Bill O’Brien and his staff were pleased to announce a few days ago that a trio of prospects from Paramus Catholic (NJ) would be unofficially visiting the Pennsylvania State University. So? How did it go?
According to Paramus Catholic head coach Chris Partidge, who also went along on the trip, it was outstanding. Shortly after arriving, the four men met with all of the Nittany Lions coaching staff, including personal meetings with each players positional coach. Shortly thereafter, a visit to the stadium, football facilities, weight room, etc. Pretty standard by most regards for an unofficial visit.
The key though, is recognizing how much progress was made on this trip, even though it sounds as if none was made at all.
One of the unofficial visitors, cornerback Jabrill Peppers, is arguably the best player in the country, and before his visit to State College, he had no serious interest in Penn State. Now, however, it’s a different story. Peppers even tweeted after the visit that the Lions had made a big impact on his decision-making process.
Will the Lions show up on his next top five list? Maybe. Maybe not. At this point it’s not that big of a deal. The point is, they got him on campus early. This is only the second unofficial visit he’s been on (University of Maryland being the other), so from now on, he’ll be comparing every other school he visits to Penn State. That’s a pretty good thing, considering the academics, the town, the campus, the stadium, the program prestige, etc. There’s a lot to like.
The relationship he’s developing with the coaching staff is still young, but there’s no doubt a growing interest after this visit. He was told he would play early, whether it be at wide receiver, corner or safety, they just want him on the field. Usually, when a college coach on a recruiting visit promises you the world, telling you how much you’ll play right away and how important you would be to the program, you take it with a grain of salt.
After all, they’re merely salesmen at a fundamental level, and they need you to play and to play well so they get their contract extension. But when a school such as Penn State, in their current situation with scholarship numbers and depleted depth chart, tells you something along those lines, you know they mean it.
Peppers’ teammates who came along with him, offensive tackle Juwan Bushell-Beatty and quarterback Steve Shanely, also had good experiences. Neither of the two are currently offered scholarships yet (Peppers clearly has a scholarship offer), but that could change, especially with Bushell-Beatty. The big linemen already has offers from schools such as Florida and Florida State, so it’s not like the other big dogs aren’t noticing.
Considering the fact that Penn State really only has 15 scholarships to work with during this recruiting cycle, the Lions need to very carefully evaluate who they offer. They can’t waste too much time on players they can’t get. They need to bring guys on who are good athletes, good students, and stay out of trouble. Most teams have a certain number of guys in every class who don’t end up qualifying academically. That can’t happen for the Lions. They need to hit on each and every prospect they sign.
At least if they sign Peppers, it won’t just be a hit- it’ll be a home run.
Rick Stavig is a National Recruiting Columnist for RantSports.com. In addition to covering College Football, he also covers the NFL and NFL Draft. Follow him on Twitter @rickstavig or add him to your network on google.