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What Do the Reduced Sanctions Mean for Penn State Recruiting?

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Where does Penn State recruiting go from here?

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

In case you missed it, Mark Emmert's hammer was peeled mostly off of the two by four that is Penn State today, as the bowl ban and scholarship restriction portion of the sanctions were lifted. This has led most to think about the possibilities of a bowl game, and even a B1G Championship bid, especially after a weekend where Michigan State, Ohio State, and Michigan all stumbled. The place where the sanction reductions are likely to be felt the most however, is on the recruiting side of things. James Franklin wasn't having trouble in the first place with recruiting under the sanctions, but being able to offer a bowl game and not have any limitations on how many players to sign outside of the normal rules should lead to some even more fun for those of us who are slaves to the #STARZ game.

To sum up what has happened today, Penn State is now postseason eligible for this season, including the B1G Championship, and they no longer have any scholarship restrictions. Both of these impact Penn State recruiting in major ways. First off, the impact of the bowl ban is obvious. While Penn State recruiting has thrived recently as opposed to suffering as expected, there can be no doubt that having the ability to play in a bowl game will entice even more highly ranked prospects to consider the Nittany Lions. Just a year ago, Jabrill Peppers stated that had Penn State been eligible for a bowl game his freshman season, they would have made the race with Michigan even closer than it was. The appeal to play in bowl games, where everyone on the team gets to travel and play against an unfamiliar opponent, gain even more television exposure, be given a typically ridiculous package of gifts, and compete for an annual trophy is easy to understand. For top recruits like Peppers who have NFL aspirations, these bowl games can be seen as their best chance to shine on the national stage. There will undoubtedly be a spike in Penn State interest as a result of their postseason eligibility, and don't be surprised to see another five star player or two end up in the 2016 class alongside Shane Simmons.

As far as the scholarship reduction, this is the part of the equation that the staff might be the most excited about. To spare you from the details, basically Penn State was going to have to do some roster re-adjusting if they wanted to take 25 kids in the 2015 class, due to what the team already had on the roster. Now, the Lions are free to take 25 in 2015, or 28 in compliance with Big Ten over-signing rules, or they could save those spots for early enrollees (like high target QB Brandon McIlwain) in the 2016 class. It also allows the staff to reopen once-closed doors. It was somewhat common knowledge that the staff has become very picky with who receives offers as time has gone on, due to the fact that they needed to make sure they had enough at each position before they thought about taking luxury picks, so to speak. In fact, Penn State already had to turn away four star linebacker Darrin Kirkland earlier in the 2015 cycle (back when Josh Barajas was still committed) because they simply didn't have the flexibility to add him to the class. It would seem that this will no longer be an issue for Penn State more than any other team in the country. In other words, James Franklin has officially been let off his leash. That's not to say that Penn State will go crazy and take 25-28 guys in this class no matter what, because they don't want to overload the roster and handcuff themselves in future years, but they have the opportunity to chase whoever else they want now.

In terms of immediate results, these reductions have the potential to lead to big additions to the 2015 class, such as LB Ricky DeBerry, CB Minkah Fitzpatrick, DT Christin Wilkins, DT Tim Settle, OL Matt Burrell. CB Jordan Whitehead and others, all of whom are already high on Penn State and could have just been provided the push they needed. As for the 2016 class, five star guys with high Penn State interest such as DT Rashan Gary, RB Kareem Walker, and CD Levonta Taylor become more realistic options for the Nittany Lions.

In my opinion, the biggest potential movement as we speak should come at the cornerback spot for Penn State. It is known that four star CB Jordan Whitehead is announcing his decision on October 3rd. With Minkah Fitzpatrick visiting Penn State recently with teammate and Penn State commit Brandon Wimbush, the rumblings have started surfacing that Fitzpatrick could be a potential flip to the Nittany Lions (although other teams are very much in play here as well). With the sanctions now lifted, there is reason to believe that Nittany Lions would happily take both players in the 2015 class, but previously the staff was said to be interested in only taking one more corner. The situation could lead to a few different outcomes If Fitzpatrick commits first, Whitehead might be out. If Whitehead commits first, Fitzpatrick will still be a take no matter what. Or they could both look elsewhere, of course. If Penn State is still only interested in taking one corner (unless Fitzpatrick flips late, he is obviously an automatic take), then Whitehead could be pressured into making a decision before that October 3rd deadline, which would be a situation that would benefit Penn State. The now, more attractive Penn State could also lead Minkah Fitzpatrick to do something drastic, and flip to Penn State sooner rather than later to possibly help cement his place on the depth chart (because Whitehead is no slouch). It's an incredibly interesting situation. I personally believe that Fitzpatrick will remain committed to the Crimson Tide, but it is what it is.

No matter what, Penn State is in for quite a ride on the recruiting side of things. Thinking about what Franklin and his staff will be able to do with no limitations is a fun thought, indeed.


I also have some early reactions from some of the current commits to share. More will come, so look for those later in the week.

Ryan Buchholz: "I think that this is great for everyone involved with PSU! I know they've been working on this for a little and it surprised me it got lifted this early. But I can't wait for later this season and seeing PSU compete for the Big Ten Championship."

Andre Robinson: "That's great to hear. We had been hearing rumors about the sanctions being lifted, but now that it's actually happening it's a big relief. It'll be great in recruiting, I know in my class they had started to turn guys down because of lack of scholarships. As for the bowl games that's awesome, especially for the guys there now who were punished for what happened when they weren't there."

Juwan Johnson: "It's really great that this happened! I'm thrilled! Major relief for the program."

Steven Gonzalez: "I'm so stoked about it! Such a great day for PSU. Get to recruit more players. And we get to go to bowls. I think we will go harder after some dudes [in recruiting]."

It's a fun time to follow Penn State Recruiting. Make sure to hop on the bandwagon now.