Penn State recruiting continues to rise

Michigan's 2013 recruiting class is rated No. 1 nationally by several scouting services, including ESPN Recruiting. Urban Meyer is piecing together another high-quality class at Ohio State.

But the most surprising recruiting story in the Big Ten right now? Penn State, hands down.

Given all the transition and turmoil in State College, Bill O'Brien and his staff really have it going on the recruiting trail. Penn State landed its big prize in February when quarterback Christian Hackenberg gave his pledge to O'Brien. ESPN Recruiting rates Hackenberg as the nation's No. 1 quarterback and No. 10 overall player. He's the highest-rated recruit in the Big Ten right now.

But Hackenberg is just one of several high-profile commits in Penn State's class, which places No. 13 nationally in the latest national rankings, a jump of two spots from No. 15. These rankings came out before Penn State landed its latest recruit, linebacker Zayd Issah, who gave his pledge on Friday. Issah is a three-star prospect from Harrisburg, Pa.

Penn State is up to 14 commits for 2013, including four ESPN 150 prospects, the third-highest total in the Big Ten behind Michigan (11) and Ohio State (6). The Lions have landed six commits in June, a month that saw the Jerry Sandusky trial come and go, and cast the university in a negative light. Dorian Johnson, the nation's No. 2 offensive lineman, committed on Sunday.

O'Brien and his staff have focused their recruiting on Pennsylvania and the surrounding states -- Ohio, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. All but one commit hails from those states, although Penn State also plucked safety Neiko Robinson from Florida.

Although Penn State landed some heralded classes during the latter part of Joe Paterno's tenure -- 2010 and 2005 come to mind -- there was a sense the team could take a step back during the transition. O'Brien's early efforts will fuel the belief that Penn State had been underachieving on the recruiting trail under the previous staff.

While part of O'Brien's recruiting success can be attributed to him being the new face of the program -- a face coming straight from the NFL -- the fact that he continues to pile up recruits at a time when Penn State remains in the news for negative reasons has to encourage Nittany Nation.