Roof's departure affects Southern pipeline

Ted Roof's surprise resignation Wednesday won't send this defense reeling, in part, because John Butler is a fiery, competent coach. But his departure will definitely be felt in one key department -- recruiting.

Roof was Penn State's pipeline to the South, a man whose reputation commanded the attention of recruits, especially those in Georgia and Alabama. With his absence, so goes an important part of that pipeline.

Historically, the coaching staff hasn't ventured farther south than Virginia, so Penn State wasn't a favorite among recruits unaccustomed to building snowmen. Most didn't see the university as an option -- until Roof showed up.

Three-star athlete Myles Willis, a recruit from Atlanta, reinforced that idea when he told ESPN last month: "Honestly, I don't know much about Penn State. Mainly, I'm interested in Coach Roof."

Roof was the bait, Penn State the hook when it came to luring in Southern recruits. Players like Jonathan Walton (Daphne, Ala./Bayside) didn't commit to the Nittany Lions simply because of Roof, but the coach was a big reason they opted to look at PSU in the first place.

According to Walton's high school coach, the defensive coordinator with the syrupy accent was tipped off about Walton from another college coach in the South. Without Roof, PSU might not have even known about the 236-pound linebacker who could reportedly run in the 4.6s.

Something to keep in mind here, though, is that Roof's departure likely won't affect recruiting in other states. Several 2014 recruits north of Georgia said they really weren't impacted by the coordinator's decision -- and didn't think it would really play a role with other high school players.

"Besides the people that Coach Roof recruited, it's not going to affect that," said 2014 cornerback Omar Truitt, from Washington D.C. "Honestly, it doesn't really affect me."

PSU commits Curtis Cothran and Brandon Bell expressed similar sentiments. While they obviously would have preferred he stay, they said they built deeper relationships with their recruiting coaches and position coaches -- and were more concerned with those staff members.

"Yeah, I really didn't know him too well," Cothran said. "It would've affected me much more if coach [Larry] Johnson was leaving."

Kasey Gaines (Loganville, Ga./Grayson) said in a text message that he's happy for Roof and remains committed. Another Southern recruit, Neiko Robinson (Bratt, Fla./Northview), said last week he's always preferred the Big Ten and actually isn't much of an SEC fan.

The obvious concern here, then, is Walton and Parker Cothren -- two players who already started receiving attention from SEC schools. But, long-term, Roof's resignation poses another problem.

Out of the 27 juniors whom ESPN confirmed received Penn State offers, six players came from Roof's home state of Georgia. That makes the Peach State the most-recruited area by the Nittany Lions for the next recruiting class.

By comparison, Bill O'Brien offered just one in-state player. (Virginia and Ohio are also fertile recruiting territory, boasting the second-most recruited area with four recruits apiece who received offers.)

Those half-dozen Georgians were long-shots to wind up in Happy Valley, but Roof was building a foundation here. And now Penn State has to rebuild a big part of that pipeline as best it can.

It's not yet known who might take over Roof's territory, but a prime candidate appears to be offensive line coach Mac McWhorter, also a native Georgian. Roof appeared to be more well-known among current recruits in Georgia and Alabama simply because he coached Auburn from 2009-2011. McWhorter coached Texas and last worked in Georgia more than a decade ago.

Roof's depature will affect recruiting in the South more than it will affect this defense. O'Brien's shown his ability to overcome sanctions and still recruit a top-25 class.

Now there's simply another challenge.