Penn State recruiting picking up

Posted by Jeff Rice on March 10, 2012 

It should be mentioned that there is a long way to go between now and Signing Day -- nearly 11 months, in fact -- and that 16- and 17-year-olds have been known to change their minds.

But that's about the only thought that can temper the excitement Penn State fans are feeling right now.

The Nittany Lions' Class of 2013 is taking shape quickly and impressively. All four of the prospects who have orally committed to Bill O'Brien and his staff are four- or five-star players according to most major recruiting publications. Arguably O'Brien's most impressive coup came this week, when Camp Hill native Adam Breneman, the nation's top-ranked tight end, chose Penn State over Ohio State, Notre Dame, Maryland, and, well, pretty much everyone else in FBS.

Even if he never sees the field at Penn State (an unlikely proposition), Breneman's commitment is important for a number of factors. First, he represents the first Pennsylvania prospect of the class to commit to O'Brien, who said immediately after his January hire that keeping the state's top talent at home was his primary recruiting priority.

Next, it was a victory for O'Brien in one of the first of what is sure to be many head-to-head battles with new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who plucked 2012 defensive end Noah Spence from under Penn State's nose this winter. Meyer and Michigan coach Brady Hoke have set an impressive pace on the recruiting trail, and top-rated prospects like Breneman and Monaca wide receiver Robert Foster are the type of players O'Brien needs to keep that pace.

Finally, if O'Brien is going to implement a pro-style offense similar to what he ran with the New England Patriots, he's going to need quality skill guys. And until he can show future recruits what that offense might look like this fall, he's going to need quality skill guys to show faith in him. That's why the commitments of Breneman and Virginia quarterback Christian Hackenberg were so vital. The rest of the offensive players Penn State is pursuing in this class (Foster, Philadelphia running back David Williams and West Virginia receiver/running back Ryan Switzer, among others) will have to ask themselves that if O'Brien's plans for the offense were good enough for Breneman and Hackenberg, why wouldn't they be good enough for them? Plus, it never hurts to have already-committed recruits doing some of the pursuing for you.

At the rate O'Brien and the staff are going, the Nittany Lions could be in position to land a top-10 recruiting class regardless of how things go on the field this autumn. Yes, there's a long way to go between now and Signing Day. But Penn State's coaches are making the most of that time.

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