The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Penn State Football

October 18, 2010

JoePa hurting Penn State's recruiting

UNIVERSITY PARK — Archrival recruiting analysts, Bob Lichtenfels and Mike Farrell have been known to make different observations.

Not when it comes to Penn State. The two are in total agreement that the Nittany Lions will struggle in recruiting as long as Joe Paterno remains the coach.

So much so that “I think every opposing football coach in the country and every program in the country is probably hoping Joe Paterno stays around for a while,” said Lichtenfels, Scout.com’s East regional recruiting manager.

Paterno’s age, concerns about his health, and his recruiting practices are the reasons.

The 83-year-old has not visited a prospect since Terrelle Pryor in January 2008 at Jeannette (Pa.) High School. And this season, Penn State waited much longer than other schools to even offer written scholarships.

So, eight months after posting a strong 2010 recruiting class, Penn State has been slow to secure recruits in its 2011 class.

Jeff Nelson, Penn State’s sports information director, said the school would not have a comment on the recruiting process. “We’re in the midst of the season,” Nelson said.

Penn State has just four oral commitments, the fewest among Big Ten Conference programs.

Scout.com has the Nittany Lions’ current 2011 recruiting class — Penn Wood defensive end Shawn Oakman, Roxbury (N.J.) offensive lineman Angelo Mangiro, Fairview defensive end Jordan Kerner, and William Penn (Del.) tight end Kyle Carter — ranked No. 63.

Rivals.com lists only the top 50 in its national rankings. Penn State failed to make the list.

Both websites have the Nittany Lions ranked 10th among Big Ten Conference schools and 11th when adding Nebraska, a conference member starting in 2011.

Penn State’s 2010 class was ranked 10th nationally by Scout.com and 12th by Rivals.com.

Mangiro, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound, four-star (out of five stars) recruit for 2011, is the only top-100 national player, according to Scout.com. The 17-year-old is regarded as the nation’s 72d best senior prospect by the website.

“They are going against programs that normally they would beat based on tradition,” said Farrell, a national analyst for Rivals.com, “and now kids aren’t buying it anymore.”

With just 14 scholarships to offer, the Nittany Lions were extremely selective early on and offered only four written scholarships by March.

“They got off to a slow start and they haven’t recovered,” Farrell said.

Penn State also focused heavily on luring certain individuals, whom they failed to recruit.

St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City, N.J.) tailback Savon Huggins and Oil City (Pa.) tight end Ben Koyack were players the Nittany Lions expected to sign, so much so that they didn’t really have alternative plans for those positions.

Now Huggins, who has yet to commit, has since dropped Penn State from his list, while Koyack is committed to Notre Dame.

But perhaps the biggest blow came when Paramus Catholic (N.J.) defensive tackle Marquise Wright, Pottsgrove safety Terrell Chestnut, and East Stroudsburg cornerback Kyshoen Jarrett committed to Pittsburgh. All are four-star prospects who were recruited by Penn State.

Penn State “was always recruiting me,” Chestnut said. “They just offered me late. But Pitt was one of the first or second schools to offer me.”

In addition, the Panthers’ coaching staff, especially head coach Dave Wannstedt, built a lasting relationship with him.

“I definitely got that feeling they really wanted me,” Chestnut said. “Ever since I started being recruited by Pitt, I spoke to him a lot. I just have a great relationship with the coaches and everything.”

Chestnut, however, never really got to know Paterno.

While visiting Penn State during the spring, Chestnut and a group of recruits chatted briefly with Paterno. He later spoke to Paterno on the phone for “like a minute or two.”

According to Lichtenfels, this is an example of why Penn State is losing out on recruits.

“The assistant coaches are the ones who recruit the kids,” he said. “They do all of the leg work, everything. ... They basically have to let these kids feel like (their school) is some important place that they need to be. So they do all that work and the coach comes in and he closes the deal.

“Penn State ain’t got nobody to close that deal.”

Another reason is that opposing coaches are telling recruits that Paterno won’t be around for their four years in college.

This negative recruiting tactic has been in place for some time. But now some on-the-fence recruits are listening more, especially since Paterno was sidelined for nearly two months in the spring because of intestinal problems.

Mangiro and Oakman aren’t concerned about Paterno. He’s not the reason they chose Penn State. Unlike Chestnut, who grew up a Florida State fan, the two recruits are lifelong Nittany Lions fans.

“But the thing we talked about with Angelo is you’ve got to take football out of the equation,” Roxbury coach Cosmo Lorusso said. “If you blow out your knee your first year, are you where you want to be?

“He couldn’t go wrong at none of those places. But Penn State was the place that he felt most comfortable. It was more than JoePa.”

Oakman, a 6-foot-9, 260-pound sack machine, chose Penn State because of defensive-line coach Larry Johnson — not Paterno.

“The coaching staff that is there could all be head coaches somewhere,” Oakman said. “So they are not going to take a fall if Joe Paterno retires.

“ ... And Penn State was a dream of mine since I was a little kid.”

Lichtenfels isn’t surprised that Oakman and Mangiro feel that way about Penn State.

“You are still going to get the kids that want to go to Penn State regardless if you are coaching them or Joe Paterno is coaching them,” he said. “But when you are trying to compete with other programs in the country for a kid, especially a big-time kid, that’s tough.”

But Lichtenfels added that the Nittany Lions’ primary recruiting base — Pennsylvania; New York; New Jersey; Maryland; and Washington, D.C. — is weak.

“I think the thing is that they’ve become lackadaisical in their approach, saying that we’ve only got a certain region that we are going to recruit and that’s it,” he said. “You got Courtney Brown before from down in South Carolina. Go back and look. You’ve got to expand a little bit.”

Oakman and Mangiro will give sales pitches to other potential players when Penn State hosts recruits during the game against Michigan at Beaver Stadium on Oct. 30.

Northeast defensive end Deion Barnes, Abraham Lincoln (N.Y.) defensive end Ishaq Williams, Skyline (Dallas) linebacker Anthony Wallace, and Owings Mills (Md.) offensive tackle Donovan Smith are expected to be the headliners at the game.

“They are still getting interest from a lot of the top players and will still get their share,” Farrell said. “But this is the first year that I really noticed where kids are not jumping on board. And I think a big part of it is JoePa’s status.”

 

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