The Penn State sanctions have been in place for weeks, and the transfer of current roster players has been well publicized. However, two difficult losses to start the 2012 season may give those recruits who are questioning their 2013 commitment a reason to reconsider.
As the Nittany Lions prepare for their Week 3 contest with Navy, a review of PSU's recruiting class shows a program in need of success on the field (all-star ratings are per Scout.com) to stem the tide of de-commitment.
Brandon Bell (3-star LB) - The loss of Zach Bradshaw and Zayd Issah leaves Bell as the only linebacker commitment for the class of 2013. Bell's commitment appears strong, however, as he, Adam Breneman, Garrett Sickels, Brendon Mahon and Andrew Nelson all recently attended the Ohio-Penn State game on September 1.
Zach Bradshaw (3-star WR/LB) - After de-committing from Penn State, Bradshaw committed for Virginia's class of 2013. Bradshaw turned down offers from fellow Big Ten schools Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, and Purdue.
Adam Breneman (5-star TE) - Breneman, from Camp Hill, Pa., grew up as a Penn State fan, and his commitment is considered very solid. “I knew there would be some rough things ahead but never expected this to happen," Breneman said [per The Sporting News on SportingNews.com] regarding the severe sanctions the Penn State program and coach O'Brien will have to endure. "He’s such an awesome guy and he’s the main reason we have been on board." Breneman, who tore his ACL in June, is currently sitting out his senior season as he recovers from recent surgery.
Curtis Cothran (3-star DE) - the 6'5" prospect from Newtown, Pa. is still committed to the Nittany Lions, and has been, since he met with coach Bill O'Brien in March.
Ross Douglas (3-star DB) - Douglas de-commited from Penn State and opted for Michigan, after also receiving offers from no less than 20 other schools.
Christian Hackenberg (4-star QB) - "Right now I have a solid commitment to Penn State," Hackenberg announced in late August [as reported by Frank Fitzpatrick of The Inquirer on Philly.com]. However, he tempered his statement with words which gave Nittany Lions fans reason for concern: "But I'm sort of seeing what else plays out up there."
Zayd Issah (4-star LB) - Barely two months after pledging to Penn State, the 6'3" 210-pound prospect recanted, opening up his options for pursuit by other schools. "I want to be fair to Penn State," Issah told Blue-White Illustrated [as quoted by Andrew P. Shay of The Patriot-News on PennLive.com]. "This has been a difficult decision, but for now I just want to check out all my options again and we'll go from there."
Dorian Johnson (4-star OL) - After de-committing from the Nittany Lions, Johnson remains uncommitted, but reportedly has offers from 10 other schools, including Big Ten programs Ohio State and Nebraska.
Brendan Mahon (3-star OL) - “At this point I am committed to Penn State and you can tell everyone that I love everything about Penn State and Coach O’Brien,” Mahon announced in July to The Sporting News [as reported on SportingNews.com]. “But I am going to keep my options open just in case anything drastic happens.”
Andrew Nelson (3-star OL) - Nelson was one of five recruits who recently went to the Ohio-Penn State game on September 1. His commitment seems solid, as the Hershey, Pa. product grew up as a Nittany Lion fan. "This has been my dream since I started playing football," Nelson told Tim Tolly of PennLive.com in April. Nelson is rated as the No. 28 lineman in the nation by Scout.com.
Neiko Robinson (2-star CB) - "I knew it would be bad because I was listening to everyone talk about how bad it would be," said Robinson recently regarding the Penn State sanctions. Despite them, he remains committed to the Nittany Lions, but the better question may be whether or not PSU will remain committed to him. Robinson was recently suspended for six games after allegedly throwing a punch and being ejected from a game against Panama City Bay High School. After missing half his senior season, he will be eligible to return to the field October 19.
Garrett Sickels (4-star DE) - "The best place for me is Penn State," Sickels told The Sporting News [as reported on SportingNews.com] concerning his offers from other conferences. "This is why I committed in the first place.” At this time, it appears that the commitment from the NJ native is solid.
Jordan Smith (2-star CB) - There should be little or no concern regarding Smith, who committed to Penn State after the NCAA handed down its program-crippling sanctions. Smith reportedly also had offers from Hawaii, Kansas and Colorado according to Josh Barnett of USA Today [on USAToday.com].
Greg Webb (4-star DL) - The Timber Creek Regional High School (Erial, NJ) defensive lineman withdrew his commitment from Penn State and has declared for North Carolina. Webb reportedly received offers from 26 other programs, including Alabama, Michigan, Oklahoma and USC.
While future recruits accept that the current coaching regime is not responsible for the sanctions that are now in place against the University, any prospect who does commit to Penn State must understand that a National Championship—or even a postseason bowl game—will not be a possibility in the foreseeable future.
For Bill O'Brien and his staff, offering prospects a quality PSU education is a given, but showing his acumen as the coach of a winning program will be a necessity to ensure the future success of Penn State's recruiting.