This morning I'm trying to think of an angle where I can sue SBNation, Scout, and Rivals. I hit the refresh button so many times yesterday I think my mouse finger is permanently deformed. It wouldn't be signing day without drama, and Penn State had plenty of it. Let's break down this recruiting class and evaluate how Penn State made out in addressing their needs.
Quarterback was a moderate to high need for Penn State this year. After the 2008 season we will only have two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster in Daryll Clark and Pat Devlin. So ideally we would like to bring in someone this year to have them redshirt in 2008 and be ready to fill a roster spot in 2009.
Unfortunately, the coaches put all their eggs in one basket. They really had their heart set on an athletic dual threat quarterback and only pursued two targets: Terrelle Pryor and E.J. Manuel. Manuel committed to Florida State last summer. At that time the coaches had a critical decision to make: go all in on Pryor or look for a plan B? Given the limited number of scholarships available and the overall poor talent pool at quarterback this year they decided to go all out for Pryor. For the past several months it looked like this was going to be a disasterous decision, but a late push from a visit by Joe Paterno has Penn State in Pryor's final list. We'll have to wait to see how this quarterback class pans out.
After whiffing on Broderick Green and LeSean McCoy in 2007 and losing Austin Scott it was imperative that we bring in at least two blue chip running backs this year. It looked like we had succeeded in that when Brandon Beachum and Michael Shaw gave their verbal commitments last summer. Beachum is the big physical running back that can run you over while Shaw was supposed to be the smaller skat back brought in to change the pace.
As we all know by now, Shaw decided to sign with Michigan at the last minute going back on his verbal pledge to Penn State who he described as his "dream school" last summer. You know, I hate to be critical of 18 year old kids, but something bad went down here. Shaw led the Penn State coaches to believe he was going to be a Nittany Lion. When Shaw made an official visit to Michigan the Penn State coaches were assured he was just going to have a good time with his teammates. Then all the sudden on signing day he's a Wolverine. I can understand a kid changing his mind. It happens. But when he first started having doubts he should have informed the Penn State coaches he was reopening his recruiting. How many kids did we stop calling after Shaw gave his pledge?
The other untold story here is that many insiders say the Big Ten coaches have an unwritten gentleman's agreement not to steal each other's recruits. Once a kid commits to a Big Ten school the other Big Ten coaches back off and stop recruiting the kid. Rich Rodriguez being new to the conference either has no knowledge of this pact or he blatantly ignored it as he openly pursued Shaw after he was committed to Penn State. So it appears RichRod is bringing more than just his spread offense to the Big Ten.
With Deon Butler, Derrick Williams, and Jordan Norwood all entering their final season in 2008 it was imperative that Penn State bring in no fewer than two big time wide receivers. In this we failed.
A.J. Price looks like a worthy prospect. He was a late bloomer not gaining much attention until his senior year when he caught 32 passes for 800 yards and 11 touchdowns. But he is the only wide receiver in the class which will make us pretty thin in 2009.
It's not that the coaches didn't try. They sent offers out to at least ten top wide receiver prospects. Several kids had us in their top two or three including Deion Walker, Kenny Tate, A.J. Alexander, and Dejuan Miller. But none of these kids were willing to pull the trigger and pick Penn State.
Tight end was a moderate need this year. We could take a good prospect if they came along, but it wasn't crucial we get one with Andrew Quarless, Andrew Szczerba, and Mickey Shuler, and Jon Ditto having plenty of eligibility among them. But along came Mark Wedderburn, younger brother of former PSU player Floyd Wedderburn and an outstanding tight end prospect that loved Penn State, so we took him. We should be set at tight end for several years now.
I'm a firm believer you have to bring in 3-5 offensive linemen every year, and this year was no exception especially with our lack of depth in recent years due to injuries and transfers. Ideally I think Penn State had to bring in one guard/center prospect and two tackles.
