PSU Prospects Turn Proactive

There are several factors that have contributed to the recruiting revolution Penn State has enjoyed over the past few years. The addition of Mike McQueary has been a major boost, and a shift in philosophy has also helped. However, the leadership and initiative of certain prospects has become an invaluable asset in the last several classes.

Mike McQueary joined the coaching staff full-time in 2004 when he assumed the role of recruiting coordinator. But as a graduate assistant before that, he played a key role in compiling the Class of 2004. And each subsequent recruiting class has had one or two leaders who have emerged as driving forces in attracting talent to Happy Valley.

What is amazing is that these high school students have taken a proactive role in helping to build their class, and in some cases build future classes. It has served as an invaluable asset to the recruiting efforts of PSU's coaching staff.

Class of 2004

Greg Harrison committed to Penn State early in his recruiting process on April 26, 2003. From there he immediately stepped up to help recruit several future teammates. Among his primary targets were Mark Rubin, Tyrell Sales, Wyatt Bowman, Dan Conner, A.Q. Shipley and Gerald Cadogan.

Harrison proactively reached out to prospects and simply used his outgoing personality to befriend other recruits and show them why Penn State was the right choice for them based on his own recruiting experiences with the coaches and program. His enthusiasm was (and still is) said by those around him to be "contagious."

Harrison was not alone though. After Dan Connor joined the class in early August of that year he too started to communicate with and recruit players. He talked about his conversations with other prospects considering PSU back then, saying, "Basically we told them everyone's an honest guy, a great guy. All the coaches and players are positive and we're ready to turn things around. We just need key players, like a couple incoming guys right now, to turn things around and I think it's going to happen."

What was even more impressive was the culmination of the recruiting class with the Group Huddle, the meeting of the entire class during the weekend of Dec. 5, 2003. This was simply an opportunity for the players to spend a few days together, meet with the coaches and veteran players and plan for the future.

Though McQueary was the mastermind behind the event, it was prospects like Harrison and Connor who sold it to the rest of the class.

Class of 2005

What many expected to be an isolated occurance with the Class of 2004 continued with the Class of 2005. This time the prospect playing the role of orchestrator of the recruiting efforts early on was Justin King, who committed on Nov. 15, 2004 and, like Greg Harrison, adopted the approach of attracting talent by befriending it. King helped attract players like Sean Lee, Lydell Sargeant and Derrick Williams.

Once Williams joined the class in in late Decemeber he joined the recruiting effort, announcing during his commitment, "I want all the top recruits in the country to come to Penn State and help me win a national championship."

Williams' efforts were not limited to his own class. In fact he cultivated relationships with several younger players from his home state of Maryland who eventually joined the Class of 2006, like Novorro Bowman.

Bowman talked about his introduction to PSU through Williams, saying, "Derrick put Penn State in my eye. He's the number one recruit and Penn State having the season they had last year [4-7 in 2004], why would he choose Penn State University? So I put them on my list and took that visit."

Class of 2006:

When Bowman committed to Penn State in early December of 2005, he essentially took a page out of Williams' approach which got him to Penn State. After he committed he immediately started recruiting players, saying, "I didn't get to talk to Phil [Taylor] yet," Bowman said. "But I'm going to get his number and call him too."

Bowman also said, "I've got the sense that most of the good athletes in Prince George's County are going to choose Penn State University. That's not a bad choice to make."

A prediction that ended up coming true considering that six other Maryland prospects (Phillip Taylor, J.B. Walton, Aaron Maybin, Bani Gbadyu, Antonio Logan-El and A.J. Wallace) have joined the Class of 2006 as of this writing.

However, the mastermind recruiter who has taken the torch from the likes of Harrison and Williams is arguably Maybin. Maybin committed in mid-October and was the first of the Maryland prospects to pledge to the Lions.

He subsequently started contacting all of the remaining top recruits from his state and telling them why they should join him at Penn State.

He talked about his efforts with these prospects, saying, "I think this year in particular, the class of Maryland recruits is especially close. My relationship with a lot of the guys started a little over a year ago. We've known each other for a while now. I can't attribute it to anything other than a lot of us are looking for the same thing in a school and the same qualities. Like anybody, if you are going to be in a position where you want to win a national championship, you want the best players with you. A lot of us realized this is an attainable goal and you want the guys you've been friends with and the ones you've established personal relationships to fight and attain those goals."

Maybin went on to say, "I think that along with the fact that Penn State has done a phenomenal job in recruiting, and [us] talking amongst each other and giving each other points ... I think that this year is going to be a special year for all of the recruits in Maryland."

In the spirit of the Class of 2004's Group Huddle, Maybin is arranging for a Group Signing on Letter of Intent Day next week. Several Class of 2006 members, including Maybin, Gbadyu, Logan-El, Taylor, Royster, Walton, Wallace, Eric Latimore, Pat Devlin, Jared Odrick and Tom McEowen will be signing their letters of intent at the Baltimore ESPN Zone.

Quite a way to kick off their collegiate careers together.


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