You'll notice that we've been quoting and linking Lions 247 quite a bit lately. It's a new Penn State subscription site run by former BWI contributor and all-around quality human Sean Fitz, who was kind enough to respond to a few questions about Penn State's remaining recruiting targets and the recruiting game, in general.
BSD: So...busy much?
Sean Fitz: Thanks for having me. We're pleased with how everything is going, right now it's the fastest-growing and most talked about Penn State site on the Web. Hundreds of folks have jumped on in the last six weeks thanks to an excellent offer from 247Sports.com. Until Friday, we're honoring your subscription from any other Penn State premium site at no charge to you. We just want to get you on the site and check us out.
If you have a monthly subscription elsewhere, we'll give you a free month. If you're an annual subscriber at another site, we'll honor that subscription through Dec. 31. We're confident that you're going to like what you see and we hope to keep you on board in the long run.
BSD: Is Penn State is the driver's seat for Noah Spence at this point?
Sean Fitz: I think if you take a look at his actions, not so much his words, you would have to feel pretty good about Penn State's chances with Spence. He's been to Happy Valley more times than any other school, and right now he has no plans to make a trip during his senior season. Coupled with a decision coming in early January, Spence will realistically only have time for about three of his official visits. Count on one of those being to Penn State. Obviously, plenty can happen in the next few months, but right now Penn State looks as good as any school for Spence.
BSD: Aside from Spence, who is Penn State's most important remaining target?
Sean Fitz: At this point I think it's undoubtedly Will Mahone. Penn State's running back recruiting has been nothing short of a disaster so far, and Mahone is the most realistic target left on the board. Despite Silas Redd just being a sophomore, the depth chart is inviting and there's really not a good reason why Penn State hasn't been able to haul in a back this cycle. Unfortunately for Penn State, this one could be slipping away. The Nittany Lions were the team to beat at the start of the summer, but Notre Dame has turned up the heat and Mahone is listening. He did not have a great experience at the Alabama game and he's slated to visit Notre Dame this weekend.
BSD: Who is Penn State's most underrated commit so far?
Sean Fitz: Going from our commitment list on 247Sports, one of the guys who got a nice bump in our last rankings was wide receiver Eugene Lewis. This is a guy who I was lukewarm on before I saw him on person this spring. He's a high school quarterback, so there's not much you can tell about his film as a receiver prospect, but he's a dynamic athlete and a much smoother receiver than I gave him credit for. He's also a lot bigger than I thought he would be. He's a guy who could play as a true freshman and in the long run be a very productive player.
BSD: Where does Penn State stand in terms of running back and defensive back recruiting?
Sean Fitz: Right now running back is the glaring need across the board, there's no question about that. In addition to Mahone, the top two targets left on the board are both committed to other programs. New York's Akeel Lynch is currently committed to Boston College and Ohio State commit Bri'Onte Dunn has visited State College two times in the last three months. Dunn is certainly an uphill battle, his fate is likely in the hands of the NCAA investigators looking into the Buckeyes. If the NCAA comes down hard on the Bucks, then Michigan or Penn State become more realistic possibilities.
Lynch suddenly committed to the Eagles this summer, a decision that came as a surprise to a lot of people, including the Nittany Lions. Soon after, Mike McQueary got back into contact and the Canadian native will likely make it onto campus this fall. While he's still committed to BC, he's always been high on the Nittany Lions.
The situation regarding the defensive backs has improved with the three recent New England commitments. Armani Reeves is a potential All-Big Ten guy who is the type of athlete that Penn State needs to recruit to compete with the big boys. Malik Golden is a lot like Adrian Amos last year - a guy who has both size and skills and could play safety down the line.
Safety recruiting, however, is still an issue. Penn State is in on Jeannette safety Demetrious Cox, who looks to be a solid possibility and would be a good pickup. The Lions just hosted Ohio safety Bam Bradley for a visit as well. It's a position that will need addressed before signing day.
BSD: Which Penn State coach doesn't get enough credit for his recruiting and coaching skills?
Sean Fitz: I think that Ron Vanderlinden and Bill Kenney are the guys to look at here. Vanderlinden has done a fantastic job in the last few years pulling players from Southeast PA, South Jersey and his home state of Michigan. His pull of Anthony Zettel last year was one of the more amazing recruiting jobs I've seen while covering Penn State.
Kenney doesn't get a whole lot of credit because his numbers aren't as impressive as some of the other coaches, but he has a very tough draw recruiting Virginia. He's part of a cleanup effort for Penn State in New England this year as well, and is one of the guys responsible for the Lions landing Camren Williams and Armani Reeves. Kenney is a very energetic recruiter that has a ton of great relationships around the country.
BSD: How important is an in-home visit by a head coach these days?
Sean Fitz: I have a couple viewpoints on this subject. The time period in which head coaches are allowed to visit really limits how important they can be. With decisions being made earlier and classes filling up faster, usually there are only a few prospects left on the board that will warrant visits. In the grand scheme of things, in-home visits are high on the list of reasons why kids pick schools.
Having said that, when the time comes and those prospects are still there for the taking, I believe in-home visits are something that can put prospects, and perhaps more importantly, their families, over the edge. It's more about matching your competition than anything. If an elite prospect is visited by Brian Kelly, Will Muschamp and Jimbo Fisher, and then doesn't get a visit from, say, Joe Paterno, that's going to say something to that prospect. To me it's not necessarily about how the actual visit goes, it's more about the effort that a coach shows to make a prospect feel wanted.
Would an in-home visit have mattered with a guy like Marcus Lattimore? Probably not, but seeing Joe Paterno in your living room is going to make you think a little bit longer about your decision.
[Thanks again to Sean, and if you're interested in taking Lions247 up on their fantastic offer, Friday is the last day of their matching subcription promotion. I'll throw in my editorial two cents as a consumer of this stuff. I was a member at Fight On State for a long time. I eventually found Scout's regional and national analysts like to involve themselves way too much in influencing the news they disseminate and the decisions of the recruits they cover. They are constantly permitted to do this without rebuke. I had other complaints, but that's the main one. After a number of incidents like this, I finally gave up and switched over to 247 this summer and haven't regretted it once. They run a tight ship. I can't speak for BWI, never been a member over there. -CG]