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O'Brien expanding recruiting trail

Bill O'Brien tallied roughly 2,000 miles on the bus last spring as part of Penn State's Coaches Caravan tour.

Robinson was one of three pickups from the deep South for Penn State.

Penn State's Class of 2013 proves O'Brien was not the only Nittany Lion coach to log some serious road time.

The Nittany Lions' 17-member class includes plenty of geographic diversity. O'Brien said shortly after he came to Penn State last January that getting the top players from Pennsylvania would be a priority, and assigned each of his assistant coaches a region of the state to recruit. The Nittany Lions landed five prospects from the Keystone State, including four-star tight end Adam Breneman of Camp Hill.

Seven more of the signees hail from New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland or Washington, D.C., which has been and will remain prime recruiting ground for the Nittany Lions, thanks largely in part to the extensive connections of defensive line coach Larry Johnson.

But, in its first full recruiting cycle, O'Brien's staff also tapped an area in which Joe Paterno's staff had not spent much time in recent years -- the southeast. Penn State landed safety Neiko Robinson from Florida, cornerback Kasey Gaines from Georgia and defensive lineman Parker Cothren from Alabama. O'Brien said Wednesday that was no accident.

"We'll continue to recruit in the deep south, in the south, because we have connections down there," O'Brien said. "I coached at Georgia Tech for eight seasons. (Offensive line coach) Mac McWhorter, his roots are down there. We'll continue to recruit down there. The bulk of the roster will come from that 300-mile driving distance -- Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Baltimore, (Washington) D.C., New York. We have to do a better job in Ohio, then New England. We'll still get into the south.

"That gives us a pretty good, diverse mix of guys when you look at the geography of our roster. We have a decent number of guys from the south on our roster, the bulk of the guys are from the northeast. That's the way it should be."

O'Brien also continued what had been one of Paterno's long-standing traditions -- bringing in players with family ties to the program. Maryland running back Richy Anderson's father, Richie, was a running back at Penn State in the early 1990s. Run-on wide receiver Gregg Garrity, Jr.'s father, also named Gregg, made the famous touchdown catch to help clinch the program's first national championship.

O'Brien, who has made an effort to reach out to Penn State's extensive Letterman's Club on a few occasions since his hire, plans to keep an eye out for the sons of other former players as well.

"I don't think there's any question that that's important here," O'Brien said. "We've got such a strong letterman’s organization, a lot of these guys that have these teenage sons that are good athletes, good players. They have good genes. They have a passion for Penn State because they've grown up watching how much it meant to their dads. A lot of them, both parents went to Penn State, which is pretty neat, too.

"Obviously, they have to be able to play and they have to be good students, but that's something we'll definitely continue to look at, no question about it."

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