“They just became a 1-AA school.” That's how NC State coach Tom O'Brien described the sanctions handed down on Penn State by the NCAA on Monday. O'Brien was, of course, referencing that the Nittany Lions will be limited to just 65 scholarship players over a four year period starting in 2014. FCS (former 1-AA) schools are allotted 63 full scholarships under NCAA rules.
Historically, Penn State has been a force on the recruiting trails from the Mid-Atlantic to the Northeast. However, that probably won't be the case as new coach Bill O'Brien deals with the penalties moving forward. For the ACC, this provides an opportunity for current members Maryland and Boston College, as well as incoming schools Pittsburgh and Syracuse. All are rebuilding programs, and all cover the same primary recruiting areas as Penn State.
The schools that figure to benefit most from the ACC on the recruiting trails are the ones that are the closest to State College, Pa. Paul Chryst has had some recruiting victories in his short tenure at Pittsburgh, but Bill O'Brien has beaten him out for some top in-state targets this year, including offensive lineman Dorian Johnson. With the energy of a new staff selling a new conference affiliation to go along with what's going on at Penn State, Pittsburgh should see a noticeable bump in its recruiting.
Penn State has also long been a major player for talent coming out of Maryland, Washington, D.C. and the northern part of Virginia. Maryland head coach Randy Edsall has built some recruiting momentum by bringing in Mike Locksley, who recruits the D.C. area very well, as his offensive coordinator. That move already has paid dividends with Stefon Diggs and Wes Brown signing with the 2012 class, and twelve of Maryland's 18 oral commitments for 2013 are from either Maryland or Washington, D.C. With Penn State out of the fold, that only helps Maryland as it goes after players in its primary recruiting base.
"I've stated since I've gotten here I wanted to keep all the kids that fit what we were looking for at home,” Maryland coach Randy Edsall said when asked about the recruiting implications of the Penn State sanctions. “When I talk about ‘that area' I mean Pennsylvania and Northern Virginia, too. Again, we'll have to see how it all plays out.”
Boston College also could benefit. Six of the Eagles' 18-member 2012 recruiting class came from New Jersey where Penn State already has received three oral commitments for its 2013 class. Just last year, Penn State beat out Boston College for defensive tackle Jamil Pollard from New Jersey. Less competition in New Jersey is a good thing for Frank Spaziani and the Eagles.
The recruiting efforts at Syracuse will be impacted the least of these four schools, but Penn State has historically gone into New York to sign a player or two in a given year. Syracuse also goes into Pennsylvania to recruit players.
Penn State has long been the desired destination for top high school football players in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Not many (if any) schools in close proximity can offer what the Nittany Lions do, an opportunity to play big time college football every Saturday in front of 100,000+ fans.
However, with the NCAA sanctions, Penn State's status as a premiere destination for football recruits will likely change. Spaziani and Edsall, who need good seasons, as well as Chryst and Syracuse's Doug Marrone, who are trying to build momentum as they enter the ACC in 2013, will try to take advantage on the recruiting trails.
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