Penn State recruiting fares well despite sanctions
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Penn State's first recruiting class since the NCAA hammered the program with sanctions includes a potential quarterback of the future and a promising pass-rushing defensive end.
So much for the gloom-and-doom scenarios about getting shunned on the recruiting trail following the steep scholarship cuts as part of the penalties for the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.
High school prospects could formally declare their college choices starting Wednesday. As expected, Penn State received commitments from coveted Virginia quarterback Christian Hackenberg and highly rated New Jersey defensive end Garrett Sickels.
About a dozen seniors total were expected to sign Wednesday, joining five prospects who have already enrolled early as freshmen.
Recruiting analysts are commending coach Bill O'Brien for being to keep the core of this recruiting class intact amid the sanctions.
"They get a 'B' for results and an 'A-plus' for effort, which translates into a real good class," said veteran CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming.
A few touted prospects had taken back verbal commitments since July, after the NCAA announced its sanctions which also included a four-year postseason ban.
O'Brien and his coaching staff have worked hard to keep its class together. The centerpieces of the class, including Hackenberg, Sickels and Pennsylvania tight end Adam Breneman, stuck with their long-standing verbal commitments. They've been vocal on social media about their keeping their pledges to Penn State.
Christian Hackenberg's father, Erick, said O'Brien has been honest with the family during the highs and lows of the last several months. O'Brien has the program back on steady ground following a better-than-expected 8-4 record in 2012 and an improved passing attack.
A pro-style offense modeled after the system O'Brien coordinated in his previous job with the New England Patriots looked good, too, to Hackenberg.
"I don't think there's a group of recruits, parents or coaches ... that's gone through more than Penn State," Erick Hackenberg said Wednesday in a phone interview. "Everything that (O'Brien) has ever said has been dead on."
Breneman is already enrolled and taking classes after graduating early from high school. He and the four other January enrollees can take part in spring practice starting next month.
Most of the 17 expected signees had sent letters-of-intent by early afternoon. No late surprise defections or additions were expected.
"The main theme of the class was keeping it together, rebounding and adding key pieces down the stretch," said Sean Fitz, editor of Lions24/7, which follows Penn State recruiting. "It was a tough job, a tough sell, but I think they did a phenomenal job."
The NCAA sanctions capped the number of recruits that Penn State can sign to 15 annually for the next four years starting with the 2013 class. Most teams can sign 25 in a year.
However, recruits who joined Penn State as early enrollees officially count against the 2012 scholarship class — meaning the 2013 class could actually include more than 15 players.