ANALYSIS: Douglas a Key Get for Lions

Landing the Cleveland-area defensive back is a sign Bill O'Brien and his staff have already expanded Penn State's recruiting scope in Ohio.

Penn State secured a commitment from Avon, Ohio, cornerback Ross Douglas last Wednesday.

In doing so, the Nittany Lions did more than land a talented defensive back. They also served notice -- albeit in a subtle way -- that they are once again players in the Buckeye State recruiting battles.

Over the past decade, for whatever reason -- whether it was because former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and his staff were so effective, former Lion assistant Jay Paterno and the PSU staff were so ineffective, or some combination of the two (our guess) -- PSU has been a virtual non-player in most of Ohio.

With JayPa spearheading recruiting in the state, Penn State's last 10 recruiting classes, from 2003-12, included just nine scholarship players from Ohio. Six of them were from the Youngstown area, which is on the Pennsylvania border. One was from Massillon, just outside of Canton and less than an hour west of Youngstown.

Two were from Portsmouth, in the southern part of the state near the West Virginia border. And they were siblings -- Gerald Cadogan (a 2004 signee) and his kid brother Nate (a 2009 signee).

Two of the nine recruits -- Nate Cadogan and Michael Zordich -- had previous ties to PSU. As noted, Cadogan's older brother played there. So did Zordich's dad.

In other words, Paterno did most of what little damage he could do in the Youngstown area, which is about as close to Happy Valley as it is to Columbus.

The rich recruiting areas of Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and the western farmlands produced exactly zero scholarship recruits for Penn State over the past 10 years. No one on the new staff will come out and say it, but it is clear that most of Ohio was being ignored by the previous staff.

The last time the Nittany Lions landed a prospect from any of the aforementioned areas? Donnie Johnson, then a standout running back from Cincinnati, signed with Penn State in 2002. That same year, PSU landed bowling-ball lineman Robert Price from the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights.

Avon is just west of Cleveland. Meaning under new head coach Bill O'Brien -- and while going against new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer -- Penn State has wasted no time attacking its old recruiting areas in Ohio.

How important is that?

In the 1990s, when Penn State joined the Big Ten, the Lions had 13 All-Americans.

Five (O.J. McDuffie, Ki-Jana Carter, Jeff Hartings, Kim Herring and Curtis Enis) were from Ohio.

Four were from Pennsylvania. Two were from New Jersey. Two were from South Carolina. One was from Virginia.

McDuffie and Herring were from the Cleveland area. Carter was from the Columbus area. Hartings and Enis were from the western edge of the state.

The unbeaten 1994 team featured at least 10 players from Ohio. Aside from Carter, Hartings and Herring, they included future NFL Draft picks Terry Killens (from Cincinnati) and Joe Jurevicius (from the Cleveland area).

In the 1990s, Penn State had eight Ohio products taken in the NFL Draft. All of them were taken in the first three rounds. That included four first-round picks, two second-rounders and two third-rounders.

Since then, the Lions have had one Ohio product drafted -- fullback/tight end Sean McHugh was a seventh-round pick in 2004.

None of which is to suggest that Douglas, who figures to earn a three- or four-ranking from Scout.com, is some surefire All-American and/or NFL Draft pick. He's an outstanding prospect who will have to prove himself -- just as all of those PSU recruits from Ohio did back in the day.

And none of which is to suggest the new staff has established some sort of new Buckeye State pipeline. But the Lions already have eight known offers out in the state, to prospects from Cincinnati to Cleveland to Dayton.

By venturing outside of the previous staff's Ohio comfort zone of Youngstown to land the second commitment for its first full class, O'Brien and his crew are sending a clear message.

All of Ohio is back in play for the Nittany Lions.


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