Despite sanctions, Penn State fares well in recruiting haul

Despite sanctions, Penn State fares well in recruiting haul
February 6, 2013, 8:45 pm
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Penn State Recruits

Richy Anderson, RB (5-11, 171)

Brandon Bell, LB (6-1, 222)

Adam Breneman, TE (6-4, 230)

Curtis Cothran, DE (6-5, 235)

Parker Cothran, DT (6-5, 265)

Tyler Ferguson, QB (6-3, 199)

Kasey Gaines, DB (5-10, 160)

Christian Hackenberg, QB (6-3, 215)

DaeSean Hamilton, WR (6-1, 182)

Tanner Hartman, G (6-5, 255)

Zayd Issah, LB (6-3, 215)

Brendan Mahon, G (6-4, 315)

Andrew Nelson, OT (6-5, 295)

Neiko Robinson, DB (5-11, 170)

Garrett Sickels, DE (6-4, 238)

Anthony Smith, DB (6-0, 184)

Jordan Smith, DB (5-11, 178)

*Courtesy: Penn State's official site

While NCAA sanctions had an undeniable impact on Penn State’s recruiting haul, Nittany Lions coach Bill O’Brien told reporters National Signing Day was “a great day” for his team.

As expected, 12 players signed letters of intent Wednesday, headed by five-star quarterback Christian Hackenberg (see story) and four-star defensive end Garrett Sickels, from New Jersey’s Red Bank Regional High School.

Five other players had enrolled at Penn State last month and are taking part in winter conditioning: quarterback Tyler Ferguson, running back Richy Anderson, tight end Adam Breneman and defensive backs Anthony Smith and Jordan Smith.

The class is ranked No. 24 in the nation by ESPN.com, No. 26 by 247sports, No. 43 by Rivals.com and No. 44 by Scout.com.

Breneman is another five-star recruit. He suffered a knee injury in the summer of 2012 and missed his senior season at Cedar Cliff High School. But like the other early arrivals, he will be able to take part in spring practice with the upperclassmen.

The class also includes Brandon Bell, a linebacker from Oakrest High in South Jersey, and defensive end Curtis Cothran, from Council Rock North High.

Hackenberg threw for 2,144 yards and 24 touchdowns last fall at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy. Breneman, who befriended Hackenberg during the recruiting process, had 72 receptions his junior year. Sickels recorded nine sacks his senior year at Red Bank, and 25 in his career.

“Time will tell about how good they end up being,” O’Brien told reporters, when asked about the class during a news conference Wednesday afternoon. “You never really know until they actually start playing for you. But, we're excited about this class.”

The NCAA sanctions were handed down last summer, in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual-abuse scandal. They included severe scholarship cuts over a four-year period, as well as a postseason ban and $60 million fine.

“Certainly we lost some kids because of the sanctions; there's no question about it,” O’Brien told reporters. “I'm not going to sit up here and tell you that the sanctions didn't play a factor in some of the guys that we set out to recruit. But, at the end of the day, all I'm concerned about is the guys that are here.”

He also acknowledged that the sanctions gave him and his staff little margin for error.

“The schools that can sign 25 kids, they can afford to miss on four or five (of them),” he said. “We don't have the luxury. Maybe we go that extra mile and check with an extra teacher in the school or do something like that, just to make sure this kid is exactly what we're looking for.”

The class includes nine offensive players and eight defensive players – four of them defensive backs, which was a particular need for the Lions. The fact that there are two quarterbacks is also significant. Hackenberg and Ferguson are expected to compete with Steven Bench, who will be a sophomore in the fall, for a position ably manned last fall by Matt McGloin.

McGloin threw for 3,271 yards and 24 touchdowns, both of which topped the Big Ten, in leading the Lions to an 8-4 finish last fall.

The class also includes three defensive linemen, three offensive linemen, two linebackers, two quarterbacks, one running back, one tight end and one wide receiver.

One final note: Anderson is the son of former Penn State running back Richie Anderson, who later enjoyed a long NFL career, primarily with the Jets.