Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Summer recruit wrap: Penn State
By Josh Moyer
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- What have we learned about Penn State, recruiting-wise, from the summer?
NittanyNation outlined 10 different lessons. Here they are:
1. 2015 is the year of the offensive lineman. The Nittany Lions offered a flurry of offensive linemen during the camp circuit, including the likes of ESPN Junior 300 prospect Tristen Hoge (Pocatello, Idaho/Highland), Richie Petitbon (Washington, D.C./Gonzaga), Grant Newsome (McLean, Va./The Lawrenceville School) and Austin Clark (Lexington, Va./Rockbridge County). Offensive line is the focus of the 2015 class, and PSU is clearly trying to get a head-start on the position. Taking at least three prospects here seems like a real possibility.
2. LB Rick DeBerry (Richmond, Va./St. Christophers) and OT Sterling Jenkins (Pittsburgh, Pa./Baldwin) are top priorities. The two were the lone 2015 prospects to visit a PSU cookout, which was mostly surrounded by current players and 2014 commits. It was an intimate setting that PSU hoped would increase the players' interest in the school, and it seemed to work. Said Jenkins: "You could tell it wasn't just like any football team. You could tell."
Jared Wangler is an example of Bill O'Brien being ahead of the curve in identifying talent.
3. This staff is a great evaluator of talent. Bill O'Brien and Co. were the first to jump on a lot of prospects this summer. Petitbon, for example, held just Temple and Old Dominion offers when PSU extended one. Since just last month, Petitbon now has four new offers -- including one from Alabama. Wideout Van Jefferson (Brentwood, Tenn./Ravenwood) is yet another example. With offers from just Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee State, PSU offered and -- almost exactly one month later -- Tennessee decided to join the fray. There's plenty of other examples, too. Under-the-radar 2014 commit Jared Wangler (Warren, Mich./De La Salle) earned an invitation to the Under-Armour Game, PSU was the first school last winter to start recruiting Newsome, and it's the biggest school to seriously recruit 2015 LB Chad Smith (Sterling, Va./Dominion).
4. Offering freshmen and sophomores is no longer unusual. PSU already has at least three offers out to rising sophomores, including DE/LB Rahshaun Smith (Towson, Md./Calvert Hall), and WR Scott Bracey (Richmond, Va./Benedictine) and DT Rashan Gary (Scotch Plains, N.J./Scotch Plains-Fanwood) in the past month. Smith actually received his PSU offer shortly after the New Year once PSU was able to review his film. It wouldn't be a surprise now to see more early scholarships since PSU has gotten such a headstart already on the next class.
6. Despite scholarship restrictions and a lack of need at a certain position, PSU's still not afraid to go after the best available player. If there's one position that O'Brien doesn't need to recruit in 2015, it's wideout ... but PSU clearly liked what it saw in Jefferson because it decided to offer him anyway. With a continued emphasis on 2014 TE Mike Gesicki (Manahawkin, N.J./Southern Regional) -- even with the likes of Kyle Carter, Jesse James and Adam Breneman on the roster -- it's clear that O'Brien places a lot of value on simply finding the best players regardless of need.
7. The 2014 class is nearly in the books. Five recruits are basically vying for the last two spots. ESPN 300 DT Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) and ESPN 300 CB Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa) are at the top of PSU's wish list, but Gesicki, DB Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) and DT Ricky Walker (Hampton, Va./Bethel) also appear to still be in the race. PSU could also offer another DT down the road if it feels someone could contribute immediately.
8. Fans will have something to watch at the Under-Armour Game. Wangler recently received an invitation to participate in the all-star game, but he won't be the only PSU commit there. Four-star wideouts De'Andre Thompkins (Swansboro, N.C./Swansboro) and Chris Godwin (Middletown, Del./Middletown) also earned spots on the roster. And when this 2014 class is said and done, PSU might add another commit or two to the UA rosters.
9. Recruiting pipelines are being formed with Prime Xample and Canada. 2016 DB Patrice Rene (Peterborough, Ontario/St. Peter) is going to be a special player, as is 2017 DB Jonathan Sutherland (Gloucester, Ontario/Lester B. Pearson). And both visited PSU's June 22 camp. With Canadians such as RB Akeel Lynch and QB Michael O'Connor (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy) already part of PSU, Rene said he could "feel the vibe about Penn State" and felt welcome there. Farther south, it was the same story at the training center of Troy Vincent and Roman Morris. CB Troy Vincent Jr. (Baltimore/Gilman) committed last month and became the third Prime Xample player in two classes to choose the Lions. He joins fellow 2014 commit Marcus Allen (Upper Marlboro, Md./Wise) and incoming freshman Jordan Smith.
10. Visits are really helping to set Penn State apart. Put simply, the Nittany Lions are offering a unique experience. Numerous recruits have expressed surprise that the entire coaching staff called out their names and already knew whom they were, including 2015 CB Kareem Ali Jr. (Erial, N.J./Timber Creek) who now has PSU at the top of his list. OL Ryan Bates (Warminster, Pa./Archbishop Wood) wasn't too big on Penn State either, but that all changed when he visited a camp. And Petitbon? He might have said it best, shortly after receiving an offer: "It was like winning the lottery. It was like coming down on Christmas."