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No Siren Has Rung: A Precruitment Story

Imagine you are a hotshot fella. I mean a real jive cat. You are the proverbial cat's pajamas, and even the bee's knees on some occasions. You are Danny Zuko, before he pimped Breitling, or Marky Mark, during the Fun Bunch era. Girls are fawning over you at every chance they get because, to them, one night with you is the story they will tell for years, even after they are married to some proctologist. It's Prom Night, the punch has been spiked, and you've got three choices:

1) the sorta-good-looking-but-not-cream-of-the-crop girl that has a wicked crush on anyone popular; she's the girl that people cheat off of in class, the girl that will drive everyone to the dance without a date, and the girl that would probably put out if anyone was receiving

2) a hot friend in the main Hot Group; she knows she's good looking but is too flawed/conceded to do anything until the Queen Bee says that it is OK, even if she has a small crush on the kid with Bama bangs playing the bass guitar (even if he plays the same three chords and you just yawn and say "Ahhhhh")

3) Queen Bee herself; as John Nash posited, if you go after all the friends, the Queen Bee gets pissed off and no one is happy, but if you go after Queen Bee, only Queen Bee is happy and the rest are having ZERO fun; regardless, Queen Bee will eventually sleep with someone, and why not you?

I swear this is going somewhere, and probably not where you think...

Now pretend that you, the jive cat, are also Mike McQuery, and you need to decide to whom to extend a highly coveted Penn State football scholarship (in the thinly veiled analogy above, the scholarship is the hep cat). Further pretend that you only have so many scholarships to offer, a number based on a regression analysis that some guy did a long time ago that takes into account probable openings, likelihood of offer acceptance, and probably a hundred other variables. Choosing which high school junior boys to talk to isn't as fun as picking a high school prom slay-fest, is it?

If you've been paying attention to the recent Where Are They Now posts, you know that the staff requirements for each year are different. Linemen will always be a need, both defensive and offensive. The rest of the skill positions, however, vary from year to year.

To be a lineman recruit, you have to relegate yourself to the fact that you will never have your name printed in the paper near good news, you will always be the guy that the star player forgets to mention by name, and you will always be they guy whose weight is in question. To be any other recruit, you just need to avoid Cruzan Mango Rum.

Recruiting is a year round process. Actually, and if this makes sense to anyone else, I'd like to invite you to join my BSD Recruiting subculture - recruiting is an inverse-year-round-event. Let me explain by way of example: in 2004, the Penn State coaches were trying their best to get out of the "Dark Years" by recruiting 5* players like Dan Connor and Anthony Morelli. However, at the same time, they never took their eyes off of players like Derrick Williams and Justin King, two players that would revolutionize the Penn State name. So when I say inverse-recruiting, I mean that while the staff is actively trying to sign this year's class, they still have their eye on the talent of the future. A successful recruitment program will have one eye on this year's class and one eye on next year's, with, until recently, the other two eyes on the actual playing of football. With the 2010 class in the books, the staff can now target the 2011 class a little bit more, but recruiting is always forward looking - we're now in the process of talking to high schoolers that won't see the Beaver Stadium field for at least 17 months, if they're lucky.

No siren has gone off this year because this class will be small. The sooner you can wrap your fan-head around that, the sooner this post will make sense. Hopefully it will go off soon, but don't hold your breath, as it will likely be a post-B/W siren that pops our 2011 recruiting cherry. Like 2008, the staff is plagued with a small number of scholarships to toss around. With the recent departures (Carter, McEowen, Jeffries), we've opened up a few extra, but the number will certainly not reach the 2009/2010 numbers. However, unlike 2008, we've gotten to a point recruiting-wise where we can be more selective with our scholarship offers. Essentially, we can start targeting more of the Queen Bees and less of the girls-with-daddy-issue types (unless you're into that sort of thing). Big Red took over the Recruiting Coordinator position sometime around The Trio's recruitment, and we've been on the steady upslope since then (in 2005, 19 recruits signed an LOI: 15 were 3* or less; by comparison, 20 recruits signed an LOI in 2010, and only five were 3* or less). Nationally ranked classes in the past two years (#11 in '09, #9 in '10 by Scouts, Inc.) have proven that the Penn State name once again carries more strength than it did in the early 00's.

And that all brings me back to the beginning...what is the staff doing with this years class? Are they going after the Rachel Leigh Cook character before her makeover? Or are they spending all their time with the Rachel McAdams Queen Bee? Well, the answer is both.

In the coming days, we will be going over the players that fit into all three of the above mentioned groups. To be a successful program, you must recruit all of them. Florida, Texas, USC, and Ohio State have the luxury of recruiting what they know - taking the most ridiculous athletes in your backyard and making them stars. But don't fool yourself into thinking that these programs ONLY take 5* athletes; it just seems that way. Granted, we snagged a pretty good quarterback out of Ohio; however, DC17 was not the Olivia Newton-John to our Danny Zuko in 2005.

For Penn State, the "backyard" is sometimes hard to define - Pittsburgh is a hotbed of talent (I'm biased, sue me), and PSU has been recruiting well, but we have definitely let high profile recruits slip through our grasp and there are schools that are adamant non-feeders (see Gateway (Terry Smith) and Aliquippa); the NEPA/Philly area has been good to PSU recently, but a sustained pipeline is the goal (for the definition of a sustained pipeline, research the relationship between Sparty and Renaissance HS). I'm not familiar with the Central PA recruitment process, but it seems to have done some good in recent years for PSU.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not sorry to see arm punts fly across state lines (especially since I'm almost positive my company owns the subterranean rights to his parents property), but Sweater Vest has won a decade's worth of conference titles for a reason -  he keeps talent in-house. That's not to say that we're not keeping good talent at home, nor is it an affront to our out-of-state recruitment efforts (see LJSr. and the DC/MD area). The point is that Penn State has once again reached a place where it can, should, and must recruit the talent that is within its all-seeing eye in order to be successful.

At the end of the day, I put 100% of my trust in Big Red and the staff. Stories are replete with Joe showing up in kitchens, among other things, in order to sway the kids (and their parents) that we think will be valid Penn Staters. Whether its the nerdy girl, the fat friend, or the whore, Penn State will recruit with the best of them, and will bring in a solid class like you've become accustomed to. Just don't expect the siren to ring as much as it did last year. However, once it starts, let it never stop. Listen to the bell, Grossbard. It tolls for thee.