With the season around the corner, I thought it might be a good time to report on the state of football recruiting. There has been a lot of grumbling on the message boards that Penn State is wasting scholarships this year on marginal players. We will try to address that by assessing each position and determining needs and analyze the coaching staffs efforts so far. If you want to read the breakdown of each position, click the "read more" link below. I will warn you, it's long.
Let's take a look at the team right now and see what we need. Remember, we're looking at depth, not so much the talent of the starters here. Today's backups are usually tomorrows starters.
Areas Where We're Stacked
Here are areas we could stand to take a year off and focus elsewhere.
Linebacker - Poz, Shaw, Connor may all leave for the NFL after this season, but they are backed up by Hayes, Lee, and Sales who are damn good. Bowman and Gbadyu are freshmen. We're loaded.
Defensive Line - The coaches are calling this years freshman class the best they have ever seen. Maybin, Evans, Odrick, McEowen, Taylor, and Koroma will be dominating the Big Ten a few years from now.
Wide Receiver - DWill, Butler, Norwood backed up by freshmen McDonald and Wells. We'll be good there for years to come.
Corner Backs - Justin King, Tony Davis, A.J. Wallace, and Knowledge Timmons have lots of speed and talent and they all have at least three years of eligibility left.
Areas Where We're Ok
Running Back - Hunt and Scott are gone after this year. That leaves Kinlaw the starter next season. After that who knows. Either Brent Carter or Evan Royster will have to step up or Penn State better start recruiting some running backs.
Offensive Line - We will lose two starters after this season including AA Levi Brown. Shipley, Cadogen, Ohrnberger, and Auletta are all pretty good and have lots of eligibility left. Logan-El and Eliades figure to be future starters.
Punter - Jeremy Kapinos graduates this year leaving Penn State with walk-on Jeremy Boone.
Place Kicker - Kevin Kelly is a sophomore and should do a fine job. No need to replace him.
Areas We Need Help
Quarterback - Anthony Morelli should start the next two years and pass the batton to Pat Devlin after that. But other than those two there isn't much depth. Daryll Clark may be another Michael Robinson type scrambling QB. Brett Brackett might be ok after a year on the scout team. One of these two guys has to develope into a #2 QB. Right now there is no clear #2 should Morelli get hurt.
Tight End - Penn State hasn't had a dominating tight end since the days of Kyle Brady, Troy Drayton, Tony Stewart and Pete Gilmore. They got no production out of the TE last year save one crucial 4th and 15 catch against Northwestern. The only one in the group who shows any kind of potential is freshman Andrew Quarless. He may very well be the starter by the end of the season. This position is in desperate need of help.
Safety - Donnie Johnson graduates after the season. Spencer Ridenhour and Anthony Scirrotto are sophomores. After that there isn't much. There is talk that Wallace may switch to safety to give the position more speed.
What Are We Doing About It?
Based on what I have said, you would think Penn State would focus on tight ends and quarterbacks and keep their eye out for running backs, defensive backs, kickers and offensive linemen. Here is the breakdown so far:
Linebackers - 3
Defensive Backs - 2
Tight Ends - 2
Offensive Line - 3 (including J.B. Walton greyshirt)
Wide Receivers - 1
Defensive Linemen - 1
Punters - 1
Grading the Talent
They have done well in bringing in tight ends. Ditto should be an excellent player and Szczerba could develope into a solid receiver. The defensive backs are both track stars that will need to be polished before they can step on the field. The punter need has been addressed. The three linebackers are excellent talent, but I'm starting to wonder how they are going to get all of this talent on the field. The coaches may have to switch some of these kids to safety or running back.
Overall, they are doing well with addressing needs, but the talent level is questionable. Some of these kids look like projects that may or may not work out.
What Do We Have To Do From Here?
