The Great Recruiting Debate

There are perpetual debates you can count on as mainstays within the Nittany Nation: quarterbacks, coaching and conditioning are just a few topics Lion fans love to discuss.

One of the larger debates, though, circulates around recruiting and the heartfelt differences on where the Nittany Lions should pull their talent from.

Securing the Homeland

Many Lion fans view themselves as "traditionalists" and believe that Penn State should focus at home early and often when it comes to attracting future talent. The sentiment is that Penn State was built on a foundation of native Keystone greats like Jack Ham, Lenny Moore and John Cappelletti, and should continue to have its future rooted in players who were born and bred in Pennsylvania.

Fans in this camp point to a certin "blue collar" work ethic that is associated with the state by fans of the blue and white. What may be more important to them, though, is the fact that a school established for the citizens of the state back in 1855 continues to focus on educating and supporting the sons of the state.

You could argue that the Nittany Lions have done just this; maintained a solid focus on the "homeland" and made it a recruiting priority. However, when you look at recent recruiting classes, the Pennsylvania contigent is a fraction of the overall class.

The In-State Breakdown

Here's a look at the last four recruiting classes and how many prospects they had from the Keystone State:

Class of 2006
5 PA recruits of 23 total (22% of class)

Class of 2007
6 PA recruits of 11 total (55% of class)

Class of 2008
10* PA recruits of 24 total (42% of class)

Class of 2009
6 PA recruits of 17** total (35% of class)

*Excludes transfer Jimmy Shaw from Rice. **Class of 2009 incomplete.

Some may toss out that the percentages are not enough, but let's look at it another way; quality over quantity. Within each of these classes Penn State has pulled in some of the best players Pennsylvania has had to offer. Granted, the Lions have not attracted everyone they have wanted from the state, but here is a look at some of the top rated in-state talent they have received commitments from:

Class of 2006
Mark Farris, Brian Borgoyn, Josh Hannum

Class of 2007
Paul Posluszny, Austin Scott, Joel Holler, John Shaw

Class of 2008
Dan Connor, Dontey Brown, Greg Harrison, Anthony Morelli

Class of 2009
Justin King, Knowledge Timmons, Sean Lee, Steve Quinn

The Regional Breakdown

It is difficult to question the quality of prospects related to recruiting rankings when you look at the classes this way. Let's expand the region, though, and say that PSU's "natural" recruiting region extends into New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio. Let's look at the classes based on the talent PSU has pulled in from these states, including Pennsylvania:

Class of 2006
17 regional recruits of 23 total (74% of class)

Class of 2007
9 PA recruits of 11 total (81% of class)

Class of 2008
20* PA recruits of 24 total (83% of class)

Class of 2009
13 PA recruits of 17** total (76% of class)

So, looking at the immediate region around Pennsylvania, we see an impressive boost in the numbers. Now let's look at quality over quantity and see the major names from these states ourside of Pennsylvania for each class:

Class of 2006
Levi Brown, Tamba Hali, Jeremy Kapinos

Class of 2007
Tony Hunt, Terrell Golden

Class of 2008
Tony Davis, Mark Rubin, Elijah Robinson, Spencer Ridenhour

Class of 2009
Derrick Williams, Dennis Landolt, Kevin Cousins, James McDonald

Beyond the Borders

It is tough to ignore the recruiting inroads Penn State has laid outside the immediate region in recent years. More and more the Nittany Lions are looking west and south to attract talent from areas outside of "Lion Country."

Here is a breakdown of what states outside of PSU's 'natural region' have produced in terms of recruits over the past four classes:

American Samoa: Amani Purcell
California: Lydell Sargeant
Canada: Francis Claude
Connecticut: Willie Harriott, Brennan Coackley, Maurice Humphrey
Georgia: Jordan Lyons, Patrick Hall
Illinois: J.R. Zwierzynski
Indiana: Josh Gaines
North Carolina: Calvin Lowry
South Carolina: Paul Cianciolo, Rodney Kinlaw
Michigan: Trent Varva, Ed Johnson, Tim Shaw

So, if the Lions chose to remain within their home region the team arguably may have been able picked up some missed prospects who departed the state, yet would have missed out on some solid prospects outside of the region who are in blue and white today.

So the debate continues to swirl. Where should Penn State focus its recruiting efforts regionally? On top of that, is the fact that a majority of recruits come from PA, NJ, NY, OH, VA and MD a strategy that is working for the Lions. These are questions that can only be answered by the results on the field in coming years.

The one thing we can confirm is that Penn State appears to be striking a balance between attracting talent from both inside and outside its "natural" recruiting region.

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