PSU, Paterno finishing recruiting season in style
In a span of two weeks, Penn State’s recruiting prospects went from bleak to blockbuster.
The Nittany Lions rounded up 22 recruits Wednesday, the first day high school players were allowed to sign binding letters of intent. Most of the top prospects in that group made up their minds after visiting Happy Valley the weekends of Jan. 11-13 and 18-20.
“That probably was the best two-week period that (Penn State coach) Joe Paterno has ever had,” said analyst Phil Grosz of B&W Recruiting. “They really ended with a rush.”
Grosz ranks Penn State’s class as the 12th-best in the nation and third-best in the Big Ten Conference behind Ohio State and Michigan.
|Jason Alford, DT, 6-4, 270, Orange (N.J.) HS Chris Auletta, OL, 6-6, 320, St. Anthony’s HS, Massapequa, N.Y. Brian Borgoyn, OL, 6-5, 295, Woodland Hills HS, Pittsburgh Levi Brown, DL, 6-5, 300, Granby HS, Norfolk, Va. Mark Farris, OL, 6-6, 295, North Hills HS, Pittsburgh Vince Gliatta, QB/DB, 6-1, 195, Central Catholic HS, Canton, Ohio Tamba Hali, DE, 6-4, 255, Teaneck (N.J.) HS Patrick Hall, LB, 6-3, 242, Sequoyah HS, Canton, Ga. Josh Hannum, WR, 6-1, 170, Strath Haven HS, Wallingford, Pa. Maurice Humphrey, DB, 6-1, 182, Berlin (Conn.) HS Donnie Johnson, RB, 6-0, 195, North College Hill HS, Cincinnati Edward Johnson, LB/DE, 6-3, 245, Crockett Tech HS, Detroit Jim Kanuch, ath., 6-2, 190, Westmont-Hilltop HS, Johnstown, Pa. Jeremy Kapinos, P, 6-1, 215, West HS, Springfield, Va. Lee Lispi, OL, 6-6, 292, Pittston (Pa.) Area HS Calvin Lowry, DB/WR, 6-1, 180, Douglas Byrd HS, Fayetteville, N.C. Robert Price, DL, 6-2, 290, Shaker Heights (Ohio) HS Steve Roach, OL, 6-3, 304, Martinsburg (W.Va.) HS Tim Shaw, RB/LB, 6-2, 220, Clarenseville HS, Livonia, Mich. Brandon Snow, FB, 6-2, 225, Newark (Del.) HS Chris Wilson, RB/LB, 6-1, 235, Catonsville (Md.) HS J.R. Zwierzynski, LB/RB, 6-3, 230, Joliet (Ill.) Catholic Academy|
At the end of December, Penn State had lined up fewer than a dozen commitments. However, Paterno’s mid-January blitz resulted in a group that includes standouts such as linemen Mark Farris of North Hills and Brian Borgoyn of Woodland Hills, defensive linemen Jason Alford, Tamba Hali and Levi Brown, linebackers Brandon Snow and J.R. Zwiersynski, and wideout Josh Hannum.
“We knew things would fall the right way for us,” assistant coach Jay Paterno said, smiling.
Penn State’s sluggish start was due in part to the extended regular season after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The game against Virginia was moved back to Dec. 1, which normally is a heavy recruiting weekend for Penn State coaches.
“We only had nine or 10 kids visit (campus) in December,” Jay Paterno said. “We lost a weekend. But once we got started with the visits again, we were in good shape.
“A lot of the kids we got in January probably would have committed in December, had they been able to make official visits.”
Penn State also went away from lining up early verbal commitments this year, which led to the rush of latecomers. Grosz said that was because most of this class (17 of 22 players) comes from outside of Pennsylvania.
“Generally, out-of-state players don’t have such close ties to a school, so they’re not as eager to give a commitment right away,” he said.
“One of the things we try to do is take care of the home base first, because this is where our bread and butter is,” Penn State assistant coach Tom Bradley said. “When we go outside of our local area, we try to make absolutely sure that player really is going to be a difference maker.”
Hali, the Gatorade player of the year in New Jersey, is rated the the top defensive end in the nation by SuperPrep. He spurned Miami after Joe Paterno stopped by Teaneck High and hustled with Hali during basketball practice.
Zwiersynski (Joliet Catholic Academy) could be the Lions’ best prospect ever from Illinois.
Tom Lemming of ESPN rated Snow (Newark, Del.) as the nation’s sixth-best linebacker. Hannum, a PIAA sprint champ at Strath Haven High, reneged on a verbal committment to Notre Dame and went with Penn State.
Alford (Orange, N.J.), who goes 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, kicked off the Nittany Lions’ surge of commitments last month. He sifted through 28 major-college offers before making a decision.
The prize of the class is Farris, a 6-6, 295-pound all-American lineman with pro potential. After turning down Pitt and Miami, Bradley was the first person Farris called with the news.
“(Bradley) was pretty excited,” Farris said. “I got a sense that the pressure was off for him.”
Borgoyn, ranked No. 12 among offensive linemen by Rivals, is the first Woodland Hills player to commit to Penn State.