[Wednesday, February 2, 2005]
With just about three months remaining in my college career, this Wednesday almost surely started the way every other Senioritis Wednesday started - up late, grab a McLanahan's breakfast bagel (definitely sausage and cheese), hit a couple classes (probably the Forum), swing by the HUB for regular lunch with friends (possibly Sbarro). Along the way, depending on the class and the relative boredom level, I'd have picked up a Collegian, where I'd quickly peruse the news before heading directly to the crossword puzzle.
What was different that day? To me, nothing. To the overwhelming majority of students, faculty, and staff in the HUB that day, nothing. To the extremely small minority of people who knew what Rivals or Scout was, who Tom Lemming was, or what a Letter of Intent was, a lot. Coach Joe Paterno had just received a Letter of Intent from the highest rated recruit to ever sign one of those documents and fax it to Penn State. Derrick Williams was a Penn Stater, and the recruiting era had begun at Penn State.
[Tuesday, July 26, 2016]
After nearly three relatively stagnant months on the recruiting trail, Coach James Franklin has received verbal commitments from two players. Of the now 11 committed players, there are players of all positions, from all geographic areas, and with 11 different stories. The players are a mix of hard commits and commits that Franklin and Co. will have to work on to keep in the class. Recruiting requires constant attention, and there are few better in the country than James Franklin on the recruiting trail. He knows the challenges, from both an overall recruiting perspective as well as recruiting at a post-2011 Penn State.
[Wednesday, March 19, 2008]
At a high school gymnasium in western Pennsylvania, another new era of recruiting would be ushered into the world of the common sports fan. Terrelle Pryor, the nation's No. 1 QB, and a player that would outrank Derrick Williams as the highest rated commit to sign with Penn State, decided to head west rather than east. His commitment to Ohio State six weeks after Signing Day brought to attention of the growing recruiting audience two new issues - the recruiting diva, and the issue of shady recruiting tactics.
Did both of those things exist before 2008? Sure, we'd all seen Blue Chips. But Penn State fans who didn't pay money to Scout or Rivals before now were suddenly aware of things like bagmen, new cars, hat ceremonies and the national extent to which people were interested in high school players in their backyards. Before, fans would debate the relative merits of the players on their team, or committed to their team. Now, fans could question the morals and ethics of those involved in recruiting, and characters far worse than Pete Bell would inevitably surface.
Pryor also represented the idea that high profile players now had a national stage on which their dramatic recruitments could play out. Hat ceremonies (or puppies, or whatever the player chose to pick) became the norm, and Signing Day dramatics were commonplace. Gone were the days where recruits would pick a school and stick with it; schools now had to recruit all the way to Signing Day (and beyond, in the case of Pryor, et al.). Recruiting became a 24/7 business for everyone involved. And with the explosion of social media, everyone could watch it from the comfort of their homes.
For Penn State fans, Derrick Williams put recruiting on the map, giving the sports junkies something to do year round as opposed to just September through January. However, where were the fans going to get that information? Places like Rivals and Scout (and their predecessors and related message boards) had existed, but were lacking. Long gone were the days of 1-900 call-in numbers and brief blurbs in USA Today. Recruiting coverage was becoming huge, and there was a huge market to corner, if only the right entity could put it all together. Enter 247Sports. The brainchild of a number of recruiting visionaries, this conglomerate of sports networks (why does that sound familiar?), the platform provided a number of benefits above what was being offered at their now-stale competitors. Scout was a dying brand (would be all-but-officially dead within a few short years) and Rivals was struggling to keep up with the content and information that the new kid on the block was providing.
The Penn State version of the 247Sports network, Lions247, quickly became the leader in information, resourcesand recruiting coverage. That was a tough sentence to write, as BSD was trying its best at the time to keep up. But recruiting had simply grown too strong - L247 employed multiple full-time recruiting analysts, while BSD "employed" a group of people who worked in entirely different careers. L247 was able to provide proprietary rankings systems (which would go on to cause a number of debates among fanbases), a platform for recruiting-specific conversation (again, debates), and an outlet for fans to see not only the top end commits to their school, but also the players who were considering their school.
[Monday, December 12, 2016]
And so here we are, living in a world where every tweet, every combine interview, every outfit choice by 15- through 18-year old kids is dissected and debated by myriad outlets. The schools take note; the recruiting services take note; the blogs take note; the Twitter Warriors take note. Everyone has an opinion, and they all mix together in the electronic ether and come out as white noise. Sifting through all of this becomes a chore in and of itself, and the recruiting follower now has a new job - determining which source of the hundreds of voices out there to trust. 10 years ago, the voices were few, so fans didn't really have a choice but to trust the few writers at Scout, Rivals, or smaller outlets. Today, everyone has a cousin with a friend on the local football team, and has the scoop on the four-star cornerback who is about to announce his decision.
Fans are aware of players timelines, and don't need Tom Lemming to tell them when something is about to happen. Derrick Williams' level commitments are no longer lost on unaware students sitting in the HUB and avoiding LARCH 060. On this day (or shortly thereafter), one of the highest rated players in the class of 2017 is going to announce his college choice. Lamont Wade, another top western PA player, will announce between Ohio State, Pitt, Penn State, and others.
Since 2005, the recruiting game has blown up. And once it got going, the information explosion was instantaneous. Eight years after Pryor, not much has changed. Eleven more years from now, not much more will change. But you'll be able to follow it all from your Google glasses and embedded BSD app. When your ASTRO 010 professor starts in on black holes, just fire up BSD, Twitter, or L247 to see who is committing to Penn State next, and don't be left behind when your lunch table talks 40 times in the HUB.