February 13, 2003

Phil Grosz's Inside Look at Penn State Football

No this will not be a Top 10 recruiting class for Penn State.

It probably won't even be ranked in the top 25 by any of the nationally recognized recruiting services.

But does that mean Penn State football fans should be gnashing their teeth and complaining about Joe Paterno and his assistant coaches recruiting effort for its Class of 2007?

The answer to that question is, quite simply, no! It would be unrealistic for any Penn State football fan to expect Penn State's Class of 2007 to be ranked among the top 10 or even top 25 classes in the country.

That's an impossibility with just eleven scholarship members. When analyzing Penn State's Class of 2007 one must take a different perspective.

The evaluations of recruiting classes revolve around five very different and distinct categories.

Classes are ranked according to size, the presence of a top 25 rated quarterback, numbers of blue-chip top 250 players, overall quality and how well a team recruited for their specific needs.

Right off the bat it's easy to identify that Penn State falls short in definitely two and possibly three of these categories.

Despite the fact that there is a scholarship limitation of 85 over a four-year period at Division I-A schools, it has become common practice for Division I-A schools to sign 25 or more scholarship players on national-letter-of-intent day, which is always the first Wednesday in February.

In fact this year the Big Ten passed a rule that allowed its member schools to sign three extra scholarship players over and above the NCAA limit on its rosters.

Penn State's 11-member Class of 2007 is the lowest number of any Division I-A school's total that signed on national-letter-of-intent day.

Penn State also, for the second consecutive year, didn't sign a quarterback in its class. And for obvious reasons, Paterno was limited to signing just six so-called skill position blue-chip prospects in its Class of 2007.

The six skill position players are Terrell Golden (6-3, 215-WR) from Norfolk (Va.) Lake Taylor, Tony Hunt (6-2, 220-RB) from Alexandria (Va.) T.C. Williams, Jonathan Jackson (6-1, 178-DB) from Philadelphia (Pa.) West Catholic, Rodney Kinlaw (5-10, 185-RB) from Goose Creek (S.C.) Stratford, Austin Scott (6-1, 205-RB) from Orefield (Pa.) Parkland and Brent Wise (6-1, 195-Ath.) from Harrisburg (Pa.) Central Dauphin.

This fact may upset some Nittany Lion football fans across the country, but this is how the process takes place. It's a fact of reality that every Penn State football fan must recognize.

That, however, does not mean that Penn State didn't have an excellent Class of 2007.

With numbers being limited as they were, it's our obligation to be objective in our analysis, but we also realize that a different point of emphasis must be taken when analyzing the Nittany Lions football recruiting class of 2007.

This must be an analysis based on quality not quantity, with the second most factor being the analysis of how well Penn State recruited to fill its needs on its roster.

In both of these areas, Paterno and his assistant coaches must receive an outstanding grade.

There is plenty of analysis out there on websites across the country giving Penn State football fans their analysis of the Nittany Lions' recruiting effort for its Class of 2007.

Sadly, I must say few of them seem to know what they are evaluating and very few of them have the accurate facts and evaluations.

How else would you explain the divergence of opinion? It was hated by nearly half of the recognizable legitimate recruiting websites, loved by a few and around 30 percent labeled Penn State's effort for its Class of 2007 just so so.

Here are six solid reasons why we give Paterno and his assistant coaches an A- for their recruiting efforts for the Nittany Lions' Class of 2007.

(1) Normally, one of Penn State's football fans' biggest complaints about the Nittany Lions' recruiting classes is its perceived lack of success in its home state of Pennsylvania.

That certainly wasn't the case with this class. This 11-member class has six players from Pennsylvania. All six are labeled as blue-chip prospects.

Paterno landed four of the top rated players at their position in the state. Scott was the top rated running back in Pennsylvania; Paul Posluszny (6-3, 215) from Hopewell, Pa. was the No. 1 rated linebacker; Joel Holler (6-6, 335) from Lancaster, Pa. was the No. 1 rated offensive lineman and John Shaw (6-5, 278) from Spring Grove, Pa. was the No. 1 rated defensive lineman.

Jackson finished the 2002 season as one of the top three rated defensive backs in Pennsylvania and Wise finished the 2002 season named to the AP's big-school first-team all-state offense.

Wise finished the 2002 season with 45 receptions for 1,215 yards and averaged over 33 yards per catch.

It's my opinion that Scott is the best running back prospect to emerge from the state of Pennsylvania since Tony Dorsett in 1972.

This season Scott rushed 3,853 yards and had 53 rushing touchdowns. Both are Pennsylvania high school season records. Scott's 3,853 yards rushing also stands as the fourth-best in the history of high school football for the entire country.

In late January, when Paterno visited McCaskey High in Lancaster, Pa. to visit with Holler and his high school coaches, Paterno made a remarkable comment.

