt, MD||5.6||Larry Johnson||12||Yes|
|OT||Nate Cadogan||Portsmouth, OH||5.6||Jay Paterno||0||Yes|
|RB||Curtis Dukes||Philadelphia, NY||5.5||Mike McQuery||0||Yes|
|K||Anthony Fera||Houston, TX||5.5||Mike McQuery||24||Yes|
|OT||Adam Gress||West Mifflin, PA||5.5||Tom Bradley||6||Yes|
|S||Stephen Obeng-Agyapong||Bronx, NY||5.5||Kermit Buggs||20||Yes|
|S||Malcolm Willis||Indian Head, MD||5.5||Larry Johnson||24||Yes|
|OT||Mark Arcidiacono||Philadelphia, PA||5.4||Ron Vanderlinden||0||Yes|
|TE||Garry Gilliam||Hershey, PA||5.4||Larry Johnson||6||Yes|
|DT||Jordan Hill||Steelton, PA||5.4||Larry Johnson||30||Yes|
|CB||Curtis Drake||Philadelphia, PA||5.4||Mike McQuery||4||No|
|WR||Christian Kuntz||Camp Hill, PA||5.4||Larry Johnson||0||Yes|
|OG||Frank Figueroa||Alexandria, VA||5.3||Larry Johnson||0||Yes|
|OG||John Urschel||Buffalo, NY||5.2||Mike McQuery||27||Yes|
|CB||Michael Wallace||Olney, MD||5.0||Larry Johnson||0||Yes|
Larry Johnson brought in half of Penn State's 2009 class, with 13. Mike McQuery chipped in 6 recruits, and Ron Vanderlinden brought home three. The other six assistant coaches on the staff totaled four between them.
Want something to smile about, though? Then check out KevinHD's article from February 9th, 2009, "Decommit U". That was the moniker given to Joe Paterno by Scouts, Inc recruiting coordinator Bill Conley. The Lions flipped - aka, PORCHED - several verbal commitments, including Kevin Newsome, Darrell Givens, and Shawney Kersey. How about that.
BSD covered signing day with three separate recap posts, which you can re-read here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. BSD Mike gave us his final thoughts, as well. Let's review the 2009 signing class five years later.
Eric Shrive - OT
What We Said Then: "He's rather fluid for a big kid, in my opinion. Lighter on his feet than he should be. For the longest time people assumed he was headed to South Bend, so his commitment to Penn State was a rather substantial shot in the arm for recruiting."
Starts: ~2 ish.
Story: Given his heft star count, every layman penciled him in at either right tackle or left tackle every April from 2010 thru 2013. That never materialized, but Shrive was a superstar off the field, leading Lift For Life each of the past two seasons, and taking that organization's fund raising to new heights.
Kevin Newsome - QB
What We Said Then: he didn't make the RUTS/KevinHD/BSD Mike 3-part series, perhaps because he was so special. We stole him from Rich Rod and Michigan, so he had to be good.
Graduated: No to Penn State, Yes to Temple
Story: The heir apparent to Daryl Clark struggled to throw the football. He was passed by true freshman Rob Bolden and walk on Matt McGloin on the 2010 depth chart, and transferred to Temple the following season.
Gerald Hodges - LB
What We Said Then: he was omitted from the 3 part series too. Go figure.
Story: he started his Penn State career at Hero. A knee injury at Bama in 2010 ruined his first year on the field. But he returned to action at linebacker in 2011, making 1st Team All Big Ten, and was a superstar of the 2012 squad. He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 NFL draft.
Glenn Carson - LB
What We Said Then: what kind of 3-part review doesn't cover half the recruits?
Starts: a bunch. Call it 36.
Story: Carson took over the middle as a sophomore, though he came off the field when Penn State went nickle. There were several games his junior season where he was Penn State's best linebacker, though Glenn was outshone by teammates Mauti and Hodges. As a senior, he was a team leader, and one of the top 2 best defenders on the squad. He figures to be a late round selection or free agent, but I wouldn't be surprised if he makes an NFL squad.
Justin Brown - WR
What We Said Then: Nope
Starts: ~16 ish
Story: Justin was a Rutgers lean, but Big Red saved him from Greg Schiano. Brown saw the field as a sophomore, principally in 3-WR packages. He earned the #2 spot opposite Derek Moye as a junior, and showed promise. Poised for a big senior year at Penn State as, presumably, the lead receiver, Brown took advantage of Mark Emmert's free agency period and transferred to Oklahoma. He finished his Penn State degree while wearing red and white, or whatever the Sooners' colors are. Maroon, maybe? I don't know many color names. Periwinkle is one, but I think that's a shade of blue.
