National Signing Day 2010 – How’d We Do?
It’s been nearly a week since college football’s National Signing day, when football recruits from coast to coast bring joy or break hearts via fax machine. Though the class of 2009 was hardly unimpressive, championships are a lot easier to win when the program acquires a large number of talented prospects in a short time. And now that the dust has settled, it’s safe to say that Penn State has done exactly that.
Top (of the Big) Ten
On the eve of National Singing day, everything pointed to an extraordinary incoming class for Penn State. Rumors of number 1-ranked safety prospect Keenan Allen choosing to play in Happy Valley gave hope for a big splash. The addition of Allen, rather than his eventual decision to play for Cal, would have guaranteed a top-10 class ranking for the Nittany Lions, but just missing the cut at No. 11 is nothing to complain about. Last week’s 20 signed players combined to be what has been called the Big Ten’s best group for 2010, and of course, came close to fulfilling the “best ever” cliché.
Among the spoils were twelve four-star prospects, two quarterbacks, and Josh Hull’s brother. Most importantly, Penn State was able to advance its recruiting profile rather than suffer from Head Coach Joe Paterno’s age, which has been long used as a detraction by rival recruiters.
Signal Caller Reinforcements
Daryll Clark was scrutinized quite a bit this past season as he established his legacy as one of Penn State’s better quarterbacks. Lost in the discussion of whether he would be remembered as a record holder who couldn’t win a big game or truly great was what we’d do once he moved on. The Nittany Lions were fortunate to keep #17 from getting knocked out of a game in 2009 (something we couldn’t say about 2008), as backup Kevin Newsome proved to be little more than a raw – if spectacular – athlete. Former backup Pat Devlin’s departure to start at Delaware not only left a void in the depth chart, but dramatically changed the state of Penn State’s signal caller lineage. Granted, Newsome’s stat line of 8-for-11 passing and two rushing touchdowns is impressive on paper, but he never received any meaningful snaps in a game.
Enter Paul Jones and Robert Bolden. The two four-star recruits are both considered blue-chip quarterbacks, making Penn State the only school this year to snag two top 10 players at the position. The addition of these players doesn’t solve the problem of inexperience at quarterback, but the combined talent of Newsome, Jones, and Bolden dramatically increases the odds of Clark having a worthy successor. While Newsome is considered the early favorite because of his limited experience, and Jones has a slight advantage by enrolling in classes a semester early, Bolden is already fostering competition:
“I want to play as a freshman,” he said. “I am coming there to play. I don’t want to redshirt. And I don’t think I am going to.”
While Bolden’s skill-set, which is closer to Kevin Newsome’s, leads some to speculate he’ll be redshirted, you’d have to think that the coaching staff will go with the most impressive player. Joe Paterno may have mentioned WRs Brett Bracket and Curtis Drake as contenders after the Capital One Bowl, but make no mistake – it’s a three-man race.
Penn State’s New Recruiting Hub
During the hullabaloo of Signing Day coverage, one location you don’t hear about often is Connecticut. But two of the Nittany Lion’s most prized recruits – RB Silas Redd and LB Khairi Fortt (whose last names provide great potential for pun-tastic banners) – hail from Stamford High School. The two top-50 players became friends while attending a football camp here in Happy Valley as eighth graders, and, despite both getting a variety of scholarship offers from other programs, ended up staying the course to play in Blue and White.
The New York Times did a fascinating piece on the pair – Redd’s proclamation at 7 years old that he wanted to play for Paterno just screams “future fan favorite” – that warrants reading. Whether their northeastern beginnings interest you or not, there’s a good chance that both will step up to fulfill key vacancies at their respective positions sooner rather than later.
For the complete list of Penn State’s 20 recruits, check out BlueWhite Illustrated.