We all know recruiting rankings aren't perfect, and that in every few recruiting cycles there are plenty of five-star guys who, for various reasons, never materialize (see Bell, Chris) and plenty of below-the-radar guys no one wanted who wind up taking college football by storm (see Robinson, Allen).
Godwin said he "didn't want to miss out on a good opportunity." Other top recruits seem to feel the same.
But, by and large, as the NFL Draft shows us each spring, those rankings usually wind up being a pretty accurate representation of where a prospect is going. They're also a good way of measuring recruiting trends and tendencies from year to year or, in some cases, coaching staff to coaching staff.
At present, the rankings are showing that Bill O'Brien and his fellow Penn State recruiters are having a very good spring.
The Nittany Lions are up to 18th nationally and third in the Big Ten in the 247Sports Team Rankings, getting there largely on the backs (or pledges) of some offensive skill players.
This is where the staff-to-staff comparison comes in. The previous coaching staff landed three wide receivers who earned four-star ratings or higher (Eugene Lewis, Alex Kenney and Justin Brown), in the past six years, and although Lewis had committed to Paterno, he signed with O'Brien.
The current staff has landed two four-star wideouts (DeAndre Thompkins and Chris Godwin) in the past week. And this is coming at a time when Penn State's coaches must be and have been extremely prudent with their scholarship offers.
Now, there is still work to be done at filling out the rest of what figures to be a 14- or 15-man Class of 2014. Penn State needs to bolster both lines and its linebacking corps and the departure of Steven Bench means the Nittany Lions will at least consider taking a quarterback in the class as well.
But stop and think for a second about what is taking place at Penn State right now. The sanctions and the scholarship reductions were supposed to hurt the program's ability to land top talent. Instead, you could argue that the sanctions, in at least one or two cases, have had the opposite effect. Clearly, blue-chip prospects still want to come to Penn State, and the limited number of scholarships has made that idea even more desirable.
Think of it this way: If a nightclub opens its doors to everyone, it might get 100 people. If it advertises for a week that only 50 will be admitted, though, the line at the door will wrap around the block, provided that nightclub offers a great experience. That isn't what the NCAA had in mind when it delivered the sanctions and it certainly isn't the way O'Brien would prefer to recruit, but it's already yielding results.
When Thompkins committed last Saturday, joining Troy Apke in the future receiving corps, Penn State was seemingly done at the wide receiver position. But three days later, Godwin decided to join the party as well.
"I think it was one of those things where I didn't want to miss out on a good opportunity," Godwin said this week.
Are the Nittany Lions going to continue be able to land three stud prospects at positions where they have room for only two? No. But they're continuing to recruit players capable of playing multiple positions, which will give them some wiggle room, and they're continuing to be very selective with their offers, which means they're minimizing the odds that they wind up with scholarship players who wind up not contributing.
At the same time, the coaches are putting in plenty of face time in all of their recruiting areas. Even if they aren't able to offer a prospect they like, they can gauge his interest in joining the squad as a run-on and establish or strengthen relationships with high school coaches. Recruiting, remember, is fluid. The player Penn State might not choose to offer as a junior could blossom as a senior, and a scholarship could come open in the time being.
The bad news for Penn State is that Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke are operating, like everyone else, with a full allotment of scholarships. They don't have to take the creative approaches or play the waiting games that O'Brien and his assistants do. All things being equal, Ohio State and Michigan will be tough to beat over the next few seasons, and all things, for the next several seasons, will not be equal.
But you wouldn't know that if you were only looking at the current recruiting rankings, would you?
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