Monday, December 22, 2008

Penn State Recruiting

Two posts in one day!! There must be a break in the space-time continuum somewhere.

Anyway, I'm coming to you in this post to talk about Penn State's football recruiting in recent years. It's certainly been a roller coaster ride for Penn State recruiting since their outstanding class of 2004 that included 5-star recruits Anthony Morelli, Dan Connor, and Greg Harrison. In this class, they also landed 1-star recruit Jordan Norwood, 3-star recruits Gerald Cadogan, Josh Gaines, and Rich Orhnberger, and 4-star recruit A.Q. Shipley. But changes weren't evident until a year later when they landed 5-star recruits Derrick Williams and Justin King. Surprisingly, this class wasn't ranked in the top 25 in the country, despite it also including Anthony Scirrotto (2-star), Mickey Shuler (2-star), Sean Lee (3-star), Daryll Clark (2-star), and Kevin Kelley (2-star). Now, with all of those players looking at a future in the NFL, it seems they all were a little underrated.

The 2006 class turned out even better after a 2005 season in which Penn State went 11-1 and won their first ever BCS bowl game. The class ranked 6th in the nation and included 2 5-star and 11 4-star prospects. But rankings can be deceiving. Both 5-star recruits from that class are no longer with the team, both of them not being able to handle the pressure of Division 1 college football and losing their bearings (Antonio Logan-El and Chris Bell). Of the 11 4-star recruits, 5 have performed very well this season and could be looking at a career in the NFL. That means that less than half of Penn State's big-name recruits from the 2006 class actually panned out.

But it got worse. After an 8-4 season under former 5-star recruit Anthony Morelli, dubbed the savior by many, the 2007 class suffered. It ranked 19th overall and included zero 5-star recruits and zero quarterbacks. Still, it included 12 5-star recruits and was heavy on defense, something Penn State favors when recruiting. Of those 12, only one has made an impact so far (Stefan Wisniewski). Of course, you can't fault the rest yet. The 2009 season is a rebuilding year and many of these players will get their shot to make an impact the way they hoped to coming out of high school.

The 2008 class was even more pathetic, as they only signed 13 recruits through signing day, with a bunch of 1-star recruits filling in the rest of the class. This class was not in the top 25 and some started questioning if Joe Paterno was losing his recruiting touch amidst rumors that he wasn't able to go on the road on recruiting trips with his other coaches because he was too tired.

Which brings us to current-day. After the announcement by former 5-star recruit QB Pat Devlin that he would be transferring effective before the Rose Bowl, most Penn State fans became restless. The excitement surrounding Devlin was huge. He was from the Philadelphia area and was the #1 ranked QB coming out of high school. He broke his leg his freshman year and was redshirted. He sat behind Anthony Morelli and was forced to watch as he struggled to another 8-4 season. And then, an unknown, Daryll Clark, won the starting QB job over Devlin in the preseason. Many fans were worried until Clark led the Lions to an 11-1 season and a Rose Bowl berth, their first since 1994. However, Devlin was the hero in one of those games, the biggest one of the season, on the road against hate rival Ohio State. Many also blame the coaching staff for not starting Devlin over Clark in the Iowa game, the Lions only loss. Clark appeared concussed and threw a costly interception late in the game that led to the game-winning field goal by Iowa as time expired. Devlin obviously felt slighted by the lack of respect and lack of confidence in him after this series of events. Following the Michigan State game that landed Penn State with their second Big Ten title in four years, Devlin called it quits. It is rumored he will be transferring to Delaware to play in the same offensive scheme that made Ravens rookie QB Joe Flacco so successful.

Penn State fans started to grumble. Their savior had left the program. Their hopes now hung on the chance that Kevin Newsome, who some regarded as the best high school QB still available and one of the best in the nation, would commit to Penn State. He had been considering 4 other schools, including Boston College and Virginia Tech, but in the end chose Penn State. One of his decididng factors? The fact that Pat Devlin had transferred from Penn State. Call it luck, but we Penn State fans will take it. The talk turned from "How could the coaches let Devlin get away..." to "Devlin didn't really look that great when he played anyway." Curiously, head coach Joe Paterno received a 3-year contract extension the day before Newsome announced which school he would be attending in the Spring. The commitment jumps Penn State's 2009 class to 11th overall, with some big names still floating out there, including 5-star linebacker Jelani Jenkins, 4-star offensive lineman Pete White, 4-star receiver Justin Brown, and 4-star linebacker Dan Mason still interested in Penn State.

No matter which statement you agree with, I think we can all agree that high school rankings are hardly ever accurate. It is so hard to predict how an 18-year-old kid will handle the pressure of playing in front of 100,000 fans every week and how they will be able to balance studies and athletics. How they will handle becoming a celebrity. Because that's what college football players have become. The national championship and the Heisman have gotten so much hype in the last 5 years or so that all the best players in college football have become celebrities. And now it's spilling over into high school. This started a few years ago with Reggie Bush and Vince Young and have only grown since then. Last year, the name Terrelle Pryor was a household name in any household that follows college football. This year, Kevin Newsome is the name that is being thrown around by Penn State fans. Newsome certainly does appear to be a savior for Penn State. They were unable to sign a big-name QB in their 2007 or 2008 class, and their 2006 class featured Devlin and Brett Brackett, who has since converted to WR.

Now, it should be Newsome's show starting in 2010, unless somebody like Clark comes out of nowhere again. Paterno's contract is set to expire before Newsome will be finished with his four years (five if he redshirts next season). I wouldn't be surprised to see the Lions have success in 2010 and beyond for Paterno to have all the chips on his side once again in negotiating another contract extension, if he wants it.

This just goes to show that good ol' Joe really still is in charge at Penn State and he's going to stay as long as he wants to.

No comments:

Post a Comment