Earlier this week, our friends at Black Shoe Diaries asked a question I had been contemplating myself. Is Penn State recruiting too much skill, at the expense of other areas? Now, in a normal year, 5 of your 6 commitments playing skill spots (2 running backs, 2 receivers, 1 WR/ATH) wouldn’t be cause for concern. However, as Dan at BSD pointed out, PSU would appear to have just 3 slots in this recruiting class left, with 62 scholarships accounted for next season, which is to be PSU’s first at the limit of 65. Even if a few 4th year juniors with a year left opt to graduate, or if injuries, and transfers free up another few slots, O’Brien does not exactly have unlimited slots to play with.
But this is not a question of how many players PSU will sign, O’Brien and the staff certainly has a good feel for how many they’ll have available in 2014. It’s really a question of philosophy, and roster management. Of the 17 players who signed in the 2013 class (or enrolled early), only 5 would be what I consider offensive skill players (2 QBs, 1 TE, 1 RB, 1 WR). The offense/defense split of the 2013 class was practically 50/50 (9 defense, 8 offense), with a heavy focus on the secondary.
One of my biggest complaints of Coach Paterno’s recruiting was no real plan for managing the depth chart across all positions, or at least the appearance of no such plan. When O’Brien took over, the secondary, for example, was woefully thin. That wasn’t all Paterno or the previous staff’s doing, but it’s no secret the previous staff had not recruited the defensive backfield terribly well, while committing a significant number of scholarships to the offensive line. Whether BOB brought in the talent in the secondary will be seen in the coming years, but he did get the numbers more in line. The glut of lineman could also be a small blessing moving into the heart of the “sanction years”, as PSU will have 10 linemen on scholarship, at least by my count, when camp opens this fall. That’s a relatively young group too. I use those just as an example of O’Brien and the staff needing to get some balance back into the roster.
When I look at the 6 recruits thus far in 2014, RB Mark Allen, WR Troy Apke, WR/ATH DeAndre Thompkins, ATH Nick Scott, WR Chris Godwin, and LB Troy Reeder, it seems to me that O’Brien is just looking to address a need, and that is offensive skill. Part of me even thinks there is something of a strategy at play. I think it is at least somewhat plausible that O’Brien looks at these sanctions, and believes the area he can attract the best talent, is at those skill positions, and his best shot to win is to run an offense that uses those players, almost to outscore the opposition. That’s just a theory, but if nothing else, it gives me something to file away for the next couple of years.
Follow VBR Lead Editor Matt de Bear on Twitter for the latest on Penn State