We kick things off by having three different people offer their opinions on the Nittany Lions' 2011 recruiting class. First up was sportsguypsu, who has a reputation for not being too critical or too positive. Then came MalibuHammy, who is known for being just a TAD on the optimistic side.
Now you can check the opinions of the one and only HowardStern, who has been known to offer a critical comment or three. This is what he had to say:
Going into this recruiting class my expectations were rather low because historically Penn State does not do well with small classes. For whatever reason the PSU staff approaches these classes differently than it approaches classes of 20 or more scholarships, and this year was no exception.
The trouble really began in September/October of 2009, right around the time of the Khairi Fortt commitment. At that point in time the Class of 2010 was basically wrapped up and the staff had a great opportunity to really delve into the junior class, establish early relationships, and get a leg up on the 2011 class. Instead the staff sat on their collective duffs and pretty much did nothing.
To compound matters the staff remained in a holding pattern past LOI day and into the following spring. To say that they were painfully slow in identifying, establishing relationships with and offering 2011 recruits would be a gross understatement. It was like Joe Paterno and staff felt that they were working from a position of extreme power and that recruits should have come groveling to them in hopes of earning their precious offer. This arrogance came back and bit them hard with this class.
This recruiting season exposed many of the warts that currently exist within the Penn State football program. Over the course we saw countless examples of staff arrogance, lack of communication, lack of organization and in at least one case (Darius Jennings) we saw our supposedly pristine staff deceiving recruits. I am not even going to bother bringing up the biggest wart of all within the program as the damage he causes with every passing day would necessitate my writing a novel about as long as War and Peace.
Let's look at the needs for the Class of 2011. Going in, I felt there were three areas of great need. Those were tailback, defensive back and defensive line.
It was clear early on that New Jersey's Savon Huggins was one of the top tailbacks in the nation. He expressed an early affinity for PSU and visited the campus. However, Paterno and staff made Huggins wait for an offer. Then, after finally offering him, the staff pretty much ignored him for weeks on end. It got to a point where Huggins was saying in recruiting updates that he wished he heard from PSU more. Even that did not spur our staff into putting more effort into this stud TB prospect's recruitment. So inevitably Huggins ended up dropping PSU from consideration and ultimately decided on ... Rutgers? Home state school or not, it is ridiculous for Penn State to not at least be in the running for a kid like Huggins. This was an utter failure by the staff.
After the staff frittered away any chance at getting Huggins, they kicked the tires of several other tailback prospects (Allen Wasonga, Tre Mason, Akise Teague et al) before ultimately ending up with zero tailbacks in the class and a big, fat F on the recruiting report card for this position of great need.
Another position of tremendous need for this class was defensive back. PSU needs cornerbacks and safeties in a big way. Penn State safety recruiting has been a running joke for a few years now. I've never seen a big time school with such a pathetic collection of safeties over the past several years. After the aforementioned slow start, Penn State did offer several good defensive backs (Albert Louis-Jean, Brandon Phelps, Kyshoen Jarrett, Doran Grant, Byron Moore et al) and managed to pull in none of them. They even had a second chance at Louis-Jean and Jarrett yet still managed to get neither. Byron Moore is a big time JUCO safety who by all appearances was seriously interested in Penn State, but the staff decided that it was better to just stop recruiting him because it would have been difficult to get him in the end.
Now for the good news regarding defensive back recruiting. PSU did get two quality commitments in the class to play DB. The first was Shyquawn Pullium. Pullium, of course, committed last year but was forced to go to prep school for a year before enrolling. Pullium never had any intention of going anywhere else and should be a solid CB for Penn State. PSU got a second DB very late in the game in Maryland native Adrian Amos. Amos was a longtime UConn verbal who, based on his film, should have been recruited a lot harder. I can't figure why Penn State didn't get all over Amos sooner. He looks like a great, natural and athletic safety, which is something this program has been sorely lacking.
In the end the Penn State staff got two extremely solid DB recruits but needed at least two more. Due to this the defensive back grade is a B-/C+.
The third position of great need for the Class of 2011 was the defensive line. Despite the slow start to the class the staff ended up collecting a solid group of DEs. Shawn Oakman, Jordan Kerner, Anthony Zettel and Deion Barnes at least on paper give Penn State arguably the top DE class in the Big Ten. Missing out on Ishaq Williams hurt but the surprise of landing Zettel somewhat offset that.
As solid as the ends are in the class, the staff really missed the boat when it came to the defensive tackles. Penn State needed at least one and most likely two in this class and it got none. That really should not be acceptable at Penn State. Again, it didn't seem like the staff put forth much effort with DTs. For whatever reason you choose to believe Darian Cooper was passed on. The staff waited far too long with Kevin McReynolds. And they missed out on prospects like Shaun Underwood and Marquise Wright.
In short, as well as DE was addressed is as poorly as DT was addressed. For that reason the defensive line class gets a C.
The Class of 2011 has 16 members. In my estimation the one thing lacking from this collective group is impact talent. I just don't see enough difference-makers in this group. There isn't enough speed and athleticism. The top kid in the class to me is Bill Belton. He is the one impact-type athlete in the class. However, he plays slot WR and will likely be stuck behind Curtis Drake and Devon Smith, so Belton's initial impact will be minimal at best unless he comes in and blows people away.
The next best kid in the class is Zettel. But Zettel is a relatively undersized lineman (if you think he will be a DT) and looks to me like he will be an interior guy. Therefore I feel he will be redshirting unless he surprises everyone at DE.
Kicker Sam Ficken will be perhaps the most important member of the class as it is clear that he staff doesn't have any faith that Anthony Fera can handle the place-kicking duties next year. Ficken may well be the starting kicker on opening day.