Penn State’s annual White Out game is one of college football’s great spectacles so, unsurprisingly, it also doubles as one of the Nittany Lions’ most important recruiting weekends.
To put this event into perspective, and to see just who might commit next, we recently caught up with Blue White Illustrated recruiting analyst Ryan Snyder for an in-depth Q&A.
Who should fans know about this weekend? And how many players could commit? Snyder offered his expert opinion on that and more.
Everybody knows this is a big recruiting weekend for Penn State, but can you put it into perspective for us? Is this the most important recruiting day of the year for Penn State?
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Ryan Snyder: Let me think about that. That’s a good question because, take the Lasch Bash, for example. The Lasch Bash is all the important recruits, and it’s a time for them to spend a lot more one-on-one time with not just the coaches but all the strength staff and academic staff and also just the families of these other recruits.
So when you look at that, that’s a really, really important day, too. But it’s a different day. It’s more personal. Where, if you look at the White Out, then this is Penn State’s show. This is all eyes on Beaver Stadium and, obviously, the fans do an excellent job of really making this an event. ... So I think I’d slightly lean toward the Lasch Bash as the most important day. But if that’s No. 1; this is No. 1B.
This is a huge event and just the fact they have 150-plus recruits — it’s going to probably end up being closer to 200 — although, to be honest, the number of real important recruits is 70-80.
I mean, that’s still a huge number.
RS: Yeah, it’s a huge number. I think I have 40-50 scholarship guys confirmed right now. So it’s a huge day.
And you have GameDay up here, and recruits come up with their families. It’s the perfect day to really show what a big-game environment is like up here.
Who are maybe 2-3 of the big-name guys who are expected to attend, guys whom fans should especially be aware of?
RS: I think [there are] two names everyone knows. Zach Harrison, the defensive end out of Columbus -- Zach hasn’t 100 percent told everyone, “Yeah, I’m absolutely going to be there.” But he’s also told everybody, “I’m planning to be there,” so we’re adding him to the list. He’s already taken his official visit to Penn State — that was back in April for the Blue-White weekend, I believe — so this would be an unofficial. It’s just good to get him back on campus because he’s such an important player, and he’s really seriously considering Ohio State and considering Michigan. So just getting him on campus is huge. They obviously need as much help on the defensive line as they can moving forward, and he’s the type of guy who can play in the interior as well. So I look at him maybe one of the most important guys.
But we could go all day here. David Bell, the wide receiver out of Indianapolis. He’s clearly their top target at wideout. And he’s taking an official, and he has Iowa down the road and Purdue and some other schools. But when it comes to big-time football programs, I think Penn State is the biggest school. And he’s already been here multiple times and spoken very highly of Penn State, so he’s another guy fans really got to focus on.
Aside from him, it’s tough to say because there are so many good players. I think Adisa Isaac, the defensive end out of Brooklyn, just because he’s a 2019 guy and he’s also taking an official visit. But we can go on and on, we got 20-plus studs from the 2020 class coming. I think there’s nine official visitors as it is — (cornerback) Johnny Dixon from Tampa, (defensive tackle) Rodas Johnson, (safety) Noa Pola-Gates from Arizona, (tight end) Brenton Strange. So it’s take your pick on this one, man, because there’s so many elite players.
You got a good memory there, Ryan. I’d need a list. Do you anticipate anyone committing Saturday — or is this the type of event where you don’t see the results for a while?
RS: Whenever you have this many recruits on campus, yeah, a commitment is definitely possible. Now, at the same time, with a game like this, fans are always asking, “Who’s going to be the guy that commits?” And the first thing I always stress is that the coaches aren’t going to get to spend a lot of time with these players on Saturday. Obviously, they have the biggest game of the year coming up. ...
But, at the same time, you have nine-plus official visitors that will be here all day on Sunday as well. So when you look at guys like Isaac, who I think is leaning toward Penn State, or maybe David Bell would. Actually, one guy I didn’t mention earlier, Jalen Curry, another wide receiver out of Houston, Texas. He’s really high on Penn State. The thing that’s interesting here is, is Penn State going to take four total receivers or are they going to stick with three? ...
I think it’s definitely possible that we could see something Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. I think that’s more likely than Saturday. But if one of these official visitors jump on board Sunday afternoon, that wouldn’t surprise me.
You alluded to it a little bit. But if you had to pick one or two guys who might be poised to commit — not even necessarily next, just guys you think have a strong chance winding up in Happy Valley — who would it be?
RS: Isaac would definitely be the first guy. He continues to tell myself and other recruiting reporters that he’s going to take official visits. And I believe that. LSU’s a school I know he wants to get to, but he’s not going far from home. And I’m pretty confident in saying that; I think his coaches already kind of made that clear. And he’s been to Penn State, I think, six or seven times now and every other school is like once or twice. When you have that kind of discrepancy in visit totals, I think that says it all. So he’s a guy, if he doesn’t sign in December, I would be absolutely shocked.
Brenton Strange, the tight end out of West Virginia, he’s high on Ohio State. He was actually there last weekend; however, I don’t think Ohio State is going all out for him. I think they’re very interested, but they already have a tight end lined up. He’s just much more important for Penn State, so he’s another guy I think it’s just a matter of time. And I think they’re going to get David Bell, too. I do. Again, he wants to take other official visits and I think that’s probably likely, but those three all make sense.
You’ve covered recruiting for a long time now, about eight years. And you’ve talked to a lot of kids after White Outs. How much does this one game tend to change someone’s outlook — do you have kids with low interest that becomes high, or does this more tend to make kids with high interest want to commit?
RS: A little bit of everything, man. Let’s put it this way: Since Franklin’s been here, with 200-plus recruits every year, when you have so many different numbers, you get so many different ideas, thoughts and whatnot. So we’ve definitely seen guys come on campus and they like Penn State but they’re either committed elsewhere or leaning elsewhere and then this totally changes everything.
One thing we don’t talk about a lot is guys not negatively looking at Penn State, but put it this way: They come up to this event and there are so many recruits there and, in their head they’re thinking, “This is my big day with the staff,” and they don’t get much one-on-one time with the staff. That’s something we don’t talk a lot about. But that’s something I’ve seen before too. Don’t get me wrong; the crowd and everything else usually evens that out. But I have seen guys mention that before. ...
But, it’s like you said, though, we’ve seen guys that are on the cusp of committing and, boom, this pushes them over the edge. We’ve seen guys that are iffy on Penn State and maybe this doesn’t push them over the edge, but it gets them to take an official visit in December and that puts them over the edge. So it’s a little bit of everything.
One more question for you, Ryan, and this is the big one: Set the over/under — how many recruits commit to Penn State within a week of the White Out happening?
RS: Oof, that’s pressure (laughs). Within a week? I’ll say one-and-a-half. I think that may even be too high, but I’ll say one-and-a-half. It’s tough, man, because a lot of the 2019 kids who waited this long are genuinely going to want to take other visits. They held out this long for a reason — because they want to see what happens during the season, and they want to take visits elsewhere. So you don’t tend to see a big splurge of commitments, like you’d see at the Lasch Bash or Blue-White weekend. You see more commitments at those events.
But, like I mentioned, there’s a couple guys here who I think are clearly favoring Penn State and can jump on board whenever. So I’ll say one-and-a-half, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually under. Let’s put it that way.