Darrell Givens - CB
What We Said Then:"Givens was an Ohio State commit very early in the process, but changed his mind a few weeks after his high school teammate Malcolm Willis committed to Penn State. Good times for the home team. Scout has him as the #11 cornerback, Rivals has him as the #2 player in Maryland. He is very, very good, and it's highly likely that you'll see him on the field sooner than later."
Story: Givens faxed in his letter of intent, but although he qualified with the NCAA, he didn't qualify at Penn State. Thus, he never made it to campus, and instead ended up in the arms of Greg Schiano at Rutgers. It's not clear if he survived that experience.
Derrick Thomas - CB
What We Said Then: "Thomas is a three-star defensive back who turned heads during the Crab Bowl practice sessions. His commitment was placed on shaky ground after the "Outside The Lines" affair, but he's solid as solid could be right now. He made this All-Beltway team as a wide receiver, and the PSU coaching staff hasn't ruled out that position for Thomas in Happy Valley."
Story: We didn't hear much from Thomas his first two seasons in State College. By his 3rd year, we heard he was in JoePa's doghouse. In spring of 2012, new coach Bill O'Brien kicked Thomas off the team. He landed at Marshall.
Ty Howle - OC
What We Said Then: "Rated the #9 center by Rivals and #11 by Scout. Immediately prompted "The Sky Is Falling!" style comments when it was revealed that Howle's only other offers were from East Carolina and Navy, which completely overlooked the possibility that Penn State found the kid before other major programs did. Coach's son, with a lofty high school GPA. Was honored at an all-star game for his community work; however, looks like a guy who spends his afternoon leisurely stuffing freshmen into lockers. Described in practically every media account as having a prominent mean streak on the field."
Starts: ~15 ish
Story: Howle is another typical Penn State success story. He first saw the field as short snapper. He broke into the lineup as a junior at left guard. And he anchored a solid O-line as senior pivot man, after graduating with a 3.57 GPA or some such. That's a win.
Sean Stanley - DT
What We Said Then: "Many evaluators see him as a defensive tackle at some point in his PSU career. He was the primary recruit that people thought might jump ship if Larry Johnson Sr. left Happy Valley, but that's, like, totally ancient history, dude. Also considered Nebraska. First-team Washington Post All-Met team."
Starts: ~15 ish
Story: a defensive tackle? Seriously? I wouldn't have believed that if I hadn't just copy and pasted it. Sean's highlight for me was running down the Horseshoe turf 40 yards, covering a wheel route by a running back, turning his head for the ball, and swatting it away, at OSU in 2011. From his weakside defensive end position. Pretty incredible athleticism and ball awareness.
Shawney Kersey - WR
What We Said Then: 505 - File Not Found
Story: This is your look like Tarzan, play like Jane candidate. Well, maybe not Jane. But look like Tarzan? Yes. Kersey just couldn't get on the field very much. He finally saw significant time in 2012 with BOB, but then he quit on his teammates in the middle of the year. Kersey landed on the Marshall roster at one point.
Brandon Felder - WR
What We Said Then: "One of the best wide receivers in Maryland heading into his senior year of high school, Felder sustained a torn lateral cruciate ligament and anterior cruciate ligament during an August, 2008, scrimmage. Penn State stood by him. Just file the name away for now, and see where he's at in another 12 months. He should be a good one if he gets back up to speed."
Story: Brandon caught 6 balls in his first three years at Penn State. Then in 2012, under BOB, Felder caught 6 for over 100 yards and a TD at Purdue - eclipsing his career totals in one game. And of course, who can forget the big catch against Michigan this year? Another PSU success story.
Devon Smith - WR
What We Said Then: sorry, no.
Story: Moo Moo was fast. He struggled occasionally with catching the ball, and tripped over grass at an astounding rate. But he sure was fast. Moo Moo broke into the rotation in 2010, and saw significant playing time in 2011. A pot possession charge led to his dismissal from the team prior to the start of 2012. He transferred to Marshall, the halfway house to our 2009 recruiting class.
Stephon Morris - CB
What We Said Then: "Yes, it's another Eleanor Roosevelt product. Obviously a little undersized for a cornerback, but that's not as much of a concern in Penn State's scheme. As Scouts Inc. says, if he was a few inches taller he'd be a more highly-coveted quarterback."
Story: Steph bided his time for most of his first three years on campus. As a senior in 2012, he was a team leader, holding down an island in Roof's mostly man coverage scheme. He's also a twitter hero to many, many Penn Staters, first for calling out Tim Beckman and Mark Emmert, and subsequently, for calling out whoever he damn well pleases.
