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Johnson and Dowrey Are Not "Plan B" Recruits

Did you know that Larry Johnson broke both the Internet AND Penn State's entire recruiting class during an 8-hour period on Saturday?

The 2011 Nittany Lion recruiting class was embarrassingly devoid of talent for much of the year before a late flurry of commitments sent it into the stratosphere of mediocre.  There were a variety of reasons for it, including a lack of elite level talent in the natural recruiting area.  Still, there was a long stretch during recruiting last year where Joe Paterno was MIA from an extended undisclosed illness, which created confusion among recruits, the media, and the coaching staff.  Offers were promised that didn't materialize for months, visits were abruptly cancelled, and the few high level kids that should have had the Nittany Lions as a finalist heading into the home stretch in January 2011 abandoned the team for other schools across the country.  Naturally, given the age and apparent health concerns of the head coach, the question was raised as to whether the coaching staff would be able to right the ship with a senior class stocked with talent.

Penn State has responded to those questions with an impressive early haul.  Paterno, in good health, has been Skyping recruits and appearing on televised specials with other coaching luminaries.  The rest of the staff has been aggressive, and the results speak for themselves.  Until Saturday, the Nittany Lions had eight verbal commitments, five of which had four or more stars.[1]


Last week, Penn State held a "rising seniors" camp that featured hundreds of high school athletes, many of whom would be considered "under the radar."  On Saturday, Penn State pulled the trigger on offers for defensive tackles Derek Dowrey of Winchester, Virginia and Austin Johnson of Richland, New Jersey. 

When news broke of their commitments late-Saturday night, it sent the Penn State Internet Community into a tailspin.  Neither recruit appeared to be highly ranked, nor did they appear to have multiple offers from FBS programs.  Throw in offensive line prospect Blake Bars'[2] verbal commitment to Michigan on Monday and suddenly the people who were praising Penn State's recruiting bounce back had jumped off the bandwagon and back into "woe is me" mode, replete with classless and vulgar comments about the recruits (sad), Joe Paterno (typical), and defensive line coach Larry Johnson (pathetic).  Apparently, the Dark Years have left deep-seated psychological scars on this fan base that still need to be repaired, because this is the reaction every time we receive unexpected news.

Let me attempt[3] to put the public's mind at ease.  These are not "plan B" recruits.  Everybody chill.

Larry Johnson, perhaps the finest defensive line coach in the entire country, did not just hand these offers to two yokels off the street.  Joe Paterno didn't approve these offers sight unseen.  While Rivals and Scout may be completely unaware of both Johnson and Dowrey, actual football teams were not.  Dowrey had taken multiple game visits to State College last year and had offers from some low-major teams and West Virginia.  Johnson had offers from Boston College, Syracuse, and Rutgers.

Had these offers been given in January after Penn State had missed on several prospects, it would be logical to argue that we were filling out the class by taking fliers on virtual unknowns.  We've done that before and we'll probably do it again.  So goes the recruiting business.

June is not January.  There are eight months before national letter of intent day, which means there are eight months for Penn State to have gotten themselves in the mix for various other highly rated defensive tackle prospects.  In June 2011, Penn State saw two kids that they liked in person.  Kids who they believe can excel in this program.  That Rivals and Scout have minimal film on them is entirely irrelevant.  Penn State didn't make these offers based on the video available to subscribers for $9.95 per month.  The coaches saw kids who could play, thought they fit the system, and moved them up on their board after spending several days observing them.

Penn State still waits on decisions from a variety of highly touted athletes, including Ohio running back Will Mahone, Pennsylvania defensive lineman Noah Spence, and New Jersey athlete Devin Fuller.  It's June.  Stop smacking around these kids because your PTSD over the 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2004 seasons is acting up.

[1] I know, I know, stars don't matter.  Except that maybe they do.  Or at least they're a good indicator in the aggregate.  Heck, I don't know.  Let's fight about it in the comments . . .

[2] Bars' brother, Brad, is a redshirt freshman defensive end at Penn State.  Their father apparently went to Notre Dame.  Apparently the family loves power programs north of the Mason-Dixon.

[3] Probably unsuccessfully