Bill O'Brien's top goal when it comes to recruiting at Penn State is simple: Keep top in-state talent from going elsewhere. Some question if Penn State ever really lost the edge with in-state recruiting.
Just take a look at the top prospects in the state of Pennsylvania over the last few years. In 2012, defensive end Noah Spence went to Ohio State, running back Rushell Shell decided to go to Pittsburgh and offensive lineman Chris Muller went to Rutgers. In 2011 Pennsylvania's top three prospects went to Texas Tech, Notre Dame and Michigan State.
The last top three prospect to go to Penn State, according to Rivals.com's rankings, was linebacker Mike Hull, in 2010. That year Penn State lured in quarterback Paul Jones, offensive linemen Miles Dieffenbach and Thomas Ricketts, tight end Kyle Baublitz and defensive end Dakota Royer. All of those players were ranked in the top ten in Pennsylvania.
So does Penn State have a problem keeping top talent in-state? Perhaps not as much as you would think. But what O'Brien would like to start doing is keeping the elite prospects from going to rival universities, such as Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin, in addition to national powers such as Alabama, Texas, Florida and so on.
Penn State's recruiting class for 2013 has already opened a few eyes, and the momentum is building for a class few would have expected given the dark situation the school is faced with working through.
Here is a look at 10 of the top prospects in Pennsylvania. How many will end up choosing to go to Penn State?
Wide receiver Robert Foster, of Central Valley High School in Monaca, is the 26th ranked player in the Rivals 250, and a 4-star talent. The 6'3", 170-pound receiver currently holds offers from a number of big names, including Alabama, Florida, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, USC and Penn State.
Penn State is not considered to be a strong candidate at this early stage, but with Penn State securing some significant verbal commitments at quarterback and possibly tight end, a stud wide receiver to add to the mix and accompany Class of 2012 in-state receiver Eugene Lewis would lead to some great recruiting momentum.
Philadelphia running back David Williams is the 192nd player ranked in the Rivals 250 and could be a terrific pickup for Penn State, complementing the addition of Akeel Lynch in the Class of 2012, the top running back out of New York.
The West Catholic running back does not appear to have Penn State in the mix, nor has he made a visit yet. Temple, Rutgers, Boston College and Wisconsin are among the schools with a decent shot at recruiting Williams, with South Carolina also being considered a significant option.
Penn State is Linebacker U, so it might stand to reason that Penn State might make a serious push to recruit the state's top linebacker. Wyomissing Area linebacker Alex Anzalone (white jersey, with football) is the last player from Pennsylvania ranked in the Top 247 from 247 Sports, and it is thought that he has some interest in Penn State early on.
Anzalone is scheduled to visit Notre Dame later this month for their junior day, a day after making an unofficial visit to Michigan. Penn State presented its scholarship offer to Anzalone when he attended its junior day last month.
Offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey is the top offensive lineman in the state considered to be available, ranked sixth overall in the state and 26th in the nation among offensive tackles, according to 247 Sports.
McGlinchey made an official visit to Penn State for last season's home game against Alabama, but he has not received an offer yet. McGlinchey's offer sheet currently includes Duke, Michigan, Wisconsin, Maryland, Florida, Tennessee and Michigan State.
“[I like their] new coaching staff,” McGlinchey said in a recent interview with Penn State blog Nittany Lions Den. “Penn State is close to home, it is a well-respected school, and it has solid football,” he continued."
A star in Philadelphia's Public League, Justin Moody could be considered a relative steal for Penn State if they feel he can fit in somewhere on the defensive line. Fortunately, Moody is an athletic talent who could probably fill a hole at a few other positions as well.
Moody is the seventh-ranked prospect in Pennsylvania and 21st overall defensive tackle in the nation, according to 247 Sports, so it should just be a matter of time before offers start piling up for the George Washington athlete. As of now Moody holds just one offer, from Rutgers, but he did attend Penn State's Junior Day in February.
Penn State is already working on the athletic Dorian Johnson, a 6'6" 268-pound offensive tackle who has played a bit of running back in his high school career.
Johnson made a statement at the Pittsburgh Nike Combine, showing off great athletic skill. Penn State was the first to extend an offer to Johnson, doing so at their Junior Day even in February.
What is interesting to note is he is primarily being recruited by new running backs coach Charles London, although he is listed by 247 Sports as an offensive tackle. Johnson's lack of speed makes him a better fit at the college level for the offensive line. Either way, he is the state's eighth top prospect according to 247 Sports (see previous link).
Last September Roman Catholic wide receiver William Fuller broke a single-game Philadelphia receiving record with 276 receiving yards on his way to a two-touchdown performance in a 32-7 win.
“Will Fuller is the best receiver in this area,” Roman Catholic head coach Joe McCourt said to Montgomery News last September. “If he’s one on one, if he’s two on one, he’s open. That’s the way we look at it. He’s that good.”
Fuller is a tad light for a wide receiver, but he has time to put on a few pounds in his senior season and leading up to his first college game. Will it be at Penn State? According to 247 Sports, Fuller has warm interest in Penn State, along with Rutgers, Connecticut, Maryland and Temple.
At a recent Nike Sparq Combine in Philadelphia, Fuller ran a 4.52 40-yard dash, a day after being named wide receiver MVP at the Next Level National Five-Star Showcase in Maryland. Fuller is going to start receiving a good amount of attention. If Penn State is interested, the push needs to be made now.
West Virginia is hot on the pursuit for Hermitage, Pennsylvania running back DeShawn Coleman, of Hickory High School. The Mountaineers extended an offer in mid-February to the Associated Press First-Team All-State running back, as noted by 247 Sports.
Coleman is considered the ninth top prospect in the state by 247 Sports. Last fall Coleman rushed for 2,393 yards and 31 touchdowns, and he added three more receiving touchdowns on 10 receptions. With a strong start to the fall, Coleman should draw more significant offers.
Will Penn State make a push for Coleman? Or will the Nittany Lions focus more on David Williams for the running game? Both?
Here is one in-state recruit that appears to be heading out no matter what at this point. Patrick Kugler, of North Allegheny in Wexford, has already offered a solid verbal commitment to the Michigan Wolverines, who are making a strong push in recruiting already.
Kugler is a 6'5" 280-pound offensive tackle and the 54th ranked player overall by Rivals. Of course, you never know if a player will change his mind with so much time until National Signing Day, and Penn State will need to make a push for some decent offensive linemen.
If Kugler ever hesitates on his commitment, look for Penn State to attempt to make a push for the offensive tackle.
Penn State is considered the leading candidate to receive a verbal commitment from tight end Adam Breneman. Not only is he the top prospect out of Pennsylvania, according to the latest Rivals 250, but he is also the top tight end in the nation.
Though it is still early in the recruiting calendar for the Class of 2013, Bill O'Brien and his staff have shown great effort to keep Breneman in state. One of O'Brien's primary recruiting goals was to ensure Penn State would do what it takes to keep the state's top talent in-state and attending Penn State. Losing out on Breneman would just be another disappointing chapter in Penn State's recent in-state recruiting record.
By now we have spoken at large just how much Breneman would mean to Penn State's recruiting efforts, and what would happen if they lose out on him.
Breneman is scheduled to announce his decision Friday evening.