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Four Storylines to Follow During the 2019 Recruiting Cycle

Setting the platform for what should be an interesting year on the recruiting trail.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 30 Fiesta Bowl - Washington v Penn St Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last week, we touched on offensive and defensive 2019 prospects to keep an eye on. Now, let’s take a bigger picture look at some intriguing storylines to follow through the 2019 recruiting cycle.

Does Penn State take a second quarterback?

The Nittany Lions went into 2019 wanting to take two quarterbacks. They landed the first in October when Taquan Roberson made his commitment, but now comes the more difficult part — getting a second quarterback on board. Penn State is certainly trying though, extending offers to five other quarterbacks, most notably Garret Shrader, Max Duggan, and Taisun Phommachanh.

While taking two quarterbacks isn’t completely uncommon, very few schools have done it in recent years. Only four schools signed multiple top 50-ish quarterbacks in 2018:

  • Washington: Colson Yankoff (No. 10) and Jacob Sirmon (No. 11)
  • Texas: Cameron Rising (No. 20) and Casey Thompson (No. 24)
  • Arizona: Kevin Doyle (No. 41) and Jamarye Joiner (No. 42)
  • North Carolina: Jace Ruder (No. 27) and Cade Fortin (No. 51)

I think what favors Penn State — especially if Tommy Stevens graduate transfers after the spring — is that they’ll be able to sell a wide open quarterback competition in 2019. For someone like Garrett Shrader to come into a situation where he’s competing for the starting job right away, it’s certainly more enticing.

Can Penn State pluck five-star Zach Harrison from Ohio?

Since James Franklin’s tenure started in Happy Valley, he’s been slowly but surely building relationships in Ohio. The Nittany Lions landed four-star Sean Clifford and three-star Mike Miranda in 2017, and followed that up by landing three-star Aeneas Hawkins in 2018. What Penn State hasn’t done yet, though, is beat Ohio State straight up for an Ohio prospect. They were oh-so-close this past year, nearly poaching Tyreke Smith from the Buckeyes, but in the end, Smith stayed home. Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, they’ll get another opportunity in 2019, and this time, it might be for arguably the top prospect in the country — five-star Zach Harrison.

Harrison is a 6-foot-6, 240-pound defensive end that will be able to choose whatever school he wants, but in the early going, it seems like his recruitment will be an Ohio State-Penn State battle. No surprise, but the Buckeyes are the big favorites, and rightfully so. But don’t expect the Nittany Lions to relent here. Harrison has visited State College three times already, and should make his way back to Happy Valley a few more times in the following months.

Obviously the success of the 2019 class won’t be tied to Harrison because he’s a longshot to sign with the Nittany Lions. But if he does end up spurning Ohio State for Penn State, it would be by far the biggest recruiting victory of Franklin’s tenure.

How many Pennsylvania recruits sign with Penn State?

While “Dominate the State” has always been about quality over quantity when it comes to Penn State’s pickings in the Keystone state, there’s a good chance this will be the smallest Pennsylvania class James Franklin has ever signed at Penn State. Let’s look at the numbers (2014 withstanding):

  • 2015: Offered 13; Signed 11
  • 2016: Offered 15; Signed 5
  • 2017: Offered 13; Signed 5
  • 2018: Offered 16; Signed 7

Sure, the validity of some of those offers could be argued, but the point of Penn State’s aggressiveness in recruiting Pennsylvania still stands: Over the last four classes, Penn State has offered, on average, just a hair over 14 prospects, and has signed, on average, seven prospects. That won’t be the case in 2019 — to the numbers!

  • 2019: Offered 3; Committed 1

While the offer list will probably grow a bit — guys like Keith Maguire and Kyi Wright could earn offers at some point — this is trending to be Penn State’s smallest class of Pennsylvania signees. I’d probably put the over/under at 3.5 right now, and even that may be a bit generous.

How does the Penn State staff manage spring official visits?

The NCAA Division I Council announced that recruits will be allowed to take official visits starting in the spring (April, to be exact) of their junior year, rather than having to wait until the fall of their senior season like in years past. This is overwhelmingly positive for Penn State and other Big Ten schools, who will now be able to host Southern prospects free-of-charge much earlier in their recruitments. The Penn State staff seems pretty jazzed up about it, saying that Blue and White weekend may become their biggest official visit weekend because of it.

But like anything else when it comes to recruiting, there will certainly be issues that pop up during the first go-around. I think one of the more interesting conundrums will be how the staff handles Northeast prospects who want to use their official visit in the spring. Obviously, every recruitment will be different, but I think Penn State would still prefer the prospects within a six-hour radius from campus to save their official for the fall/winter.