Nate Cadogan - OT
What We Said Then: MIA
Story: What a long strange trip it must have been. Nate was a legacy, with older brother Gerald starting 2 years at left tackle for the Lions. Nate began at tight end, catching a touchdown pass against Michigan in 2010. Then he was moved to offensive tackle. Then back to tight end. To tackle. Tight end. Tackle. He was BOB's 4th offensive tackle in 2012, and heading into summer 2013, BOB asked Nate to make one more move - to defensive tackle. Nate, with his degree, tried it out but ultimately chose instead to hang up his cleats.
Curtis Dukes - RB
What We Said Then: "For weeks, there were rumors that the PSU coaching staff found some sort of mutant running back in upstate New York. Say hello to Curtis Dukes, and be excited. If you like highlights of obviously overmatched defenses trying to tackle something they can't catch or bring down, this is for you." (Then we compared him to Curtis Enis.)
Story: There were moments when Dukes ran like a bull, such as vs. Iowa in 2011. Ultimately, things never panned out for Curtis. Despite Silas Redd's departure creating room at the top, he fell down Bill O'Brien's depth chart in 2012, probably because he struggled with pass pro. Then he hung up his cleats.
Anthony Fera - K
What We Said Then: part of the missing Part 4 review. N/A
Graduated: I think so*
Starts: he's a kicker.
Story: Cruzan Rum. Kick and punt. First Team All-Big Ten for one or the other. Pre-season Groza watch list. Transferred back home to Texas during 2012 free agency, citing family illness, for which we refuse to blame. Finalist for Groza Award in 2013. I think he graduated with a Penn State degree, but I'm not certain.
Adam Gress - OT
What We Said Then: "Scouts Inc. loves him, provided his improves on his technique and footwork. Allen Trieu, last seen on the BTN's recruiting special, named Gress as his sleeper of Penn State's class. He also had offers from Michigan, West Virginia, and Rutgers. Oh, and he surfs when given the chance. He also looks like a massive version of Billy Zabka, which quickly moves him to the top of my Favorite Recruit List." (Billy Zabka was "Johnny" in "The Karate Kid", if that name sounds familiar but you can't quite place it. Good call by RUTS.)
Starts: ~8 ish
Story: He's another success story. Gress was our 3rd tackle in 2012, and won the spot outright - more or less - in 2013. He improved by leaps and bounds between 2011 to 2012, and again from 2012 to 2013 - testament to his dedication and work ethic, because no one was asking to bronze his feet. Congratulations, Adam.
Stephen Obeng-Agyapong - S
What We Said Then: "SOA committed back in May. He's from the same high school (JFK) as current Nittany Lions Stephfon Green, Nerraw McCormick, and Shaine Thompson -- our own little pipeline in the Bronx. Made this dude's All-City first team. He generally looks very...serious. Not angry. Just...serious." (And thus began a 5-year love affair.)
Starts: call it 20 ish
Story: Here's another one. SOA stayed with it, kept working, and broke into the lineup in 2012. He practiced at linebacker in the summer of 2013 in case of injury. And, naturally, in the season opener at hometown Giants Stadium (or whatever it's now called), in front of tons of family, SOA was thrust into the weakside LB position - and had a career day, forcing a fumble, registering a sack, and snagging an INT. He'll remember that one for a long time.
Malcolm Willis - S
What We Said Then: "A defensive prospect all the way. Most analysts have him projected at safety, though ESPN's Scouts Inc. seems to think that Willis' lack of blazing speed could mean a transition to outside linebacker at some point during his college career. That's a pretty safe bet, as Willis is constantly described as a tenacious attacker in run support but just a step or two slow against the pass. Give him a redshirt and about 20-25 pounds by his junior year, and see where he is on the OLB depth charts."
Starts: let's say 25
Story: welp, so much for the linebacker talk. Malcolm saw the field in 2010, and registered his first start in 2011. By 2012, he was (more or less) firmly entrenched at safety, though in Ted Roof's and John Butler's defenses, there was no longer a designated "hero", or strong safety, type of role. That's a shame, because Malcolm made plays the closer he got to the line of scrimmage. But you can mark down Malcolm as another success story.
Mark Arcidiacono - OG
Starz: 3. Er, 4.
What We Said Then: "He was the first big name on the commit list for Penn State, due to his Philly Catholic League roots and four-star status on Scout. He's considered a top 25 offensive tackle by Scout and ESPN -- Rivals, not so much. Made the Pennsylvania AAAA all-state first team in 2008. Likely projects as a guard at Penn State. Also, he uncorked this great quote: "If I was going to get on a plane and go to school somewhere, it would have been Florida. But nothing felt more right than Penn State." "
Story: Injuries. Mark was neck and neck heading into 2012 fall camp for the starting left guard spot with Miles Dieffenbach. A foot injury ruined 2012, and he hung up his cleats with degree in hand after four years on campus.
Garry Gilliam - TE
What We Said Then: we didn't. Or at least, I couldn't find it.
