Lion Staff Turns Up Heat

Joe Paterno is Joe Paterno. What more can you say that hasn't already been said about the man, good or bad. Thousands of loyal Nittany Lion fans were ready to cast him into the depths of the college coaching graveyard one year ago. Don't throw that dirt on him yet, though, because he's far from done.

Yes, that crazy old JoePa, how could he say he's only a few recruits away from having a very good team? Enter Derrick Williams and Justin King. No, they did not turn the team around by themselves, but they sure did provide an infusion of youth and something that had been lacking: SPEED.

All Paterno and his Nittany Lions did was waltz through the Big Ten, minus the last-minute defeat in Ann Arbor, and they capped the season with a thrilling Orange Bowl win over Bobby Bowden and Florida State. Someone forgot to tell Paterno that the game had passed him by. How could the high-water pants man with the Coke bottle glasses continue on against all these young savvy coaches? Look out Big Ten, because that old man is brewing something pretty special in University Park.

Paterno and his staff have assembled a possible top-five recruiting class, including an unprecedented raid on the state of Maryland. Tom Bradley has been well known for years in the recruiting wars. He has often been described as the ace of the staff for his ability to draw top prospects out of Pittsburgh. Bradley doesn't miss often. To the chagrin of college coaches everywhere, they now have Larry Johnson and Mike McQueary running roughshod over the rest of the Northeast.

Johnson has developed a reputation with these kids as a father figure and a generally well-liked man. Nine out of 10 recruits always mention Johnson. The former Maryland high school coach has been nothing short of amazing, landing the majority of the talent in his former homelands.

McQueary, the charismatic red-haired former Nittany Lion quarterback, has quietly become one of the best young recruiting coordinators in the game. McQueary is young and energetic and seems to relate to the kids. His tactics are fresh and innovative. He may not always get the credit he deserves, but those of us who follow recruiting for a living know a good one when we see it.

On Tuesday, the Nittany Lions had arguably one of the greatest recruiting days in their rich and storied history. The announcement of native son Pat Devlin committing sure managed to wake everyone bright and early. The Downingtown East quarterback had broken the hearts of many earlier in the year when he chose to pledge to Miami. Miami decided to fire its offensive coaching staff and Devlin decided to look around. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound, consensus top quarterback in Pennsylvania will compete with Anthony Morelli, Daryll Clark, Paul Cianciolo and fellow incoming freshman Brett Brackett.

Devlin is one of the most polished quarterbacks in the nation. He is a leader, a field general. He takes control of his offense. Devlin is deceptively fast. He fools a lot of people with his mobility. The most impressive aspect of the four-star quarterback's game is his ability to differentiate between the types of throws he makes. Devlin will thread the needle when he needs to, but he also knows when to have touch on the ball. Most high school passers know one velocity, and that is hard.

In the early evening, Antonio Logan-El of Forestville, Md., announced that he would continue his career at Penn State. The 6-6, 320-pound five-star lineman is rated as the No. 5 offensive lineman in the nation according to Logan-El broke the hearts of many Maryland fans as he had previously committed to the Terrapins, but decided to look around during his senior season.

Logan-El is an intriguing prospect. He has the size, wingspan and feet to be an offensive tackle, but he likely projects as a guard. He is a brute force as a run blocker and is equally adept in pass protection. He is remarkably quick off the ball, allowing him to hit the second level and seal on linebackers. He is strong enough to manhandle down linemen and open holes. Logan-El is still mastering his craft, but once he gets that initial punch and he locks on, it's game over.

To complete the tri-fecta the Nittany Lions added Brandywine Heights, Md., native Phillip Taylor. The Gwynn Park High defensive tackle, who stands 6-6, 340 pounds, is a prospect who first caught my eye during the Elite College Combine in May. I saw a mountain of a man who looked like he couldn't move to save his life. OK, that's why you play the game. During one-on-ones, I witnessed Taylor execute a text book swim move to totally blow by would-be blockers. “Blow by” would be an understatement. Taylor was on the quarterback before the offensive lineman was out of his crouch. I stood there in awe like the other 300 plus college coaches who were on hand too watch.

By rights, Taylor would be a prototypical nose tackle in a 4-3 defense, but with his exceptional burst and up-field push he could also play the 3-technique tackle spot. One word would be good for describing Taylor on the field: “Nasty.” Most Penn State fans see Jimmy Kennedy when they see Taylor.

By our estimation, Penn State should have two scholarships remaining. Most feel that Jeremiha Hunter is a matter of when and not if to commit.

The second and final scholarship could be a little trickier. Consensus was that the spot would go to Pottsgrove running back Brent Carter. The landscape changed this week, so to speak, when it was learned that the nation's No.1 wide receiver, Vidal Hazelton was having some doubts about his recent commitment to USC and the Nittany Lions were back in play.

As recently as late Tuesday night, Hazelton was still discussing (with his father) the possibility of going to Penn State. It should make for an exciting stretch run for Nittany Lion fans and some future headaches for Big Ten coaches.


MONTHLY SUBSCRIBER? Who are you kidding?

With a class like Penn State is putting together, you aren’t going anywhere after letter-of-intent day. Check out the benefits of a year-long TAP subscription (save money, get more cool stuff) AT THIS LINK.

Fight On State Top Stories