It’s open season on Penn State’s roster. We’ve seen this before, in the early days of the sanctions assessed on U.S.C. three years ago and, if you can think back far enough, in the weeks following the penalties levied onto S.M.U. in 1987. There’s something different about this raid, however. One reason may be the fact that everything will be done in the open: Jim Delany, the Big Ten and the N.C.A.A. have essentially turned Penn State’s players into recruits, turning back the clock to those days when, as high school recruits, these same players were available to any school that would have their services.
Yesterday, Mark Richt confirmed that Georgia is “one of those teams” that will be in touch with Penn State’s players, citing scholarship room. “We’ll try to get in touch with some of these young men,” said Richt.
An unnamed SEC coach told Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com that one of his colleagues in the SEC had offered three Penn State players scholarships by 9:30 yesterday morning – not long after the N.C.A.A. had released its ruling.
There are several players who could help another B.C.S. conference program right from the start. One would be junior running back Silas Redd, who could fill a void at Oregon, for example – the Ducks badly need a short-yardage, between-the-tackles back.
Ends Sean Stanley and Pete Massaro would play for every team in college football. Likewise with linebackers Gerald Hodges and Glenn Carson. Senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill has all-American potential. Center Matt Stankiewitch is the Nittany Lions’ most experienced offensive lineman.
These are the names you’ll hear over the next two weeks – these are Penn State’s best players, and those most likely to garner interest from a team like Georgia, which might only be a player or two away from winning a national championship. Oregon’s offense, for example, would leap into another stratosphere with Redd doing the dirty work in the running game.
But with the scope of the penalties levied upon the program, P.S.U. should be more concerned with losing the younger players that comprise the majority of its roster – the redshirt freshmen, sophomore and juniors poised to play large roles over the next two, three or four seasons. The scholarship penalties will decimate the Nittany Lions’ depth; Bill O’Brien and his staff need the younger players on the two-deep to remain in the fold in order to cobble together some degree of success over the next three seasons.
If members of the roster’s upper tier – Hodges, Redd, Massaro and others – opt to transfer, it would be to a program that can offer a platform to showcase their skills to the next level and the opportunity to play for a team with realistic national title hopes. But the younger group: Would these players, should they choose to take advantage of the transfer rules, opt to go to a program with which they have a built-in comfort level?
If so, you’re looking at the schools that recruited these players when they were on the high school level. I looked back at the last three seasons of Penn State’s recruiting efforts – the 2010, 2011 and 2012 classes, using the Rivals.com database – to see if there were some schools that went toe-to-toe with the Nittany Lions more often than others.
From 2010-12, the following schools offered at least 11 eventual Penn State commitments: Pittsburgh (20), West Virginia (19), Boston College (19), Maryland (17), Virginia (16), Illinois (16), Connecticut (15), Rutgers (15), Michigan (13), Syracuse (13), N.C. State (12) and Iowa (11).
Another six schools offered nine players who would eventually sign with Penn State: Northwestern, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Stanford, North Carolina and Duke. South Carolina offered seven eventual Nittany Lions. Vanderbilt, Oregon and Cincinnati offered six.
Would the younger, non-name underclassmen – those who play a heavy part in Penn State’s future plans – who chose to leave the program look first towards those schools that were on their initial list as high school seniors?
Look beyond that specific question. What happens to Penn State if the younger scholarship players leave the program in droves? The Nittany Lions are in decent shape through the next two years, should the roster remain intact. Yes, O’Brien will be losing several all-conference starters, but this is a young team; in fact, there’s enough young talent to keep P.S.U. afloat through the next two seasons, in a perfect world.
But with the 15-scholarship limit in each recruiting cycle coming into effect for the 2013 class, it would be impossible for P.S.U. to replace not only those seniors lost to graduation but also the underclassmen who opt to leave the program via a transfer. Keep this in mind – because other programs are circling Penn State’s roster, looking for the missing piece of the puzzle.