The Lowdown on Recruiting

Among the most insightful sessions at Penn State's Football Fantasy Camp earlier this month was with Mike McQueary, PSU's wide receiver coach and recruiting coordinator. McQueary walked us through the ins and outs of the PSU recruiting process; targeting, offering and pursuing prospects.

NCAA rules prevented McQueary from addressing specific recruits the Nittany Lions are targeting this year. But he was able to discuss the recruiting process in general terms. Here is some of what he had to say on the topic.

The Offer Debate

"What is his home situation like?"

"Have you seen him play in person?"

"Does he play any other sports besides football?"

"Have you seen him play those other sports live?"

"What is his academic situation?"

"What are his measurements?"

"How tall is his mother?"

"Who was the last PSU player to come from his school?"

These are just a handful of questions that get peppered at the Penn State coach who brings a prospect to the offer table debate on the PSU staff; and the coach has to know all of these answers and more.

The prospect offer sessions with the coaches are often all-out debates. "I want the meeting that way," McQueary said. "That's when I know the selection process is at its best. I get nervous when the tape gets turned off too fast and we've all said 'yes' or there aren't enough questions or there isn't some fighting. I want a fight."

Typically, the strongest scrutiny will come from the coach responsible for the unit where the player is projected to play in college. As McQueary explained, "If I bring a player who is projected to play corner[back] in college, Tom [Bradley] is going to hit me with every question imaginable, and kill me on it — because if we land the player, that's his kid to coach. And that's good, that's exactly what I want."

McQueary generally plays a laid back, observational role in these meetings unless he is bringing a player to the table for debate; in that case he has to know practically everything about the player he is representing.

Beyond the Tape

A player's film is "one small piece of the puzzle." There are several other pieces that have to be put together before the staff decides to offer a recruit.

"Academics is always one [big question] I want to know [the answer to]. Some guys will come in and say 'Oh, he has great grades' — that doesn't pass. I learned that fast my first year. I want a transcript, I want a [grade] prediction, I want something on paper," McQueary explained. "I have had the great grades talk and three months later we get a transcript [or grade prediction] and it's 1.764 — you gotta have a 2.0 with a 1010 SAT."

In terms of deciding which players PSU will suggest attend prep schools, McQueary said, "Most of the time the answer is that if his grades aren't good enough then no, we're not going to pursue. However, if a player looks so good and it's a position of need then it goes to coach [Paterno to decide]."

As far as the type of athletes Penn State targets, McQueary said, "We'll recruit a thousand multiple-sport athletes to every one one-sport athlete."

And there are generally specific alternative sports they look for for specific positions. "For wide receivers we like guys who play baseball — the hand-eye coordination — it's those fielding skills that help with catching the ball," he explained. "Some of the best wideouts are great baseball players."

"With linemen, wrestling tends to help with their agility and use of their hands," he said. "We also like defensive backs who play basketball with the quick movement of the game and all of the cuts and breaks they have to make."

"Can we get him?" McQueary asked. "That is always another big question for us. And I'll be frank with you, that's why you don't see us going down to Florida, Texas and California all of the time." He went on to explain that the coaches would rather have a slightly less talented player who genuinely wants to be at PSU than a more talented player who isn't totally sold on the program.

As he explained, "If you think we're in first place or fifth place, you're still behind."

Chasing Running Backs

One of the positions of most recruiting interest currently is the running back role. "This year in our recruiting we have expanded the net to the whole country for tailbacks," McQueary said. "Now we have had kids tell us that the one they are trying to look for with the success of the recent backs at Oklahoma and USC is depth chart — they want to play early. Well, we have that [to offer]."

Stay tuned to FOS for part 2 on this topic with more PSU recruiting insights from Mike McQueary.


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