Penn State football head coach Bill O'Brien has suggested that he may not be totally opposed to the idea of oversigning, the process of working around NCAA recruiting rules in order to bring in a class of more than the maximum 25 players per recruiting season.
In a recent column and interview posted by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, O'Brien was asked about his thoughts on oversigning. The answer, for any Penn State or Big Ten fan, may turn some heads:
We’re in the process of evaluating our roster right now,. We’re trying to get a real hold on what exactly our needs are for next year. And then, at that point, we’ll make a decision on whether we’ll do what you’re talking about. There’s some definite advantages in doing that. Right now, we haven’t made a decision on whether we’re headed in that direction.
O'Brien has made no secret about the fact that he would like Penn State to be more aggressive in the recruiting game. When taking over the head coaching job in January, O'Brien stated that Penn State needed to get back to their strength of recruiting top talent from pipeline states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, New York and more.
He also hinted that Penn State would move to the South in their recruiting efforts, believing that the best talent is down South. The signing of quarterback Steven Bench out of Georgia was the first step forward with that game plan.
Bench may not be a highly-rated prospect, but it was a move to get Penn State's foot in the door to the South. With a coaching staff that has some good southern backgrounds—from the ACC, SEC and Big 12—it stands to reason that Penn State will be able to pull a recruit or two (or more?) out of the Douth moving forward. But is the best way to get that talent by oversigning?
In recent years, the process of oversigning has become more of a hot topic among those who track the recruiting process around the nation. SEC schools have largely been the top culprits of the act, and it should not be a surprise that SEC presidents and athletic directors have defended the act, with Alabama's Nick Saban, Arkansas' Bobby Petrino, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier and LSU's Les Miles being among the most vocal supporters, according to Oversigning.com. Four SEC schools topped 2011's Oversigining Cup standings, according to the website dedicated to tracking scholarship oversigning.
For what it is worth, Penn State was 10th on the list, signing 16 players after losing 15.
Former assistant coach Jay Paterno is one of many in the college football community who have spoken out against the process of oversigning. Paterno understands the pressure that can lead to getting into the process of oversigning, but he has no support for it.
"As long as the high level of interest remains in recruiting rankings that reward quantity, expect this trend to continue," Paterno wrote in his StateCollege.com column in February 2011. "The pressures on coaches to chase those [recruiting] rankings will continue to drive the practice of over-signing."
Will the philosophy be changing in State College? Perhaps not quite as importantly, will it be a practice that is endorsed by the alumni, fans and university.
Is this "new" Penn State going to play by the rules, as they have largely done forever, or will the pristine image be tarnished by risking recruiting violations of some sort?