Imagine the pressure that is possibly mounting on Adam Breneman, a four-star recruit with five-star potential and the top high school prospect in the state of Pennsylvania. For a while now he has been considered a Penn State lean, and with the new era of Penn State football starting to take form under Bill O'Brien, it is Breneman who is considered the prize recruit, the crème de la crème.
Everybody expects Breneman to be a great tight end at the college level, and he could be one of the faces of the Penn State program as it ushers in the new era, looking to get past the ugly darkness that polluted the region, and well beyond last November. Others have shied away from Penn State as the figurative mushroom cloud started to dissipate over State College, opting to go to a different program instead, even if it would be serving a one-year bowl ban in 2013.
Breneman, though, seemed to stay positive, speaking highly of Penn State, retweeting messages from other Penn State prospects, fans, and alums of the university. Penn State wants Breneman and by most accounts it seems as though he wants to return the love.
On Friday evening Breneman will officially announce his college choice, with Penn State considered to be in the running along with Ohio State, Notre Dame and Maryland. There is little doubt that Breneman would be a great addition, and fit, for Penn State's offense. O'Brien's offense is built on solid tight end play, and Breneman would likely be the main guy to fill that role over the next few years, if not immediately as a freshman.
But what if Breneman doesn't choose the blue and white? Does that let the air out of the recruiting balloon for O'Brien and his staff?
Penn State already has three four-star recruits lined up for the Class of 2013, with quarterback Christian Hackenberg, cornerback Ross Douglas and defensive end Garrett Sickels. For those keeping score, that is one more four-star recruit than Penn State had in their Class of 2012 after losing some key players to the likes of Ohio State and Florida.
The key, naturally, will be ensuring the verbal commitments eventually come to mature to national letters of intent on National Signing Day in February 2013. This is much easier than said, and can be helped by winning some key games in the 2012 season.
Without Breneman, the question will become whether or not Penn State can attract the top-flight talent. Four-star recruits are nice, but blue chip five-star recruits are what really stand out. The last time Penn State signed a five-star recruit, according to Rivals' star rankings, was in the Class of 2006 when A.J. Wallace signed with the program.
This was the year after signing five-star recruits Derrick Williams and Justin King in the Class of 2005. That recruiting class in 2005 single-handedly turned Penn State football around, and it might not be a coincidence that it included some five-star recruits who wanted to make a difference at Penn State, most notably Williams.
Dating back to 2002 Penn State has signed a total of five five-star recruits, with linebacker Dan Connor and quarterback Anthony Morelli (no, really) signed in the Class of 2004. By comparison, Ohio State has signed five five-star recruits since 2009. Alabama has signed six between 2011 and 2012.
Can Penn State lure in that kind of talent on a routine basis? If they can sign Breneman they may start to answer that very question. If Breneman decides to announce somewhere else, O'Brien and his staff will have some work to do after losing the top prospect in Pennsylvania.
When O'Brien took over the head coaching job, O'Brien emphasized the importance of keeping top in-state talent under Penn State's control. Winning back the state begins with signing Breneman.