Exodus of Pa.'s top prospects has PSU and Pitt looking elsewhere

There may be an explanation as to why Penn State has focused on the state of Maryland and why Pitt is off to a sub-par recruiting season in 2009: Pennsylvania high schools lack the talented depth we're accustomed to, but maybe more significantly, the upper-echelon players went fast and they went out of state.

Four out of the state's top five prospects committed to schools outside of Pennsylvania, and three did so more than five months ago. Outside linebacker Dorian Bell (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway), receiver Je'Ron Stokes (Philadelphia/Northeast) and quarterback Tom Savage (Philadelphia/Cardinal O'Hara) committed to Ohio State, Tennessee and Rutgers, respectively, back in April. E.J. Banks (McKees Rocks, Pa./Montour), one of the five ESPNU 150 prospects represented by the state this year, committed to Notre Dame in August.

Penn State did land ESPNU 150 offensive tackle Eric Shrive (Scranton, Pa./West Scranton) last May, the state's third highest rated prospect. However, we feel it would have cashed in on more of the aforementioned in-state talent if there was not as much uncertainty surrounding Joe Paterno's future and a lingering dark cloud over Happy Valley from the offseason. Still, there weren't too many people across the country, including upper-tier Pennsylvania football prospects, who could have predicted an exciting, 7-0 start and No. 3 ranking for the Nittany Lions at this time.

Top recruit

Dorian Bell, outside linebacker
Gateway HS (Monroeville, Pa.)
Verbal commitment: Ohio State
Gateway High School produced a good linebacker last year in No. 8 inside 'backer Shayne Hale, but it one-upped itself in 2009 with Bell. When we first evaluated him last spring, we were in awe of his speed and explosiveness, but his size was a bit of a concern, particularly for his intense style of play. Fast forward six months, and Bell is tipping the scales at a rock-solid 220 pounds and is just as fast and disruptive.

While he still has some room for added bulk and strength to improve his shedding, Bell is pretty close to the complete package as an outside linebacker prospect. The future Buckeye has great range, closing speed and change of direction skill when pursuing in space. Between the tackles, Bell shows equally impressive foot-quickness and agility sidestepping the trash. His excellent blitzing and coverage skills add to his impressive, well-rounded resume on defense.

"Dorian's strengths are his speed, athleticism and physical nature," said Gateway coach Terry Smith. "He combines the rare ability to be physical enough to play with the interior lineman while fast and athletic enough to cover wide receivers. He's also got a great feel for finding the football."

There is no letdown in his mental game, either; Bell is a fierce competitor who plays with a very high motor. Fast and physical is the only way he knows how to play the game, but at times that intensity can lead to him overrunning plays.

"If there is a weakness, he needs to slow down a little to not over-pursue to the football," said Smith. "He is fast enough to get to the ball but has to protect cutback alleys better."

Recruit under the radar
C.J. Brown, quarterback
Seneca Valley HS (Cranberry, Pa.)
Verbal commitment: Maryland
Not only is Brown one of the more underrated signal callers in the Northeast this year, he may be one of the biggest sleepers at the position in the country. Brown did commit to Maryland back in April, which may be leading to his paltry list of scholarship offers and lack of national hype.

However, we feel Brown, the No. 35 overall quarterback for 2009, has the physical tools for Terps head coach Ralph Friedgen to polish into a good ACC quarterback. The 6-foot-3 gunslinger has great room for physical development but already shows very good arm strength and zip on his deep routes. He has the quick release and athleticism to excel in the spread but the size and arm strength to fit into pro-style schemes as well.

He still can look a bit raw but, in time, we feel Brown could be a very good college prospect and right now is definitely not getting the attention he deserves.

On the Trail
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Penn State, 18 commits (Oct. 15)
Penn State entered the season with a strong recruiting class, and its early success has continued to add to it. Veteran assistant coach Larry Johnson has cleaned up in Maryland with commitments from players like Under Armour All-American corner Darrell Givens (Indian Head, Md./Lackey). Pennsylvania native Eric Shrive is a top-10 offensive tackle and PSU's second ESPNU 150 prospect.

The Nittany Lions have also struck big lately. Their win over Illinois in late September carried momentum off the field with the commitments of top-15 inside linebacker Glenn Carson (Manahawkin, N.J./Southern Regional) and speedy athlete Devon Smith (Waldorf, Md./Westlake). Penn State is making a strong push at this time for a top-15 class.

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Pittsburgh, 12 commits (Oct. 15)
Unless they close very strong, it does not look like the Panthers will repeat with another top-25 recruiting class. Last year, Pittsburgh signed four ESPNU 150 prospects and five with an overall grade of 80 or higher. This year's class only boasts two pledges with a Scouts Inc. grade of 78 or better.

Tight end Brock DeCicco (Jefferson Hills, Pa./Thomas Jefferson) and high-motored defensive end Jack Lippert (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin) are both well-rounded in-state pickups.

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Temple, 8 commits (Oct. 15)
The Owls have adequate numbers but lack great quality at this time. We do like massive guard Evangelos Regas (Toms River, N.J./North) out of New Jersey. The 336-pounder has powerful hands and the physical tools to become a road grader at the next level.

ESPNRISE.com Pennsylvania Game of the Week
St. Joseph's Prep-Philadelphia (5-2) vs. Cardinal O'Hara-Springfield (7-0), Friday, 6 p.m. ET:
This will go a long way to determine the Philadelphia Catholic League Red Division title but won't be the last meeting for these teams: The two could meet again for the first time in the PIAA District 12 playoffs (Editor's Note: This is the first year PCL teams will participate in the PIAA state playoffs). The rivalry game will be televised on ESPNU.

The Hawklets have won three straight games after splitting their first four. They opened the season by knocking off Parkland-Allentown and St. Anthony's-South Huntington (N.Y.) but dropped the next two. Last weekend, the Hawklets dismantled Cheltenham 52-23 and have jump-started an offense totaling 94 points in the last two contests. Prep's top prospect is offensive tackle Mark Arcidiacono, who says he'll sign with Penn State.

O'Hara, nationally ranked by ESPN RISE, needed overtime to stop Archbishop Ryan-Philadelphia 28-22 on Saturday. The Lions' high-powered offense is fueled by quarterback Tom Savage. For the season, the Rutgers-bound Savage has passed for 996 yards and nine TDs. Bob Royal and Billy Morgan, each with 15 receptions, are his favorite targets.
-- Christopher Lawlor

Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school level. Tucker has served as a recruiting coordinator for two nationally ranked Division II colleges. Most recently, he was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator for Merrimack College, which advanced to the Sweet 16 in the 2006 NCAA Division II playoffs.