There has been a lot of debate in the sphere about the commitments of defensive tackle recruits Austin Johnson and Derek Dowrey in recent days, including a lot right here at BSD. Some have used the pair's unheralded recruiting service status as a sign that Penn State offered them as fallback positions. Others have made the "trust the coaching staff" argument to defend the Nittany Lions' interest in the pair.
While the message boarders and bloggers were carping, though, Philip Cmor of the Altonna Mirror was busy doing some good, old-fashioned reporting on the pair, and found some interesting tidbits.
Cmor spoke to Johnson's high school coach, who had this to say.
Most did not even realize Penn State had interest in Johnson. Johnson's coach, Dennis Scuderi, however, chafed at the notion that Johnson was an under-the-radar recruit.
"There were a lot of schools that were recruiting him. He had several big-time offers. ... He had Rutgers, Syracuse, Boston College, Tulane, Iowa were some of the schools he had offers from,'' said Scuderi, who also sent D-lineman Jack Crawford to Penn State from the Richland, N.J. school. "He's very athletic. ... At 6-5, 280, he's very quick, especially laterally.''
Cmor also talked to Dowrey's high school coach, who had a feeling his player's stock was about to take off.
West Virginia was his biggest offer before Penn State's, going along with those from East Carolina, Marshall, Ohio and Richmond.
Rayburn, however, had gotten a vibe that Virginia Tech, Maryland and Georgia Tech were also very interested. Those schools never got an opportunity to offer, as Dowrey, who had been to Penn State several times in the last year - including the Blue-White Game, where he and his family spoke to Paterno - jumped at the Nittany Lions' offer.
Ultimately, it looks like both sides of the argument were off. These recruits were neither "Plan B" type guys, nor were they "trust the staff" project type players. They were simply high major recruits without recruiting service star rankings. Whether these guys will ever be evaluated and whether they'll ever be assigned star rankings, we really don't know. What we do know is that Penn State wasn't the only big time program looking at the pair. Johnson and Dowrey had the attention of major programs across the Northeast, as is the case with most recruits Penn State pulls into its recruiting classes.
If you ask me, there's nothing to see here, despite what you might hear elsewhere. Ultimately, the firestorm that followed these commitments was set off by folks working with incredibly limited information and without anything resembling the full picture. In the future, everyone is probably better off sitting back, relaxing, and letting the information come out before jumping to conclusions one way or the other.