Going forward, Penn State probably has four to six scholarships to play with. Possibly another scholarship if Connor goes pro. In my opinion they need to focus on defensive backs and running backs and try to land a solid quarterback prospect that can play Devlin's #2 in a few years. And with whatever is left they should get some offensive linemen because you can never have enough of those. Here are some players they are focusing on (compliments of scout.com:
DT Maurice Austin - (6-3/300/4.90)
OL Kristofer O'Dowd - (6-4/312/5.00)
CB Cedric Everson - (6-1/175/4.30)
LB/RB Greg Little - (6-3/205/4.50)
OL Stefen Wisniewski - (6-3.5/275/5.10)
LB Malcom Smith - (6-2/215)
S Devon Torrence - (6-1/190/4.40)
TE Devont Campbell - (6-2/235)
RB Robert Hughes - (5-11/228/4.60)
DE Derrick Morgan - (6-4/260/4.90)
DE Tony Tucker - (6-3/225)
DT Wesley Saunders - (6-5/269)
LB Brandon Lindsey - (6-2/220/4.60)
WR Maurice Williams - (6-3/190/4.45)
OL Devon Still - (6-5/250/4.90)
QB Nate Brown - (6-5/225/4.69)
S Diauntae Morrow - (6-0/185/4.70)
S Evan Rodriguez - (6-3/200/4.50)
RB Brian Gamble - (6-0/190)
There are some running backs and safeties on the list, but other than Little, none of them are getting offers from big time programs.
So far I give our recruiting an overall grade of B. We have addressed the problem at tight end and landed some great linebackers and some good offensive linemen. Going forward we have to look for a running back and a solid defensive back prospect.
(* denotes starter.)
Depth Chart - Anthony Morelli* Jr/Jr
Paul Cianciolo Jr/So
Kevin Suhey So/Fr
Daryll Clark So/Fr
Mike Hart Sr/Jr
Pat Devlin Fr/Fr
Brett Brackett Fr/Fr
The Present - Morelli will be a solid starter if he lives up to the hype. Unfortunately, there is not much depth with this group. Cianiolo and Suhey are battling for the #2 spot, but neither one of them is in the same league as Morelli. If Morelli gets hurt early in the season, it may be a disaster for the Nittany Lions.
The Future - Penn State addressed their future quarterback needs this year in landing Miami defect Pat Devlin. Right now we have to assume he is the starter of the future. He and Brackett will most likely redshirt this year. Daryll Clark is also waiting in the wings as a potential Wally Richardson/Rashard Casey/Michael Robinson type mobile quarterback. I would expect Devlin to be the #2 in 2007 and take over the starting role in 2008.
Current Verbals - None.
Recruiting strategy - With Devlin, Brackett, and Clark, the coaches must feel pretty good about their future. Currently we have no verbal QB commitments and it doesn't look like we are going to get any this year. This should be Devlin's team in a few years, and he should hold the starting job for three years. If Brackett and Clark don't progress well, the coaches should pursue a big time quarterback in 2007 to back up Devlin.
Depth Chart - Tony Hunt* Sr/Sr
Austin Scott Sr/Sr
Rodney Kinlaw Sr/Jr
Brent Carter Fr/Fr
Brandon Snow (FB) Sr/Sr
Matt Hahn (FB) Jr/Jr
Dan Lawlor (FB) Jr/So
Charles Ramsey So/Fr
Evan Royster Fr/Fr
Mickey Shuler (FB) So/Fr
The Present - Hunt, Scott, and Kinlaw figure to share playing time this year with Hunt getting most of the carries. This is a solid group of backs, but Hunt and Scott graduate after this season and Kinlaw has only next season left. The fullbacks will pretty good shape with Snow and Hahn once snow works his way out of JoePa's doghouse.
The Future - This year the Lions bring in freshmen Royster and Carter who will most likely redshirt. Carter has potential to be an excellent back and Royster should be a solid player.
Current Verbals - Chaz Powell (RB/DB)
Recruiting Strategy - Penn State has not been successful in bringing in big name running back recruit since Austin Scott. This year they took a stab at a few players that weren't highly touted, but Doug Hogue, Henry Hynoski, and Doronte McNeil committed to Syracuse, Pitt, and East Carolina respectively. They are still pursuing Greg Little from Durham, NC but are said to be low on his list. The future of this position is weak if Carter gets hurt.
