The Great Recruiting Debate Revisited

Some debates seem to come and go with the seasons. Among the perpetual debates that circulate around the Nittany Nation on an annual basis are who should be at quarterback, who should be coaching, the strength and conditioning program, and, of course, where Penn State should be pursuing its recruits.

The latter issue is a "grass-is-always-greener" debate between whether Penn State should protect its "home turf," primarily focusing on talent in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, vs. taking a national approach to recruiting and expanding its efforts to California, Florida, Texas and beyond. It seems that no matter what the class makeup is, there are always concerns that arise because Penn State "failed" to fulfill either side of the debate.

The first article I ever wrote for Fight on State actually dove into this topic and was titled "The Great Recruiting Debate". I thought it was only appropriate to revisit this topic now that Letter of Intent Day has concluded and PSU's class is nearly assembled.

The Numbers

The biggest factor hindering Penn State (or any other school) from dominating a region is the 85 scholarship limit. Gone are the days where a program can lock up regional talent in a 300-mile radius by offering an unlimited number of scholarships. Beyond this, recruiting classes can only include a maximum of 25 players, so coaches have to be very deliberate in their offers and tactics.

Penn State, like most other schools, overlays its needs with the talent it sees as a fit. Given the fact that the Nittany Lions have several recruiting "hotbeds" in and around Lion Country, the apparent sentiment within the program rarely sees a need to look across the nation for a prospect given the talent in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland.

This sentiment has seemingly shifted though in recent years, pulling in prospects from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and California, and even Canada and American Samoa.

Protecting the Homeland

Many fans feel Pennsylvania should be priority one for the Lions. After all, the school's mission is to educate and serve citizens of the Keystone State, right? Of these fans who believe in this mantra, many feel that Pennsylvania (and New Jersey) talent is more than able to feed the majority of PSU's recruiting needs inside and out.

Let's just look at the last two recruiting classes. The past two Penn State recruiting classes have had 43 recruits as of today (some may still join the current class). Of those 43 prospects, 21 have been from Pennsylvania or New Jersey, or 49 percent of the total.

So the question becomes, is attracting half of your talent from Pennsylvania and New Jersey protecting the homeland? Many would say yes, but many would say no. Several Keystone State prospects have headed outside the state in recent years. I am sure as you read this a few come to mind. This past year there were examples like Callahan Bright heading to Florida State, Marques Slocum to Michigan and Andre Mathis to Tennessee. But were any of those players a priority and would it have been a smart move to sacrifice an out-of-state player like Derrick Williams or Lydell Sargeant to get a few more native players from the commonwealth?

Looking Across Borders

In the past two classes the Nittany Lions have received 51 percent of their players from outside their "traditional" recruiting region. The staff has looked to the Midwest, South, North and even started to look to the West to attract players to Happy Valley.

In the two most recent classes the Lions have picked up players from:

California: 1
Canada: 1
Connecticut: 3
Georgia: 1
Indiana: 1
Maryland: 2
Michigan: 1
New York: 4
Ohio: 4
South Carolina: 1
Virginia: 2
Washington D.C.: 1

In other words, the Lions have taken away players from instate programs like Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, South Carolina, Clemson, Syracuse, Rutgers, Stanford, UConn, etc. So it can cut both ways, where Penn State loses some "home grown" talent, as does every other school in the nation.

The Bottom Line

No matter where a class' talent is attracted from, this debate will continue to swirl. In recent history is would appear, conscious or not, that Penn State has struck a balance between attracting half of its talent from "Lion Country" and attracting the other half from outside the region.

The question is what is the ideal balance between these two approaches? This is something each fan can define for themselves and can only be answered by the staff's recruiting results. However, with the staff seemingly recruiting for need rather than location, there seems as if there may be a disconnect between the debate and the classes assembled for the Nittany Lions.


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