Blog Entry

Friday Mailbag: The state of Penn St recruiting

Posted on: February 10, 2012 12:50 pm
Here is this week's mailbag. As always, you can send questions to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

From @Philly_Sak Given all the circumstances, how do you feel Bill O'Brien did salvaging the PSU recruiting class?

As you mentioned, the circumstances around this class were so catastrophic, relatively speaking, people couldn't have expected too much after all that has been happening around State College of late. On top of all of that, you also had a new head coach without any head coaching track record having spent most of his time away from his new program while he finishes up with in the NFL. That is A LOT to overcome.

Recruiting analysts ranked the class around No. 50 nationally and in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. That's actually better than what I would've expected given the circumstances. Of course, we try not to read too much into the team rankings especially. After all, a few years ago, Stanford signed a class that was ranked around No. 50 nationally and in retrospect the group with Andrew Luck, David DeCastro and others should've been no lower than No. 2 overall. 
  The downside is six prospects who had verbaled to PSU opted to go some place else. Many of them will play in the Big Ten but for Ohio State. They did hang on to touted WR Eugene Lewis, a local kid who all the recruiting sites are very high on. DL Jamil Pollard and Brian Gaia, an offensive lineman from Maryland, are two other coveted recruits bound for Penn State. 

While it helped that O'Brien immediately retained Larry Johnson who had been the program's best recruiter, I really think due to all of the above this was about as close to a lost class as a big-time program will ever have. 

On the bright side, there have been reports this week that many top 2013 recruits, including one of the top-ranked tight ends, Adam Breneman are high on PSU and O'Brien. You'd have to think O'Brien's work in New England with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will help sell guys like Breneman, and if he can reel in a highly touted 2013 recruit early that will stir some much-needed momentum with the next wave of kids. But recruiting is going to be an uphill battle there for quite some time and Meyer and Brady Hoke having as much momentum as they do now is only going to make it that much harder. Beyond that, Wisconsin has never been stronger coming off consecutive Rose Bowl trips.

  From @ClintonOftedahl After USC/Barkley, which schools made out the best with players postponing the NFL Draft?

I agree that no program made out any better than USC sorting out which underclassmen stayed/left for the NFL. The Trojans did lose their best lineman in LT Matt Kalil and their top pass rusher, DE Nick Perry, but it was Barkley, who will be a four-year starter and has been the leader of this team the past two seasons, that was the pivotal guy. They also retained T.J. McDonald, one of the nation's top safeties, who is the leader of the defense. If Barkley bolted, I expect the Trojans would be an eight or nine-win team. With him, they are a legit national title contender.

At No. 2 in terms of schools that benefitted the most from the stay/go status, I'd put Notre Dame. Brian Kelly has to feel good about having LB Manti Te'o for another season and they also keep Tyler Eifert, one of the country's better tight ends. Eifert is a big plus for a team that lost its best weapon, WR Michael Floyd and has issues at quarterback. Having a legit go-to guy like Eifert for 2012 will be huge for whoever becomes the starting QB.

Right after them, I'd put Oklahoma, which retains Landry Jones, who three months ago, most observers figured was a lock to leave. Another fan base that should be breathing a big sigh of relief is Arkansas. The Hogs QB Tyler Wilson gave a lot of consideration to bolting for the NFL in the days leading up to the deadline, but he's going to be back as is RB Knile Davis.

For the fifth spot, I'd list Georgia. The Dawgs lost gifted tight end Orson Charles but didn't lose LB Jarvis Jones or DB Baccari Rambo. The last big "winner" here I'll mention is Wisconsin. Most top young running backs tend to jump to the NFL when they get the chance. Montee Ball, who just capped off a magnificent season, didn't jump, and that's surprising.

From @Falb7 Does Urban Meyer have a right to be upset with Bret Bielema's comments about his recruiting tactics?

As I said last week, it's hard to sift though much of the finger-pointing and backtalk we had in the aftermath of signing day. None of the guys involved ever come out looking better for being a part of that, although selfishly I do think it does spice up subplots to the games in the fall and sweeten potential rivalries or, in some cases, foster new ones. 

