March 11, 2011

Friday Recruitin' - Your Weekly Penn State Football Recruiting Update

PA RB Rushel Shell. PHOTO: Matt Freed/Post-Gazette
Let me first say thank you to the great guys at for letting me join their rapidly growing blog, one of the best Penn State blogs around. I'm excited to bring you some valuable information as it pertains to Penn State football recruiting. If you ever have any questions or requests for articles, please do not hesitate to contact me via Twitter or email .

The great writers at Iowa's SBN blog, Black Heart Gold Pants, call their recurring recruiting segment "Caring is Creepy." While that might hold some truth (these are 18 year old kids or younger, afterall), the fact of the matter is that recruiting is a vital part of the success of any collegiate football team. What percentage of a team's success is due to their recruiting versus the on-field coaching is debatable. You can recruit five-star athletes every year, but put them on a poorly coached team, and the results will be poor. Similarly, you can have the best coaches in college football guiding a team full of two-star or less players, but the other BCS programs will eat you alive. Regardless of your team's makeup, poor efforts on the recruiting trail beget poor results on Saturdays in the fall.

The 2012 recruiting season is technically only a month old, but it already has a different feel for Penn State fans thanks to two important changes. The first was a mandate from the NCAA, while the second is a welcomed change of pace from the 2011 recruiting strategies employed by the staff.

First, the new NCAA recruiting rules are now in effect, meaning that no team can extend a written offer to a prospect before August 1 of the recruit's senior year in high school. This is eleven months later than the old rule, which permitted written offers by schools as early as September 1 of the prospect's junior year in high school.

Why this helps Penn State: The staff at Penn State is notorious for taking their time in performing due diligence on a potential recruit, spending weeks or months evaluating tape, talking to high school coaches, and scouting their positional options. The new offer rule allows them to do this without falling behind in the "offer race." Some recruits will fault a school for not offering them early enough; as you might imagine, this has hurt the Nittany Lions in the past. Now, when August 1 arrives, Penn State should have a pretty good understanding as to whom they'd like to extend written scholarship offers.

Second, and as I wrote elsewhere, the 2011 Penn State recruiting season was not a great one by any stretch of the imagination. Communication, both between coaches and between a coach and a recruit, was sloppy; offers that were promised were never delivered; and the staff missed on some high profile recruits. Add in to the mix the fact that the head coach and offensive coordinator do not recruit, and it's safe to say that many fans are glad the 2011 recruiting season has come to an end. What frustrated fans so much is this mediocre class followed one of the best recruiting classes in recent history. It is not entirely clear what went wrong last year, but something has clearly changed for the 2012 season.

Why this helps Penn State: Just one short month into the new season, and Penn State already has over 50 verbal offers out to recruits. While these offers are non-binding until they are accompanied by the aforementioned written offer, they are still a good sign as to where the program is headed. What's more impressive is that of these 50+ offers, the majority of the recruits are high profile recruits. Penn State is challenging the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Michigan, Ohio State, and Oregon on the recruiting trail.

Part of the fault for the 2011 class was that the staff was limited with the number of scholarships they could offer. Only 11 seniors graduated, while a handful of other players are no longer with the team. The final tally of 16 commits in the 2011 class was very low when compared to other schools around the country, but that will change with the class of 2012.

Heading into spring practice, there are 18 scholarship players on the roster that will use their last year of eligibility. Add a quarterback controversy and the natural attrition that occurs at any school, and I think the 2012 class will hover around 23 commits when all is said and done. So where will those commits fall, by position?

Penn State's needs in the class of 2012 can be summed up in eight words: secondary, running back, secondary, quarterback, secondary, and defensive tackle. As of Friday morning, the 50+ offers breakdown roughly as follows (these aren't hard and fast numbers, as prospects may be listed under multiple positions, or even be looking to change positions upon getting to college):

Quarterback - 2/55
Running back - 7/55
Wide receiver/Tight end - 9/55
"Athlete" - 5/55
Offensive line - 6/55
Defensive line - 11/55
Linebacker - 4/55
Defensive back - 10/55

When ink meets paper for the 2012 class on February 1, 2012, the class should look something like this:

Starting next Friday, and weekly thereafter, we'll take a look at the 2012 recruiting season more in-depth, including profiles of some of the bigger targets, positional breakdowns, and analysis on where Penn State stands with the recruits. Until then, stay tuned to's running 2012 offer list, and don't hesitate to contact us with any questions.

UPDATE: Sean Fitz of is now reporting two new offers, one with a very familiar name for Lions fans. NJ (Westville/West Deptford) OL/DL Jamil Pollard and NJ (Montclair/Montclair) DL Julian Pinnix-Odrick (half-brother of former PSU great Jared Odrick) have received verbal offers from Penn State. Penn State is not alone though; Pollard has offers from Alabama, Florida and Rutgers, while Pinnix-Odrick has Marshall and Rutgers offers.

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