The Aftermath: How Penn State’s Loss Impacts Pittsburgh-Area Recruiting
It’s no secret mere pride wasn’t the only thing on the line for Penn State this weekend against Pitt.
The WPIAL is an athletic hotbed that’s produced scores of talented Nittany Lions over the years, and the tradition of poaching exceptional talent from the Pittsburgh area has only continued with James Franklin putting in-state recruiting atop his priority list. But with Penn State’s crushing loss to the Panthers — a loss preceded by plenty of fanfare — a cloud of doubt has been casted over Penn State’s recruiting future in Pittsburgh. Does this weekend’s loss hinder Franklin’s ability to recruit in the area?
On the outside, the easy answer would be yes. From a wins and losses standpoint — in terms of Pennsylvania team rankings — Penn State sits third behind Temple and Pitt. It’s tough to pride your program’s status as the premier team in the state when you can’t beat your neighbors.
Now, from a more realistic lens, it’s tough to jump to such a conclusion when the Lions only lost by three points. Unfortunately, much of recruiting — the charming of potential recruits, more specifically — is based around semantics. “We recruit better than X team, and we beat Y team, therefore we’re the school for you.” Using that logic, it’s tough imagine a scenario where James Franklin, master of selective communication, can have similar success convincing an 18-year-old Pittburgh athlete to join a program that hasn’t turned hype into tangible success.
Now, I’m not a Pittsburgh-area recruit (read: I was not recruited out of high school), so I’m not sure exactly what a recruit is looking for in a school. If they’re sold on a program like Penn State’s, might they be able to overlook the fact it wasn’t able to finish the job in what could be perceived as the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show of in-state program showcases?
Pittsburgh traditionally produces elite talent, and this past year’s recruiting cycle was no different. Five of the top-20 players hail from the area, including Nittany Lion freshman Miles Sanders and former Penn State target Damar Hamlin, the top defensive back in the state. Penn State isn’t completely reliant on Pittsburgh recruiting; only a handful of Pittsburgh natives, sometimes less, sign with the Lions each year. Despite this, it’s still a key battleground, and it’s one Penn State might’ve lost major ground in.
Will time heal some wounds? I would think so, but given the current regime’s penchant for talking the talk in terms of recruiting, yet continuously failing to back up the hype. Perhaps Hamlin’s decision to stay home is writing on the wall. Of course, it could be an exaggerated misconception. We’ll find out by the end of this recruiting cycle, but I’m betting on seeing more Pittsburgh talent opt to stay home rather than venture to Happy Valley.
I hope I’m wrong, but time will tell. Then again, winning cures all. With an upset or two (the Lions head to Ann Arbor in two weeks), the Pitt result might be water under the bridge in the eyes of Pittsburgh’s brightest talents. Until then, Franklin has his work cut out for him.