It's Crunch Time!

It's been a heck of a recruiting season for Penn State, with the Nittany Lion staff bringing in a supercharged class that could be the fastest in the program's history. Despite the successes they have enjoyed on the recruiting front, the coaches have the pedal to the metal trying to finish this year's race strong.

There is no doubt that Lion fans worldwide are pleased with the efforts of the PSU coaches. After all, I think you'd find that a vast majority of the Nittany Nation did not expect much in terms of talent with this year's recruiting class given the lackluster record in 2004. However, the coaches dug in and left everything on the recruiting trail this year, adopting a more aggressive philosophy and a more intense approach to attacting talent.

The results speak for themselves, with two nationally ranked top-10 players leading the class in Justin King and Derrick Williams. However, these two "king-sized" prospects overshadow other blue chips like Willie Harriott, Dennis Landolt, Sean Lee and Lydell Sargeant, just to name a few.

The staff is not quite done yet and has spanned the nation in an effort to close out this class with another boost in talent. Here is an update on the staff's activities in the past few days with a variety of recruits:

Walker Ashley: Ashley has maintained that he will announce on Letter of Intent Day next week, but reportedly has his final two down to the Trojans and the Lions. Today Joe Paterno and Larry Johnson Sr. are in Minnesota making their final pitch to the standout defensive lineman. Ashley's decision may come down to Paterno's "table talk," but for Penn State it probably could not be in a better position given Paterno's ability to close in a kitchen.

J.R. Hasty: Hasty is apparently set to announce this evening and is down to Pac-10 programs Washington, Arizona State, Oregon and Penn State. Before Paterno headed to Minnesota, he made a stop in the Great Northwest to visit Hasty and his family. Penn State's biggest edge in this battle may be the Nittany Lion alumni connections the Hasty family has with Bobby Engram and Curt Warner, both of Seattle Seahawks fame. Engram and Warner reportedly have relationships with J.R.'s father, James, and were a big factor in the initial introduction between the Hastys and the Lions.

Jerome Hayes: With Miami, Florida, Rutgers and Penn State on his final list, Hayes is preparing to visit Happy Valley this weekend. He has family ties to PSU with a cousin in State College, which could be a positive for the Lions.

Todd Nolen: The Virginia wideout is down to in-state schools Virginia Tech and Virginia, as well as North Carolina and Penn State. Nolen was unable to make his scheduled visit to University Park last weekend due to the inclement weather. We are in the process of trying to confirm Todd's visit status with Penn State and will provide an update as soon as it becomes available.

Given the state of these prospects and the possibility of Jared Gaither joining his former teammate Derrick Williams, the Lions may have a solid close out to this year's recruiting race. Stay tuned.

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