"Joe wasn't able to mention the players name when he was at our school," said McCaskey head football coach Scott Feldman. "But he did tell us that Joel would have the opportunity to block for the best high school running back (Scott) he had ever seen on film."

(2) That Paterno statement leads us directly into our second reason why I believe Penn State recruited an outstanding Class of 2007.

The G&W Recruiting Report says that the Nittany Lions recruited the No. 1 running back class in the country.

Hunt, Kinlaw and Scott each bring a distinctive running style to Penn State's offense. I believe Scott is somewhat like Curt Warner with size. Kinlaw reminds me of Warrick Dunn who played his college football at Florida State. Physically, Hunt has been compared to Larry Johnson and several Virginia sportswriters have compared Hunt's physique to Herschal Walker.

Scott is blessed with 4.4 second 40-yard speed and carries it on a 205 pound frame. But Scott's football instincts and his ability to cut on a dime and run in traffic is what makes him Pennsylvania's best running back prospect since Dorsett.

Kinlaw is a water-bug. He 5-10, 185 and has legitimate 4.35 40-yard speed. He has run a 21.36 200-meters and believe it or not Kinlaw runs with power.

"He's got a lot more power than people realize," said Stratford head football coach and athletic director Ray Stackley. "Rodney benches 315 pounds and he squats 485 pounds."

Hunt is a power inside north-south runner with speed. He has solid 4.5 second or better 40-yard speed and right now he's 6-2, 222.

That's the weight Larry Johnson played at for Penn State during the 2002 season.

(3) The signing of Golden on national-letter-of-intent day is our third reason why to believe Penn State recruited well for the Class of 2007.

That fact might surprise some readers because it seems that there is a consensus of opinion replacing Larry Johnson will be the Penn State offense's most difficult problem in 2003.

That's not my opinion. It's my belief that replacing Bryant Johnson will become the Penn State offense's most difficult assignment this upcoming season.

There are those who can make a legitimate argument for Larry Johnson and for that matter the offensive line, but if Penn State wants to utilize an offense in 2003 that revolves around Zack Mills it has to find a replacement for Bryant Johnson with his type of size and speed.

Golden physically fits those requirements. He 6-3, 215 and has 4.35 40-yard speed. He is without question Penn State's most underrated member of its Class of 2007.

"Physically Terrell has an NFL body already," said Hank Sawyer Lake Taylor's head football coach. "He's 6-3, 215. Runs a 10.7 100-meters, has long jumped 23 feet, triple jumped 48 feet and high jumped 6 feet 6 inches."

Golden could provide Penn State's passing game with the Randy Moss type of wide receiver it needs.

(4) Penn State signed in Holler and Dan Mazan (6-4, 295) from Carteret, N.J. two of the the G&W Recruiting Report's top three offensive line prospects in the Northeast.

In its December issue the G&W Recruiting Report listed Holler as its No. 10 prospect in the Northeast and Mazan its No. 12 prospect. Mazan is a prospect capable of playing all three positions on the offensive line.

(5) The signing of Jackson. This point might also surprise some individuals.
There is a perceived lack of depth on Penn State's 2003 roster at the cornerback positions.

Counting Jackson, Penn State will go into the 2003 season with just six scholarship cornerbacks on its roster.

However, that number is in question because of situations surrounding Anwar Phillips and Alan Zemaitis.

But it's my belief that both Phillips and Zemaitis will be on the roster and ready to go in the fall and Paterno has indicated sophomore Calvin Lowry (6 0, 198) could practice at cornerback in the fall.

Also, we have been told that sophomore Maurice Humphrey (6-1, 188) has looked terrific and could be a very special player.

Jackson with his 6-1, 178 size and his 4.4 40-yard speed fits the bill here at the cornerback position. One cornerback prospect is all that was needed in the Class of 2007.

(6) In Amani Purcell (6-5, 250) from Pago Pago (American Samoa) Leone, Penn State landed the top sleeper in the Class of 2007.

If the remarks of Leone High head coach Okland Salave'a regarding Purcell are accurate, landing Purcell was a steal for Penn State.

How many 6-5, 250 athletes can one find with 4.5 40-yard speed, that bench press 350 pounds and totaled over 400 tackles during their high school career?

Don't get the impression I'm stating that Penn State landed every recruit it wanted.

It didn't. The Nittany Lions desperately wanted All-American (AA) defensive back Ashton Youboty (6-1, 185) from Klein, Texas; AA offensive lineman Mike Jones (6-5, 305) from Oak Lawn, Ill.; offensive lineman Brandon Nixon (6-7, 325) from Pottstown, Pa.; and AA defensive lineman Matt Malele (6-2, 310) from Carson, Calif.

No one ever gets everyone they want, but with just 11 scholarships available for the Class of 2007 Penn State football fans can't complain with the job Paterno and his assistants did recruiting its Class of 2007.

It's not a top 10 class, not even a top 25 class. But with just 11 members in its class it's been rated as high as the fourth best class in the Big Ten.



 

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