Silas Redd's transfer hurts Penn State. There's no question about that. But at the end of the day, talented as Redd may be, he is just one player. Worse teams have lost better players than Redd and still gone on to do great things that year. Probably.
But what's happening in Happy Valley in the wake of Redd's transfer is probably much more damaging, because with some of the latest news, the overall Nittany Lions talent base is starting to erode.
And that might be putting it nicely.
— Tight end Kevin Haplea, a 4-star recruit from the 2010 class, will be joining FSU, according to the Orlando Sentinel. As with every recruit that leaves Penn State before this season (and during the next offseason as well), Haplea will be eligible to play right away for the Noles. As a true junior, he's got three years to play two seasons; a redshirt probably isn't in the cards, but you never know.
— QB Rob Bolden, himself a former 4-star recruit (though that somewhat distorts his level of value to the Penn State program at this point), will be reporting to camp with LSU, according to ESPN.com. Like Haplea, Bolden is already off the official roster. This leaves the Nittany Lions with just Matt McGloin, sophomore Paul Jones, true freshman Steven Bench and walk-on senior Shane McGregor as options at QB. Only McGloin has thrown a pass at the collegiate level.
— Linebacker Khairi Fortt, another 4-star recruit in the 2010 class and a co-starter with Glenn Carson at MLB, told the Stamford Advocate that he had decided to transfer to California this year. He's still rehabbing a knee injury and might in fact redshirt (like Haplea, he's a true junior), but if healthy he was projected to be at worst Penn State's top backup at linebacker.
— More bad news? Sure, why not? DT Jamil Pollard—yet another 4-star recruit, and an incoming freshman—will be reporting to Rutgers for his first year of college ball instead, according to the News of Cumberland County. Pollard is a New Jersey native, so this puts him closer to home and still in a major(-ish) college football conference. He wasn't on the depth chart in June—again, true freshman here—but he was the type of player Penn State needed to be able to build around during its impending dark ages.
— Potentially the worst news—worse than Redd's departure, even—is the revelation that top WR Justin Brown (surprise! 4-star recruit) had contacted Oklahoma recently, per the Times-Tribune. Penn State's wide receiver corps is woefully thin as it is right now; if Brown defects, it's likely the worst WR unit in the Big Ten. Fortunately, a move to Oklahoma doesn't seem imminent for Brown, but still: He's not exactly going Full Mauti Jacket in support of PSU right now.
We bring up the recruiting rankings for one specific reason: For as well as Penn State was coached by Joe Paterno, the simple fact is that for the vast majority of the games the Nittany Lions played under Paterno, they enjoyed a pure talent advantage over their opponents. And while star rankings aren't absolute on a case-by-case basis (looking at you, Mr. Bolden), in the aggregate they're as reliable a measure of talent on a team as anything else.
So when Penn State starts absolutely bleeding this higher level of talent—the type that basically everyone else in the Big Ten outside of Ohio State and Michigan (and maybe Nebraska) doesn't have as much of—it lowers the team's talent rate back down to the level of, say, Purdue. Or Iowa. Or Michigan State. And while those teams aren't the horror shows of the conference, they also thrive primarily when they have a great deal of experience, and Penn State really isn't at that point right now.
We don't know when or with whom the transfer parade ends. It may be that nobody else leaves and this whole roster as we know it now is what Penn State's bringing to the field come September 1 when Ohio kicks off the season at Beaver Stadium.
But with every further transfer—especially of the high-level players—Penn State just gets less talented, less deep, less experienced and less likely to make noise in the Big Ten both this year and down the road. Winter is coming, Penn State.
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