Starts: ~8 ish
Story: Injuries. Horrific, devasting knee injury, to be precise. Garry saw the field as a freshman at tight end, caught a pass, and had his knee destroyed. He missed 2010 and 2011 recovering. Garry made BOB's tight end rotation in 2012, catching a few balls. Then he volunteered to move one spot closer to the ball in 2013, and split time at right tackle. He played well. Although Garry was granted a 6th year of eligibility by the magnanimous folks of the NC2A, it looks like he may be ready to hang up his cleats. Either way, congrats, Garry.
Jordan Hill - DT
What We Said Then: .................
Starts: call it 30
Story: Jordan impressed enough to blow a redshirt in 2009, and saw significant time at defensive end during the injury ravaged 2010 season. In 2011 he destroyed fools, and I thought (though I was in the minority) he outplayed Devon Still, despite Still playing the 3-technique, and Jordan playing nose. A knee injury slowed his senior season of 2012, but then, in his final game at Beaver Stadium, Jordan turned in the single best performance from a d-lineman that I can remember, as he trounced the shit out of Wisconsin's o-line the entire game. It was awesome.
Curtis Drake - CB
What We Said Then: "A lot of recruitniks were down on The Drake when he first committed -- why the hell do we need a two or three-star, undersized QB recruit? -- but give the PSU coaching staff credit for spotting a rough gem. Drake evolved into the Pennsylvania AA Player Of The Year and led his team to the state championship game. Given the subsequently successful recruiting of quarterbacks Kevin Newsome and Paul Jones, Drake will likely see time at wide receiver. He's more quick than fast -- think of a slightly slower Derrick Williams, but a better high school passer. Drake actually threw 15 TD's against only three INT's his senior season. Here he is with future Penn State offensive lineman Mark Arcidiacono. Drake obviously has learned well from childhood urban legends -- playing dead so the bear won't eat him."
Story: Love the Drake, or Hate the Drake? I fell in love almost immediately. Dude brought some much needed juice to the 2010 offense - and then a broken leg ruined that season. His 2011 was shortened by rehab, though he made some plays in a big win at the Horseshoe. The Drake also knocked McGloin unconscious in a locker room incident. Then BOB switched the Drake to CB for 2012's spring game. The Drake didn't attend class, though, and BOB kicked the Drake off the team.
Christian Kuntz - WR
What We Said Then: "Then again, having a funny name helps, too. The operative word on Kuntz is "controversial". Perhaps no other recruit has received such scrutiny, whether it's fair or not. He earned a scholarship after participating in a PSU camp -- even though Kuntz comes from a run-heavy high school offense, the coaches loved his hands and route-running skills, and offered him a scholarship early in the recruiting process. He's not a guy that many schools were pursuing heavily at the time, which led to a lot of the hand-wringing about the scholarshpi offer. He's tall. He can run. Besides that, we don't know too much about his receiving skills."
Story: Kuntz never saw the light of day - at least, not that I'm aware of, and as 'just a blogger', I'm too lazy to bother looking it up and/or fact-checking that comment. But that last name made him a certified BSD Hero for at least 3 seasons. Christian, I believe, walked with his fellow seniors, degree in hand, in 2012. That's still winning.
Frank Figueroa - OG
What We Said Then: "Lost in the hoopla surrounding the Shrive surprise announcement. His two-star status on Rivals and Scout elicted a collective "Wha?" from the fanbase when he committed back in May. However, Scouts Inc. sees potential, and doesn't have him rated that much lower than Shrive (82 vs. 77)."
Story: Like Kuntz, Frank graduated in 4 years and walked, degree in hand, with his fellows seniors after the 2012 season. Frank did so with a 3.5+ GPA. That's also winning.
Mike Wallace - CB
What We Said Then: N/A
Story: I used to confuse Mike Wallace and Derrick Thomas all the time. Though neither got much playing time in blue and white, the key difference is that Mike graduated. I think he also had some music interests that BSD promoted at one point or another. Congrats, Mike, on earning your degree.
John Urschel - OG
What We Said Then: nothing.
Graduated: Yes. A couple of times, actually.
Story: it turns out he's smart and works hard. Urschel earned his first start at guard at FedEx Field, against Indiana, in 2011. He started every game his junior and senior seasons - 24 straight. He turned down ~$90,000 in grants to attend Stanford as a mathlete during the 2012 free agency, in order to stay with his teammates and Penn State for $0. He made a bunch of All-This and All-That teams, addressed the conference as the senior speaker at Big Ten media days, and was awarded the Campbell Trophy - the academic Heisman - as a senior. Like Jack Ham, Urschel was another last-scholarship, otherwise overlooked, incredible success story. We'll be remembering him in comments for another 40 years. Funny how this stuff works, isn't it?