Depth Chart - Patrick Hall* Sr/Sr
Jordan Lyons Jr/So
Brennan Coakley So/Fr
Francis Claude So/Fr
Kevin Darling Sr/Sr
Greg Miskins Jr/So
Andrew Quarless Fr/Fr
The Present - Hall figures to be the starter, but this position is weak. Penn State saw almost no production out of their tight ends last season and this season figures to be more of the same. But Quarless was highly touted, and I expect if he lives up to the hype he may see playing time right away and may even be the starter by the end of the season.
The Future - I don't expect Quarless to redshirt and he should be the starter for years to come. The Lions have some work to do to fill out the depth chart. This position is severely depleated.
Current Verbals - Jon Ditto, Andrew Szczerba
Recruiting Strategy - The Lions did well getting Ditto to bolster the TE ranks. Szczerba is somewhat of a project. He is 6'6" and has good speed, but he is going to have to bulk up from his current 235 lbs. The Nits are also pursuing Devonte Campbell, a highly touted TE from Maryland where Larry Johnson Sr. seems to dominate recruiting.
Depth Chart - Derrick Williams* So/So
Deon Butler* Jr/So
Jordan Norwood So/So
Terrell Golden Sr/Jr
James McDonald So/Fr
Chris Bell Fr/Fr
Jesse Alfrino Fr/Fr
Kevin Cousins So/Fr
Patrick Mauti So/Fr
Brendan Perretta Sr/Jr
Graham Zug Fr/Fr
The Present - Penn State is stacked at wide receiver. This is what coaches call a "good problem". How do you get all this talent on the field?
The Future - Penn State is stacked for years to come. McDonald looked fantastic in the spring game and the coaches have indicated they intend to use him this year. Chris Bell comes highly touted and may see playing time this year.
Current Verbals - Nick Sukay (WR/S)
Recruiting Strategy - Penn State seemingly became the hip place for wide receivers to go after Derrick Williams committed in 2004. We really don't need to pursue any wide receivers and we should be fine. Sukay will most likely be assigned to the defense since there is so much depth at this position.
Depth Chart - LT Levi Brown* Gr/Sr
LG Gerald Cadogen* Jr/So
C A.Q. Shipley* Jr/So
RG Robert Price* Gr/Sr
RT John Shaw* Sr/Jr
G Rich Ohrnberger Jr/So
G Greg Harrison Jr/So
G Austin Hinton Jr/So
G Dennis Landolt So/Fr
G Joe Toriello Jr/So
G Lou Eliades Fr/Fr
G Doug Klopacz Fr/Fr
T Chris Auletta Sr/Jr
T Wyatt Bowman Jr/So
T Mark Ferris Sr/Sr
T Lee Kuzemchak Sr/Sr
T Matt Lowry Fr/Fr
T Antonio Logan-El Fr/Fr
C Patrick Weber Sr/Jr
C Ross Muir Jr/So
The Present - The starting five is anchored by AA Levi Brown. After that nobody has starting experience, although Shipley played in seven games last season before being switched to defense. Their athletic ability should make this a good line before the season is over.
The Future - Brown and Price depart after this season. Ohrnberger and Auletta are pushing the starters for playing time, so they should be the starters next season. This year the Lions recruited well on the offensive line bring in Eliades, Logan-El, and J.B. Walton who will have to sit out this year due to acedimic ineligibility. These guys should be the line of the future.
Current Verbals - Josh Marks, Quinn Barham
Recruiting Strategy - I think it's a good idea to bring in good offensive line recruits every year. Marks should be a solid player. Barham is a bit of a project. He is going to have to bulk up. The Lions are also said to be the leader for Stefan Wisniewski, son of former NFL Pro-Bowler and Penn Stater Steve Wisniewski. They are also pursuing four star recruit Devon Still from Delaware. In all the Lions are doing a good job here and the future looks bright.
