Posted on: November 17, 2011 6:55 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2011 7:16 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
Recruiting in and of itself is extremely difficult. The stakes are high, jobs are at risk and the payoff at the end might be one kid making one play years down the road to win a game. Add in the amount of time college football coaches spend on the trail - recruiting is not a sometimes thing, it is an all the time thing - and one quickly understands why plenty of coaches will privately say that what they do leading up to Signing Day is one of their least favorite things about the job.
Some schools have a built-in advantage when it comes to players, others have to work extremely hard just to get a recruit to visit. For the most part, Penn State has been in the former category - a big state school, fertile recruiting ground in Pennsylvania, a legendary head coach, unmatched tradition and, literally, generations of players committed to play for the Nittany Lions since birth.
Now, following the shocking allegations involving former assistant Jerry Sandusky and involvement (or lack thereof) of Penn State officials, all of the factors the school had going for it have been shown the door just as quickly as Joe Paterno was pushed out. One of the men at the center of the scandal, Mike McQueary, was the recruiting coordinator (he's on administrative leave) and it's very likely nobody from the current staff will be retained. The house is going to be cleaned but the only problem is the people still inside it are going to have to cobble together a class of 2012 first.
"Penn State's reputation, especially in the Northeast part of the country was second to none," CBS Sports analyst Rich Rodriguez said last week. "If there was a player in that quadrant in the country, they had a chance to get them. ... They'll take a little hit and they'll recover and still be the choice in the Northeast part of the country."
The current recruiting class for the school is led by Glen Ellyn (Ill.) defensive lineman Tommy Schutt and totals 15 players. There has only been one public decommitment since the scandal broke but keep in mind that it is very early and plenty of the players have barely had time to think about recruiting with teams in the middle of playoff runs. The commits that have made public comments all generally have said they're taking a 'wait and see" approach and that's pretty consistent with other places that have seen a cloud hover over the program.
But soon, there won't be a time to wait and players will have to see what Penn State is offering and what others are. Don't be surprised if most of the class takes at least one visit to another school and continues to open the phone lines up to other staffs. There will be recruits among the 15 in the current class and others out there that simply want to go to Penn State and will likely end up signing in February. For those that aren't fully committed to the university, those that wanted to play for Joe Paterno and the current staff or those that are simply uneasy with the whole situation, it's going to be extremely tough for them to fax their letter of intent to State College.
Some uncommitted players who had been considering the school have already dropped them from consideration and that is the area the staff will have the most difficult time with. Athlete Joel Caleb, defensive end Noah Spence and defensive tackle Jamil Pollard are among the prospects that have decided to drop the Nittany Lions down on their list or take them off all together.
Can Penn State rebuild their reputation and recruit as good, if not better, than they were before? It depends on who they hire as head coach. The school is not going to receive NCAA sanctions from all indications so there will be no bowl bans or scholarship reductions to speak about. The most difficult thing going forward is the current group of coaches going into the living rooms of recruits across the country and convincing them and their parents that things will be ok in State College and Penn State is still a great place to get an education and play football.
It will get easier as time goes on and especially once a new head coach and staff are hired but for right now, recruiting players to become a Nittany Lion is the hardest sell in college football. Penn State should be back, some day down the road. For now though, it's tough roads ahead and an even tougher task on the recruiting trail.