Every year after signing day Penn State fans divide into one of two camps. Camp One looks at all the Pennsylvania talent that was plucked by out of state schools and says Penn State doesn't do a good enough job of protecting their home turf. Camp Two looks at the Pennsylvania talent Penn State was able to pluck and says Penn State needs to do a better job of recruiting on a national scale to get the best talent.
I'm not sure which camp I fall into. On one hand we do have some exceptional talent here in the PA/NJ area. On the other hand, schools like Miami, Texas, Florida, USC, and Notre Dame seemingly have no borders and recruit the entire nation at will.
The problem is since the advent of the 85 man scholarship roster, teams can't dominate their region anymore signing all the top talent. Most recruiting classes you only have 20 scholarships to hand out, so you have to choose wisely. Every bad evaluation is a four year wasted roster spot.
I think when it comes to recruiting, the coaches have to take a balanced approach. First and foremost you have to look at what your needs are. It's essential to do so. If you already have six running backs on the roster, you can't afford to sign four five star running backs just because they are in your back yard. Maybe in the old days you did that for no other reason so the competition didn't get them. But now with only 85 scholarships you have to sign kids who will contribute to your team.
Once you identify your needs, you have look at the local area first. These are the kids most likely to be interested in your program. Playing close to home is important to most 18 year olds and you have name recognition with them. Identify the best talent at the positions you have need for and pursue them hard. When there is a desperate need at a position, sometimes you take a three star kid just to fill the spot. I would rather have a three star kid than strike out with the five star and have to fill the spot with a walk-on.
When the local talent pool is weak at your position of need, you have to go national in your search. This is extremely hard to do. It means calling high school coaches that you don't have relationships with and asking to talk to their kids. Many of these coaches attend camps at the in-state school you are competing with and have long relationships with the schools you are recruiting against. It's usually an uphill battle to get a shirtless recruit to come out of their region. Especially if they are being recruited by the regional power. The fact that Penn State is up North makes things even more difficult.
Look at the Broderick Green situation. Penn State had a need at running back, but it's not a desperate need. We have Austin Scott and Rodney Kinlaw who leave after 2007, but we have Evan Royster and Brent Carter through 2010. So they took a chance going to Arkansas after Green knowing that if they struck out it wasn't the end of the world.
Now looking ahead to the 2008 recruiting class, running back is now a desperate need. After Scott and Kinlaw leave there will only be two running backs on the roster. I suspect you will see Penn State sign a kid that is a big name in the PA/NJ area but probably not a huge recruit nationally. He will probably be a three or four star recruit with offers from West Virginia, Pitt, and Rutgers. If Penn State lands a recruit like this early it will give them the opportunity to get a little more risky and pursue another big name talent outside of the region. Then if they strike out, they have at least filled the roster spot and won't have to move a linebacker to running back or plug in a walk-on.
So to sum things up, I think when a desperate need exists you need to play it safe and take the best from the local talent even when the local talent may be average by national standards. When you have needs that maybe aren't as critical you can afford to go national and take the risk of coming away with nothing. What's your strategy?