June 29, 2010

[Updated] Tuesday Recruitin': Cause for Concern; but don't freak out

Updated 2 p.m.

Penn State rarely loses a recruit from the DC Metro area, but UVA head coach Mike London was able to snag Brandon Phelps (pictured) from the Nittany Lions. (Photo: Washington Post)

No intro today. I'm going to just jump right in and give a big old "I told you so!"

University of Virginia's first-year head coach Mike London has been one of my harping points for months now. From my April 6 Tuesday Recruitin':
"But with the arrival of head coach Mike London from Richmond, where he led the Spiders to the 2008 FCS (I-AA) National Championship, things could get tricky in the mid-Atlantic region. I'm not saying at all that London's arrival in Charlottesville will be a seismic shift, but don't be surprised if you hear his Cavaliers come up big once or twice this recruiting season."
Well last week that came to bittersweet fruition, as London picked off very highly touted receiver/cornerback Brandon Phelps, out of Damascus (MD). Phelps had more than 20 scholarship offers, including from Penn State, Alabama, Notre Dame, LSU, and a host of other major programs.

This isn't the end of the world for Penn State; not by any stretch of the imagination. But in a year where the Nittany Lions have been painfully slow to get any recruiting momentum, this isn't the kind of news you want to hear, from an area where prospects usually flock to the Blue and White. I see a lot of potential for London and UVA to make a real impact in the mid-Atlantic recruiting scene over the next few years, if not longer.

The Wright Fit... for Pitt

This one genuinely shocks the hell out of me. It shouldn't, but it does. It's also caused the message boards to absolutely explode. NJ DL Marquise Wright reportedly committed to Pitt yesterday. Granted the Panthers have done much better lately in New Jersey, but I'm wondering if there was something deeper going on with Wright's recruitment. Last year, the Pitt coaching staff took Joe-Must-Go style heat for losing Miles Dieffenbach and a few others to Penn State last season. That would have put a ton of pressure on the Panthers to steal at least one or two right from under Penn State's nose in the 2011 class. The Panthers don't just pick up a guy like Wright, without a little shenanigans going on behind the scenes. Wright looks like he could be that ill-gotten booty.

Then there is the fact that I totally struck swinging out on Wright. It wasn't more than two months ago that I projected Wright would surely stay a Penn State lean until he commits in late summer:
"When it comes to Penn State... Even though Wright has Penn State as his leader, he appears to want to wait until the end of the summer before pulling the trigger. But that doesn't take away from his interest in the Penn State, which Wright previously referred to as his "dream school." Wright has been to University Park twice since opening up his recruitment. One of those trips was to the Blue-White Game. Wright could be the headliner in a fantastic crop of defensive linemen for Penn State's 2011 class."
How'd that work out for me?

Two More Say See Ya Later

Devon Cajuste, TE out of Flushing (NY), verbaled to Stanford last week. Like Brandon Phelps, Cajuste is from another supposedly strong recruiting region for Penn State. But this one doesn't look to be as serious, because Penn State only offered Cajuste a few weeks ago. Yes, the Lions should have been getting higher interest from a New Yorker like this one, but I wouldn't read into it so deeply.

Kiaro Holts, Indianapolis OT, and top recruit in the state of Indiana, verbaled to North Carolina last week. He told CarolinaBlue.com that UNC just came out on top of his list, after he broke down each school. When I last touched on Holts, I said it was too early to tell on him. At the time, it was too early. But now pushing two months later, it's not surprising to see him go somewhere besides Penn State. We haven't heard a single bit of good news since the offer went out.

[updated...] Here are a few more recruits over the last month that decided to go elsewhere, despite supposedly heavy interest in or by Penn State...

During all the Big Ten expansion drama, NJ ATH Bill Belton gave his soft verbal to Pitt. This just adds to the Wanstache's push for recruits out of the Garden State.

Not exactly a Penn State lean at any point, the loss of IN DT Joel Hale to the Buckeyes wasn't a surprise. But this still was a player Penn State should have been much more competitive with.

And finally, Baltimore DE Marco Jones, who I actually thought would stay open for Penn State, was picked up by someone I already mentioned in the first edition of this post: Mike London's Virginia Cavaliers. Can I say 'I told you so' more than once in a single post? For this one, yes I can.

Going forward...

It's been a bad week for recruiting. I won't sugar coat anything here. The loss of Wright really stings, with the whole Pitt factor and all. But don't fall into the echo chamber of the message boards, especially those on Rivals and Scout. More than a handful of those folks are recruiting nuts who believe that recruiting is the only thing that matters. Well, they only care about recruiting when there's nothing else to complain about. You know, like winning 51 games in five years, two Big Ten titles, and beating SEC teams on New Years Day. These were the same people who were chanting "Joe Must Go!" during the dark years. Now they're bringing back that mantra because one recruiting class might not be very good.

I don't disagree that this year's class will suck. It happens. But what I do disagree with is that this will destroy the entire Penn State football program for decades to come. That's how it would seem if you camp out on the boards for hours on end, every single day. So, do yourself a favor. Don't freak out about this year's recruiting class. It's not worth the stress.

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  1. This class will suck, huh? So we'll only get a bunch of three stars, like Evan Royster, Daryll Clark, Aaron Maybin, Sean Lee, A.Q. Shipley, and Derek Moye? Somehow, I think we'll live.

  2. Oh, I know Penn State will be just fine. That was my point. Penn State might only get a few "four stars," which will translate for some people into a crappy class. This class could end up outside the top-40 classes, if not lower. That doesn't mean the players will suck, but the class as a whole, compared to the last few years, will be very underwhelming.

  3. Mike says...
    Ever few years PSU has a small recruiting class, thereby giving the tremendous classes recruited in prior years an opportunity to develop.

  4. Good job calling out those who are quick to panic on this issue. Couldn't agree more.

  5. So the class is lowly ranked - probably because the previous 3 have been great and new commits want to come and play right away and not redshirt. last I checked it is the entire team put on the field that counts.Just means 012 will be wide open for new talent

  6. Buzz, I seldom put much stock in recruiting class rankings. I look at it from a "did we fill our needs?" position. How many times has Notre Dame had a highly ranked class in the last two decades? How has that worked out for them? You're right, at the end of the day it's how well you develop your talent and the team that you put on the field that counts.

  7. Excellent point, Galen. Notre Dame is the poster child for how highly-touted recruiting classes don't mean squat. If Notre Dame under Charlie Weis was as good as the recruiting classes he brought in, the Irish should have been playing for the national title every single year... not wallowing through 3-9 and 6-6 seasons.

  8. If you are going to have a small recruiting class, this certainly is the year in that there are not many top recruits in the state.

  9. Alan

    I don't put too much stock into the recruiting rankings. Penn State does a much better job with developing players than 95% of the programs out there. I think if we get some athletic, hard working kids in there... everything will pan out and we will stay top of the Big Ten (or twelve, or fourteen or whatever.

  10. You're right on that, Alan. Penn State's ability to develop players on a consistent basis (Evan Royster, Paul Posluszny, et al...) into NFL-caliber talent is very under-reported. Hell, even Daryll Clark went from a "two-star" kind of recruit, to being the First Team All-Big Ten QB for two straight seasons!!!