  No coach ever likes to get accused by a peer especially for shady business on the recruiting trail. The perception-is-reality stuff has to be frustrating but as long as it doesn't turn off recruits, and that sure doesn't seem to be the case with Ohio State, I doubt Meyer will lose any sleep over it. Rival coaches only tend to grouse about people's success. They never seem to pay much attention to anyone that isn't impacting their own success. Or the guy who is going 3-9 and signing all of the "two-star" kids. 


The one thing that doesn't sit well, and this was something a lot of Florida fans pointed out was that Meyer had been very outspoken as he left coaching for what he deemed unethical recruiting methods that had been increasing in recent years. Some of Meyer's critics, such as Mike Bianchi, have called him out on that.

"What I've seen the last five years is a complete turn in the integrity of the college coaching profession," Meyer said in one radio interview last year. "It's completely turned the other way. Right now, it's not good because the risk-reward is 'have at it, do what you've got to do to get the great player, go win games and at the end of the day we'll find out what happens down the road.' "

From @jgeer92376  A CFB question - which team of Stanford, Baylor, Oregon, Michigan State or Wisconsin will suffer the most for losing their QB?

It's a toss-up between Stanford and Baylor. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were as close to "Franchise QBs" or program-elevators as we've seen in the last 20 years. Even though both programs are in much better positions now than when before both QBs signed with them out of high school, there is going to be significant drop-off in 2012. After that, I'd put Michigan State next because of all Kirk Cousins meant to his program on and off-the-field the past four years. The program that loses the least: Oregon. Darron Thomas was a good QB, especially in that system, but Bryan Bennett was already nipping at his heels and redshirt Marcus Mariota is right there pushing him.

From @MR_SOUTH_BEACH where do you see mich being ranked in the preseason poll and can they beat alabama ?

I had them No. 11 in my early rankings for 2012. The program has some nice momentum coming off an 11-win season and a Sugar Bowl win in Brady Hoke's first year. And, the Wolverines finally beat Ohio State, which is huge for their psyche in Ann Arbor. 

For the Wolverines to take the next step and be a national title contender, which is where they'd need to be to knock off Alabama this year, Denard Robinson needs to be much sharper as a passer. He actually seemed to regress in 2011. His completion percentage was way down (from 63 percent to 55 percent) and he threw four more INTs despite quite a few less attempts. He also got away with some jump balls that could've turned into more picks. You'd think the off-season with time to review his work in his first season with OC Al Borges would be a good thing in that regard. We'll see. There is plenty of talent around him (especially RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, who after Montee Ball is near the top for running backs in the Big Ten), but they are going to miss center David Molk, who was solid anchoring the line.

They also need to find a way to get tougher on defense, which isn't going to be easy considering they have to replace NG Mike Martin. But there are a lot of very promising young players who got settled in last fall and should thrive with another off-season with Greg Mattison. Keep an eye on Jake Ryan, a budding star there.

Alabama is losing a lot of great players on both sides of the ball. However, they still may have the best O-line in the country and the back-ups Nick Saban had on D probably were better than anyone else's, save for maybe LSU. That Tide group also is better than most people's starters.  Hoke has his share of playmakers, starting with Robinson, and Mattison is one of the brightest defensive minds around. Bama also is going to be young in most spots, so it's not unrealistic to think Michigan could pull off the upset. Still, to see a Big Ten team beat the defending national champs, especially one that is NOT breaking in a new QB definitely would be a head-turner of major proportions.

From @cbhenn What's your pre-spring SEC East 1-7 predictions for 2012?

I have Georgia winning the East. The Dawgs have a very good, experienced D returning and a savvy QB in Aaron Murray. After that, I have South Carolina. I could see Tennessee coming in third as my surprise team. The Vols will no longer be a young team. They'll have a lot of three-year starters on what figures to be a potent offense. They will be counting on a lot of unproven guys on the D-line but my hunch is they have a shot to win nine this year. I slotted UF fourth ahead of Mizzou because they have a much deeper group of athletes on defense. After that, I have Vandy and UK rounding out the division.

From @Tavon4Heisman Does Geno Smith have a better shot at a Heisman now that WVU will be in the Big 12 as opposed to playing in the Big East?

