There's no question that the Penn State Football Program is going through some tough times. The negativity in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the NCAA sanctions handed down in July have cast a dark shadow over the program.
However, in spite of everything that has happened, Penn State should still be an attractive offer for potential recruits. Head Coach Bill O'Brien showed that he's not afraid to fight and led the Nittany Lions to an impressive 8-4 season.
Future players who are worried about hurting their chances at a professional future by going to Penn State need to look no further than guys like Jordan Hill and Gerald Hodges. Two of the stars of the 2012 team, both players will have no trouble being drafted by NFL teams come spring.
Sure, the Nittany Lions will continue to miss out on postseason play for the next three years, but does that really matter? No one in the NFL cares if you played in the Rose Bowl on draft day.
There are still plenty of reasons why top talent should still want to play football for the Nittany Lions.
Though the Nittany Lions won't see the post season in the next three years, that doesn't mean they won't receive any national exposure. Despite the controversy surrounding the 2012 team, Penn State appeared on TV in every game this past season.
10 of the 12 games were shown on either ESPN or ABC.
Future recruits won't have to worry about being seen. Playing in the Big Ten conference presents several opportunities to play quality opponents in front of a large television audience. In the two games not shown by ESPN in 2012, the Nittany Lions appeared on the Big Ten Network.
Penn State still carries a history and a tradition that stretches to fans all across the country. While most games are regional broadcasts, several games a year are shown as a national broadcast. History shows that Penn State Football has been a fixture on television and there's no reason for that trend to end.
The Nittany Lions have appeared on TV in 228 out of their last 230 games.
Head coach Bill O'Brien should be the number one reason that top recruits still want to attend Penn State. O'Brien proved his toughness and his ability as a coach during the 2012 season. The odds and the adversity facing the Nittany Lions were tremendous.
When the situation was made even more difficult in July with the NCAA sanctions and the transfers of key starters, O'Brien never sought pity. Instead, he and his coaching staff worked hard to get the team prepared.
Coming from the NFL, O'Brien had a strong pedigree. He was schooled under one of the best coaches in the game in Bill Belichick and had the privilege of coaching one of the best quarterbacks in the game in Tom Brady.
In 2012 at Penn State, O'Brien took Matt McGloin, a former walk-on who struggled in 2011, and turned him into the second-best passer in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions now run an NFL-style offense that will be able to help guys prepare to play at the next level.
O'Brien's 2012 season proved that he is a great coach who top talent should want to play for.
Sanctions or not, Beaver Stadium is still Beaver Stadium. Sure, the average crowds were less than 100,000 in 2012 but that doesn't change the fact that Happy Valley is a great place for the home team to play.
Though attendance was down for the Lions, six of the smallest crowds since the 2001 expansion came during the 2012 season, they still drew crowds of over 90,000 people for each game. That's still more than most college football programs.
Even during a loss like the 2012 Ohio State game, the crowd is still electric. The yearly "White Out" game gets fans extra hyped and makes it difficult for opposing players.
The stadium officially holds 106,572, but there are six games on record as being attended by over 110,000 fans. When filled to capacity, it's one of the loudest stadiums in the land.
Since the 2001 expansion, the Nittany Lions are 63-21 in the friendly confines of Beaver Stadium.
It's a safe bet that most top recruits entering college are not interested in waiting for playing time. Instead, they want to get on the field as quickly as possible.
Such is the case at Penn State. Player transfers and scholarship reductions will make the roster very thin for the Nittany Lions. Since head coach Bill O'Brien will not be playing with a full roster, he will be forced to give young talent some extra playing time.
In 2012, Penn State saw O'Brien not afraid to have several freshmen step in and contribute early and often at key positions.
The tight end position was dominated by two freshman tight ends, Kyle Carter and Jesse James. Defensive end Deion Barnes was so productive that he led the Nittany Lions in sacks and was named Big Ten Defensive Freshman of the year.
The lure of early playing time at a big-time program should be enough to still draw the interest of some of the best recruits in the country.