As I’ve said many times, I don’t follow recruiting that closely. It’s expensive with recruiting site memberships for premium content and remains borderline creepy. And not just because it invovles obsessively following muscular teenage boys with the ardor of media portrayed teenage girls and Twilight.
When there is free content to pass along I do — hence why I probably have more recruiting tidbits with basketball than football — fewer available scholarships, fewer targets,etc. And, naturally, when there is a verbal I’ll offer up the info.
But for the most part, this is not a place that does a lot of traffic in or people come for recruiting rumors and buzz.
One other area I don’t bother with very much any more. Penn State and Joe Paterno. There isn’t much to say that I haven’t said previously. I don’t see the need to waste my time on them. Pitt and PSU aren’t going to be facing each other in football or basketball anytime soon. They likely will never be in the same conference. About the only place where there is competition is in football recruiting. A proxy battle at best, but one that does fire up the message boards.
There, preamble out of the way. Now to try and get to the meat.
Pitt has had a rather good month of June with recruiting. Not some sort of Texas recruiting to fill out the class in May, but better than simply solid. Culminating in the last couple days with a highly sought, top DT tackle out of New Jersey.
Marquise Wright, though, was really only the first Pitt commit that Penn State actively pursued as well. Penn State after a stellar recruiting year in 2010 only has 2 commits to this point.
Now the elephant in the room is Joe Paterno’s health. His age is relevant only insofar as it relates to his ability to heal.
Paterno has been ill. He has missed three rather significant alumni events in Pittsburgh, Hershey and Philadelphia. His own players have said that they haven’t seen much of him.
For most of the time, Penn State has been highly fuzzy on the reasons. Downplaying them and intimating that each one was unrelated and minor issues.
It is all about him just having a bad reaction to medicine or intestinal issues. Something, but nothing serious. Don’t ask too many questions.
“Coach Paterno has had intestinal issues this summer that have forced him to limit his efforts to team activities and therefore some of his personal appearances have been cancelled,” university president Graham Spanier said Monday night in an e-mail.
“We have no reason to be concerned about coach Paterno’s ability to lead the team.”
Penn State tight end Mark Wedderburn said recently that he hadn’t seen much of Paterno since May.
“I really haven’t seen him at all lately,” Wedderburn said.
The university recently sent out a statement saying that Paterno has been dealing with an “adverse reaction” to antibiotic treatment for dental work.
Paterno’s intestinal problems have limited his ability to travel and he has been forced to rest and take medication.
As Black Shoes Diaries observed, it isn’t hard to draw a correlation to Paterno’s health issues in the spring and summer and the slow recruiting.
Joe Paterno has been ill for a while. We all know this. His unavailability has resulted in many consequences — cancelling the “Evening With Joe” events across the state, renewed speculation about his health and ability to lead the program, and so on. One drastically underreported problem is the effect his health could be having on recruiting. Not because he doesn’t leave Happy Valley to visit recruits (nothing new there), but because he’s having difficulty meeting the local demands of the job. Months ago, recruits were complaining that they were told written offers were forthcoming, but Penn State was lazy in actually following through on their promises. Now, with “Evening With Joe” events being cancelled and newspapers asking Graham Spanier for quotes on Joe’s health, those recruiters who have been trying in vain for decades to use Paterno’s age and health against him finally have some factual support for their assertions.
It’s a good read. As they point out, Penn State has been losing recruiting battles this year all over and to many different programs.
No one has any doubt that everyone uses negative recruiting. Whether passively or aggressively. If a program is competing for a kid, no one should be surprised if somewhere, someone points out shortcomings of the program or coach — real or perceived. You don’t think rivals don’t at least mention the overall weakness and instability of the Big East? At least raise the question Coach Wannstedt’s ability to win the big games? Only the most delusional fan doesn’t think that their own coaches scrupulously avoid saying anything negative about a rival program.
This brings us to the PSU Rivals.com site and their publisher Phil Grosz. Apparently in a piece he wrote, the primary source of negative recruiting is Pitt. Unfortunately, it is behind a paywall so I don’t know all of what he wrote. But, Mike Vukovcan at KDKA-TV reprinted a nice chunk of it, so I’ll excerpt some of it here.
It now appears that Penn State’s recruiting competition, particularly Pitt, has seized on that opportunity to place doubt in players’ minds like Wright, DB/WR Brandon Phelps from Demascus (Md.) who committed to Virginia, and quite possibly Rivals250 members DE Shawn Oakman from Lansdowne (Pa.) Pennwood and CB Kyshoen Jarrett from East Stroudsburg (Pa.) South.
It seems Pitt in particular has been successful in placing doubt in prospects’ minds about Paterno’s health and has convinced a number of prospective recruits that both teams are recruiting that the Nittany Lions’ program is in a downward spiral.
Now keep in mind, he is claiming that Pitt poisoned the well for a Maryland prospect so that Virginia could nab him. He is only saying “quite possibly” for the other two since they haven’t committed and if they do choose PSU then clearly it failed. But if they commit elsewhere…
Grosz makes most of his money from having PSU subscribers. If recruiting is going poorly, and nothing is really happening, subscribers go down. Subscribers also go down when fans feel the program could be slipping or suffering. While PSU football isn’t, recruiting losses fuel that fear of fans that it is
Grosz’s piece also says that recruiting is like politics. Perhaps. So let’s take the analogy a little further.
Team oriented recruiting sites then are like party organizations. The most common and effective way to galvanize the base and raise funds by parties these days: fear.
Use an individual that many in the base already have a strong and long animosity as the bogeyman. Penn State isn’t getting some of its top targets. That is only because evil Pitt is saying mean things. You must keep paying and subscribing to stay on top of things.
Grosz is also setting things up so that any further recruiting failures are not Penn State’s fault. It is all negative recruiting against Penn State. Feeding the paranoia.