No doubt. He and WVU finished the year with a strong statement, scoring 70 on Clemson in the Orange Bowl. All of the key skill guys are back and should be even better with another off-season to fine-tune the timing of Dana Holgorsen's system. And now, Smith moves to a bigger stage in a much more high-profile league. Four of the past 10 Heisman winners came from Big 12 schools. That's more than any other conference can claim. If Smith has a big season, and he should, he will be right in the mix to get to New York and perhaps with the trophy. He is going to need some help though from his team's defense because no matter how eye-popping his stats are, if WVU is no better than 8-4, he won't win it.

From Matthew Parten in Auburn, AL: What, in your opinion will end up being the most important off season development for Auburn this year - the premature departures of Gus Malzahn, Barrett Trotter, and Michael Dyer, the hire of Brian Van Gorder, the decisions by Onterio McCalebb and Philip Lutzenkirken to remain at school for their Senior seasons, or the upcoming hire of an offensive coordinator?  

The hire of Van Gorder, who had so much success at Georgia, was a good move. His experience in the league will help a lot, but I'd say the most important development was the departure of Malzahn. Even though things dropped off dramatically in 2011, and much of that can be traced to Cam Newton and most of the O-line being gone, Malzahn is still one of the brightest offensive minds in college football. He's proven in recent years to be a very savvy play-caller and game-planner. Plus, you can also tie in the departure of a stud running back/workhorse such as Dyer and it makes it sting that much more.

From @cnichollHays  You've brought up a lot of interesting stats in the "Stats that Matter" feature...what is the most interesting stat uve seen

There have been a lot of them that I was really intrigued by the more we discussed them. Tom Herman, the new offensive coordinator at Ohio State, had a really interesting one called the "double positive"that was fun to track and Texas DC Manny Diaz willingness to embrace the Moneyball mind set was cool to write about as well.

Since: Oct 10, 2011
Posted on: February 19, 2012 1:00 pm

Friday Mailbag: The state of Penn St recruiting

I found it hilarious that Urb was on that panel on ESPN discussing recruiting ethics.  After all this is the guy who accused Patrick Peterson of cheating on his SAT after he committed to LSU over Florida.  Of course the accusations turned out to be false, but Peterson was not able to enroll early at LSU because of the controversy.  Nice job Urb, I hope you feel good about trying to hurt the career of an eighteen year old simply because you lost him as a recruit.  Urban Meyer's reputation as a scumbag recruiter is nothing new.  In fact he has the reputation of having the most skills of negative recruiting of any coach in the SEC during his time at Florida, and that is saying a lot.

Since: Dec 28, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2012 4:17 pm

Friday Mailbag: The state of Penn St recruiting

I like Mike Bianchi.  When I lived in Orlando, I listened to him on radio.  He's as entertaining on radio as in print.  But he makes a living with an in-your-face, irreverent style.  Urban Meyer has done nothing wrong.  Bianchi just enjoys playing the devil's advocate.

Since: Jan 13, 2007
Posted on: February 14, 2012 8:44 pm

Friday Mailbag: The state of Penn St recruiting shouldn't believe everything you read on the internet......the meyer co ed story is old and came out well over a year ago as reported by a radio station and was found to be completely false.......I thought you were better than this,you are accused by many of being a troll and now to spread something of this manner is you have any dignity? cmon man!

Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: February 14, 2012 8:02 pm

As for the Urban Meyer article...

The Meyer article was taken from a very good writer who works for the Orlando Sentinel.  Mike Bianchi, like most Florida media members, has about as much respect for Urban Meyer right now as he does for Bernie Madoff, or any of his countless disciples and imitators in Florida.  Most Gator fans are furious with Meyer as well, and talk radio has been very entertaining down here when the subject of Meyer comes up.   

Meyer is a reptile.  Usually, if a coach is a reptile and keeps it hidden well enough, his hometown fans love him, while everyone else hates him, ala Nick Saban.  That is happening in Columbus right now.  Bianchi, though, does make a great point about Meyer standing on his ESPN soapbox and railing against coaches for doing exactly what he just did.   
Meyer lied about why he left Florida.  The two most popular versions are as follows.  The first is that he was irritated that the administration didn't back him up when the Brantley family made him scuttle an offense that had just won two BCS Championships to build a pro set offense around John Brantley IV.   The second is that he had an affair with a coed and Shelley and the kids found out about it, and wanted him to leave Gainesville.  
My guess is that it was a combination of both.   Meyer took the "high road" by not telling anyone why he really left, but it probably wasn't good form to take another job so soon.  At the end of the day, though, he is still a reptile.  The only quesiton that should worry those in Columbus is this:

Is Urban Meyer the reptile who won two BCS Championships, or is he the reptile who quit on his team twice in less than a year?


Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: February 14, 2012 7:46 pm


WVU is going to be, in pro wrestling kayfabe, a JTTS in the Big 12.  Sorry, WVU fans,  but players on teams that go 7-5 don't win Heisman trophies.  The 'eers are going to wish they were back in the Big East by the middle of their conference schedule.  They should lose four or five to the group consisting of Baylor, TTU, OK, OKSt, Texas, and TCU.  

Proving their cowardance by pulling out of yet another commitment, this time the game against FSU, might be the only thing that gets WVU into a bowl this year.   

Since: Feb 11, 2009
Posted on: February 12, 2012 6:55 am

Friday Mailbag: The state of Penn St recruiting

Urban Meyer isn't losing ANY sleep over Bielema's comments or anything anyone else has said.  These are young guys and as we've seen som many times, verbal commitments caan mean absolutely nothing.  It's so interesting that Meyer is getting all the falck at being a good recruiter.  In the wake of the Zooker's firing and rehiring at Illinois, all Dennis Dodd could talk about was Zooker's recruiting abiities and how it was going to translate into making Illinois a contender on the field.  Now, six years later, Dodd can onlt sing the praises of Meyer as recruiter and coach.  Seriously, is Meyer going to worry about silly comments on his recuiting efforts or is he going to worry more about bringing the luster back to Ohio State.  I'm a Gator fan of more about fifty years, and I am grateful to Coach Meyer for taking Florida, from team with potential, to a team with two national championships.

Since: Sep 26, 2011
Posted on: February 10, 2012 6:15 pm

Friday Mailbag: The state of Penn St recruiting

hey...all things being equal, not bad at all. coaches go out and recruit, and every year guys back out of verbals for no more specific reason than they can, and they do...

And if PSU becomes a recievers destination in the years to come because of O'Brien's background, I say good oh! While the team could always surprise you w/ how good they were, they seldom scared anybody w/ a powerful passing game. Don't get me wrong, I love a tough defensive match combined w/three yards and a cloud of dust...that adds up to a lot of wins, but so often I've watched and wished for way more excitement than wondering if they were gonna hold off someone late and preserve a win....

Anyway, I'm beginning to think this hugh PR debacle will end up getting dealt w/ more thru the administrative front end and the football program will get a chance to recover...and holding onto Larry Johnson is important for O'Brien to make the move into the college realm...he's been the assistant and the head guy, knows the lay of the land in Happy Valley, all the other schools programs and personalities...And his face shows that some of the staff wasn't part of the scandal and coverup...just a solid college football guy....

All the peyton manning, andrew luck, super bowl, eli, brady media noice has really shifted the football discussion....finally! So sandusky will get his day in court which will focus on his diviant and twisted behaviour, and sure, PSU will get dragged thru the mud a bit, but the focus will be squarely on him. And if he thinks a local jury will exonerate him at any level, he's in for a rude's rural PA which might as well be Kansas. People don't cotton to perverts.

For the very first time  I really do see a little light at the end of the tunnel....maybe the sun will rise again for the blue and white. For one, I'll be looking their way come September and seeing the dawn of the post Paterno Nittany Lions. I hope they surprise us all....

Since: Jul 28, 2008
Posted on: February 10, 2012 1:49 pm

Friday Mailbag: The state of Penn St recruiting

Apparently this dope didn't bother to  look at the per player average of the Penn State class. Here's a hint, it is a lot better than 50. It is a lot better than 40 and it is a lot better than 30. Every player in the class drew at least one three star ranking from the various services and nearly half pulled at least a four star. They didn't rank very high in most services but if you take the average star ranking per player from the various services and throw out class size (which drives up the scores for the over-signing SEC schools), this class really is a top 25 group.

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