We hit a home run with Matt Stankiewitch rated as one of the best center/guard prospects in the country. But I would be lying to you if I told you I was overly enthused about our tackles, DeOn'tae Pannell and Mike Farrell. Offensive linemen are the hardest position to project so it's possible these kids may turn out to be All Americans someday, but they were clearly not our first options at the position. But we filled the spots and didn't have to resort to plugging in a walk on or moving over a defensive tackle.
Like offensive linemen, I think you need to bring in two or three kids every year. Given our recent history in recruiting we don't really have any huge needs on the defensive line, so we could afford to take some chances by holding out for a top prospect or take a project kid or two. It appears we went the project route.
Defensive tackle James Terry wasn't very highly recruited, but then kids from Delaware rarely are. Defensive end Jack Crawford has very little football experience, but he has tons of raw physical talent, so the chances are there that Larry Johnson can mold him into a beast. Pete Massaro wasn't highly recruited either, but there again suburban Philadelphia isn't considered a recruiting hotbed by most schools not named Temple or Rutgers. He has good height at 6'4", but he'll probably redshirt to add some beef to his 245 lb frame.
Surprisingly linebacker was a pretty significant need for us. Sean Lee, Dontey Brown, and Tyrell Sales will all be gone after 2008. So we had to go out looking for their replacements this year.
Once again Penn State hit a home run at the linebacker position. Mike Mauti blew the coaches and observers away at the US Army All Star Game. Mike Yancich was a beast on the camp and combine trail last summer. And Mike Zordich was one of the top linebacker prospects in the state of Ohio. Linebacker U rolls on and with the last class of Colasanti, Stupar, and Dailey we should be set at the position through 2012.
Justin King is gone. Lydell Sargeant is a senior now as are Anthony Scirrotto, Tony Davis, and Mark Rubin. So I was thinking we should bring in at least one safety and one cornerback this year. I guess we compromised and brought in one guy who could play both.
I have no complaints with D'Anton Lynn. This kid is a winner having led his team to the state championship. He was also highly recruited by USC, Oklahoma, Florida, Nebraska, and Wisconsin among others.
This wasn't a great class, but it was a good class. This is what I call a meat and potatoes class. It was heavy on linemen and linebackers, but it lacked the zesty sauces and dressing you get with the speedy skill players. We came up short at wide receiver, defensive back and running back. There is a good chance we'll end up coming short at quarterback if we don't land Pryor. But we had a small class with a limited number of scholarships to hand out. With only 15 schollies to play with the coaches had to be selective in who they offered. They didn't want to hand out 100 offers and have all the two star kids jump on them. So I think the coaches spent a little too long reviewing film and weighing their options back in the spring. While other schools were locking up verbal commitments we were just getting out of the blocks in handing out offers. For many of these prospects we came in late and just couldn't make up the ground on their favorites.
The other thing that killed us is the situation with Joe Paterno. His contract status is still uncertain after 2008 and I think that scared off a lot of kids. But then I think we've reached the tipping point where no recruit believes Joe is going to be there when they graduate. So that is a major ding against the Penn State program.
But in addition to Joe's contract status, his health in general is really starting to affect his job performance. Joe only made one in house visit this year, and that was to Terrelle Pryor. We all saw the effect too. Penn State went from being an afterthought to being a contender in Pryor's eyes. The old man still has the gift of wowing a recruit. Unfortunately, while other head coaches were getting face time with these recruits Joe was sitting in State College. He may or may not have even been in his office as he openly admits he works out of the house more often than not. To add to the problem our offensive coordinator didn't make a single in house visit, and to my knowledge he has never made an in house visit on behalf of Penn State. Is it any wonder we're losing recruits to Charlie Weis and Ron Zook? These guys are tireless recruiters that maximize their time on the road because they understand the importance of landing top players. You could have the best system in the world, but you hurt yourself when your opponent is bigger, stronger, and faster than you.
So that's it. Good but not great. We'll take a look at recruiting in more depth in the coming days. And probably next week I'll start breaking down our needs for the class of 2009 as we start the whole cycle all over again.