There seems to be a bit of angst among Penn State fans these days.
Not so much about Joe Paterno's future or even the uncertainty at quarterback entering preseason camp, but rather the team's recruiting efforts for 2011. Or lack thereof.
Penn State has only three verbal commitments for 2011, the lowest total in the Big Ten. It's worth noting that the 2011 class will be smaller than normal and Penn State signed the Big Ten's top recruiting class in February, but the recruiting situation continues to generate attention and anxiety. You should check my inbox if you don't believe me.
Or read this recent story from Ron Musselman:
"Penn State is lagging behind this year in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ohio, states where they are normally very strong," said national recruiting expert Tom Lemming of CBS College Sports and Maxpreps.com. "I don't expect Penn State to have a real good year in recruiting, unless they go outside of their normal states." ...
Mike Farrell, a recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, said there's a major reason why the Lions have fallen so far behind.
"Penn State was a little slow out of the gate," Farrell said. "A lot of the major prospects had written offers from colleges as juniors. But Penn State had only sent out three written offers as of February and didn't reach double digits until late March. Meanwhile, schools such as Pitt, Rutgers, Florida and Ohio State all offered much earlier and were much more aggressive."
A potential problem for Penn State, one we've heard about before, is Paterno's absence from the recruiting trail.
"Joe Paterno is an icon, he's the biggest name in a college football," Lemming said. "If he's not out there on the road matching up against the Urban Meyers and Lane Kiffins of the world, it is not going to help your program; it is only going to hurt it. Paterno is the biggest weapon Penn State has. Kids want to see him and say he came to their house or school."
One man who doesn't sound too worried about Penn State's 2011 recruiting is Paterno's boss, athletic director Tim Curley. I had the chance to visit with Curley this week for an upcoming post, and asked him about the growing concern about a lack of commits.
"With some experience, you witness these things through the years, and you just never know about recruiting," Curley said. "I've seen years where we've gotten early commitments and we supposedly have a strong class and it didn't turn out that way. And I've seen the opposite, where we filled in the numbers later and it's been a dynamite class. The coaches know what they need, and it's all going to work itself out.
"Some things run in cycles. It depends on how many scholarships you have available, it depends on what's in the pipeline down the road. There's so much that goes into recruiting, you have to let itself play out."
Paterno's absence from the recruiting trail is unusual, as he lets assistants like Mike McQueary, Larry Johnson and Tom Bradley do much of the heavy lifting. Curley doesn't mind the approach.
"It's worked well," he said. "We've had strong recruiting classes the last couple of years, both by [outside experts] rating them and us internally, we know the talent we have in the program. We have a veteran coaching staff that's done a lot of recruiting in their day.
"It's certainly been a formula that's worked, and I don't see any reason why it won't continue in the future."