There are three Penn State recruits -- Eugene Lewis, Evan Schwan and Nyeem Wartman -- on the Pennsylvania roster for the Big 33 Football Classic this week.
Quarterback Steven Bench has maintained close contact with his future Penn State teammates.
Had things gone a bit differently, there could have been six.
JJ Denman, the big offensive lineman from Pennsbury, was a Penn State commit last year. So was J.P. Holtz, the tight end from Shaler, and Skyler Mornhinweg, the St. Joseph Prep star who could play quarterback or safety in college.
All three players are also on the Pennsylvania squad. All three ultimately signed with other college programs. Three other one-time Penn State commitments did the same thing, making the Nittany Lions' Class of 2012 a little smaller and dropping its overall ranking in the process.
Their reasons were their own, and that's a part of recruiting. But the dark cloud that fell over State College last fall and winter -- from the time the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke up until Bill O'Brien's January hire -- cannot be discounted. To what extent is debatable, but there is no question that it shaped the class.
Those dark months had one other effect, though, one that is hard to see but, at least for a few people, is impossible not to feel.
"We found out who really wants to be there and who doesn't want to be there," Wartman said.
When the Class of 2012 gets to campus in a little over a week, it will have already been through more than most groups of Penn State freshmen. And, though its 18 members have only been in the same place at the same time for a handful of moments, it will have been through it together.
"We all went up to the spring game and we felt like we had known each other forever," Wartman said. "We've really been clicking. All of us knew during the recruiting process, since this Sandusky stuff came out, that we just had to stay together and stick together. And I think it made us stronger."
Through Facebook, Twitter and countless text messages, the 2012 recruits stayed in constant contact with one another. They pitched in on the recruiting process, not only for 2012 but for the 2013 and 2014 classes as well. When Adam Breneman, Penn State's 2013 tight end commitment, suffered a knee injury Thursday, some of his first well-wishes came across Twitter from Steven Bench, Penn State's 2012 quarterback.
Like incoming freshmen at most schools, Penn State's recruits wanted to get a quick jump on forming the bonds that will help them on the field as well as adjust to life away from home. But the freshmen at Tennessee or Michigan or UCLA didn't have to spend the better part of the last year answering questions from reporters, friends and even family about an alleged child predator or the uncertainty surrounding a program that made its first coaching change in more than half a century.
"After everything that went on, we just really had to stick together," Lewis said. "Just lock it all out and keep staying on the goal."
The Sandusky trial is the talk of town right now and could still be going on once the freshmen arrive next weekend. The results could rattle a community and campus that's already been put through the blender. The incoming Lions are aware of that. They hope to lead the healing process. And the fact that they'll be here at all will, by itself, help build the trust they'll need as teammates.
"That's just a comfort zone when you know that these guys could have went somewhere else," Wartman said, "but they stuck with their decision."
That decision to stick could keep this group together through more adversity than they'll see on the football field. It has so far.