Zach Bradshaw was one of the most intriguing pieces of Penn State's recruiting puzzle in the 2013 class. He wasn't anywhere near as highly rated as TE Adam Breneman or QB Christian Hackenberg, of course; those guys are 5-star players and Bradshaw's a 3-star guy. But in terms of overall skill set, Bradshaw brings a lot to the table. Rivals.com lists Bradshaw as a wide receiver, but Penn State recruited him as a linebacker.
At any rate, between the headline and the past tense in the first paragraph, it's already scorchingly obvious what happened: Bradshaw has reconsidered his commitment, and that is bad news for Penn State. Per the Sporting News:
Bradshaw is a 6-3, 205 pounds and from Damascus (Md.). He committed to the Nittany Lions in late June. This week he became the third player to decommit since the NCAA handed out severe sanctions—and the fourth since the Freeh Report was released.
Northwestern, South Carolina and Virginia are schools he’s most interested in now, according to Rivals.com.
Penn State also lost receiver Will Fuller, who switched to Notre Dame, on Monday, while defensive back Ross Douglas (now a Michigan commit) left shortly after the NCAA penalties were announced and defensive tackle Greg Webb switched to North Carolina after the Freeh Report was released.
So that's four recruits gone from the class—and two in the last two days.
Penn State's going to be able to fill its recruiting class by February. No matter how rough the NCAA makes things on the Nittany Lions, finding 15 guys who want to play at Happy Valley no matter what won't be overly difficult for PSU.
The problem is that Penn State has to replace some really talented prospects to get back to its mandated limit of 15 recruits, and if whoever takes Bradshaw's offer is a lesser prospect in the coaches' eyes, the team suffers for it.
In particular, Bradshaw's not too different from Alex Anzalone, in that he's got a big frame but plays at a lighter weight than one would expect from a linebacker—and he's also got speed to burn. He looks like a potential star at outside linebacker, and forget the 3-star ranking: Bradshaw had a lot of offers on his table, per Scout.com.
We're still six months away from signing day, so who knows? Maybe Penn State has a good year and starts to win back some of its decommits—or so enamors some top prospects that the team doesn't even miss guys like Bradshaw.
What's more likely, though, is Penn State is forced to take players lower on its list than Bradshaw (or Webb, or Douglas, or Fuller), and the slow degradation of quality on the Penn State roster continues apace.
And with that on the horizon, yes, it's time to panic.