- Josh Moyer, ESPN Staff Writer
As part of a RecruitingNation-wide series, NittanyNation takes a look at a 'What If' in the world of Penn State recruiting.
Bill O'Brien didn't flinch when he admitted recruiting through the sanctions would be difficult. How could it not be?
For every positive O'Brien might offer, opposing coaches are going to tell recruits to take a hard look at those sanctions and re-think a commitment. Ninenty-five thousand fans? Sure, but every game's like an exhibition. They boast a winning record? Great, but what does that mean without a conference title?
Many recruits have looked past the sanctions because of O'Brien, academics and Penn State's reputation. But what if those penalties were rolled back a year; what if the sanctions lasted just three years instead of four?
Well, the impact would almost definitely be instant. Some 2013 prospects waffling on PSU -- David Williams, Tyler Boyd, Malcolm Cook, etc. -- might be further persuaded to commit with the addition of another year of bowl eligibility. O'Brien could have this team nearly reloaded by 2018, when the 65 scholarship limit would expire.
But the real effect, the true impact, would come from the response of this 2014 class.
This is the first class that will have this staff's fingerprints all over it. O'Brien and Co. have been on the job less than a year, so they were forced to build 2013 relationships fast, evaluate film on a timetable different from most other staffs -- and watch a handful of commits leave with the surprise announcement of those sanctions.
That's why this 2014 class is so important. It should better reflect this staff's ability to recruit -- which has been pretty tremendous -- and one less year of sanctions will undoubtedly do much for current high school juniors upset about PSU's postseason situation.
When 2014 athlete Jalen Embry (Detroit, Mich./Martin Luther King) was asked to list pros and cons about Penn State, his mind immediately steered toward the bowl games. Other recruits have expressed similar dismay they might spend half of their college careers at home during the bowl season.
But take just one year off those sanctions, and it's no longer a sacrifice to miss bowls. It's a one-year unpleasantry for the 2014 class. Those recruits could take a redshirt and still play in four bowls.
Yes, it's just one year. But when four years of sanctions were supposed to destroy a 126-year old program, taking one year away from them should make a considerable difference. It's a "What If" every coach and PSU fan is hoping for.