Depth Chart - DE Jim Shaw* Sr/Sr
DT Jay Alford* Sr/Sr
DT Ed Johnson* Sr/Sr
DE Josh Gaines* Jr/So
DE Chris Rogers So/So
DE Jed Hill Jr/So
DE Tom Golarz So/Fr
DE Maurice Evans Fr/Fr
DE Aaron Maybin Fr/Fr
DE Jared Odrick Fr/Fr
DT Elijah Robinson Jr/So
DT Chris Baker So/Fr
DT Abe Koroma Fr/Fr
DT Tom McEowen Fr/Fr
DT Ollie Ogbu Fr/Fr
DT Steve Roach Sr/Sr
DT Phillip Taylor Fr/Fr
The Present - Three starters are gone from last year including Tamba Hali. Jay Alford should step up as the man, but the other three are new starters. The line consists of three seniors and one junior, so these guys have been around the block and know the system. They should be ok and have lots of depth behind them.
The Future - Thanks to last years recruiting class, this team is loaded on the defensive line for years to come. Maybin, Evans, Taylor and Odrick are all studs. Some or all of these guys may see playing time this year.
Current Verbals - Kevion Latham
Recruiting Strategy - There is no urgent need to recruit defensive linemen this year after last years bounty. Latham is a project that could go either way. The coaches are willing to take a chance on him only because of their depth on DL.
Depth Chart - Paul Posluszny* Sr/Sr
Dan Connor* Jr/Jr
Tim Shaw* Gr/Sr
Sean Lee So/So
Jerome Hayes So/Fr
Tyrell Sales Jr/So
Dontey Brown Jr/So
Joe Cianciolo Gr/Sr
Josh Hull So/Fr
Andy Kubic Sr/Sr
Chris Mauriello Sr/Jr
Nic Yocum Sr/Jr
Navorro Bowman Fr/Fr
Bani Gbadyu Fr/Fr
The Present - It doesn't get any better than this. The starting three are the best in the Big Ten if not the best in the country. How good are the backups? Phil Steele says Lee, Hayes, and Sales would make his list of Top 25 LB units if they were the starters.
The Future - We stand to suffer heavy losses at the end of this season as Poz and Shaw depart and Connor may decide to leave early for the NFL. But their backups should step in and do just fine. Bowman and Gbadyu will have a year or two to groom into eventual starters. This group is loaded.
Current Verbals - Chris Colasanti, Nick Stupar, Andrew Dailey
Recruiting Strategy - Penn State would have done well to get one solid linebacker recruit this year, but they got three. No question these are great players and they will probably one day be starters, but I can't help but wonder if we should be rationing our precious scholarships for other positions. Give the coaches props for getting some great talent at LB.
Depth Chart - CB Justin King* So/So
CB Tony Davis* Jr/So
S Donnie Johnson* Sr/Sr
S Spencer Ridenhour* Jr/So
CB Knowledge Timmons So/Fr
CB Lydell Sargeant So/So
CB A.J. Wallace Fr/Fr
S Anthony Scirrotto So/So
S Mark Rubin Jr/So
DB Doug Rheam So/Fr
DB Travis McBride Fr/Fr
The Present - Donnie Johnson is the lone senior of the starters. They are all gifted with talent but short on experience. Plenty of depth with young athletes. Wallace and Timmons are so fast they will have to get on the field this year.
The Future - The entire defensive backfield consists of freshmen and sophomores except for Johnson. These guys are fighting hard for playing time. There is tons of talent that should keep us well stocked for the next few years.
Current Verbals - Chaz Powell (DB/RB), Stephfon Green
Recruiting Strategy - We're loaded with tons of young talent so getting DB's isn't a necessity. Powell and Green are track stars that will be projects on the football field. Again, these scholarships could have been useful someplace else. Any DB coming to Penn State has to look at the depth chart and realize his chances of playing early are slim.