All things considered, there was some positive momentum in Penn State’s corner just one week ago. A few days after the NCAA levied unprecedented sanctions against the program, several of Penn State’s top 2013 commitments reaffirmed their pledges to the Nittany Lions.
There was one caveat in it all, though: Signing day is six months away. The recommitments are still only verbal at this point, and recruits’ emotions change wildly from day to day, let alone six months down the road, especially in a situation such as this one.
Bill O’Brien and the Lions caught a glimpse of that Sunday when three-star in-state wide receiver Will Fuller (Philadelphia/Roman Catholic) decommitted from the Lions in favor of Notre Dame.
“I just know I have a better opportunity at Notre Dame,” he told ESPN's Dave Hooker following his switch.
Just eight days earlier on a visit to Penn State, however, Fuller wrote to me in a text he is “100 percent going [to Penn State]” and also took to Twitter to say he is “100% committed to the greatest college.”
It’s impossible to fault Fuller for his flip-flop in a span of a little more than a week. It’s more a realization that Penn State faces an Everest-like climb to hold on to recruits until signing day. Official visits have not even started yet, and you can bet every coach will be in the Penn State commitments’ ears to at least take a visit on the university’s dime. And once a recruit is on campus, anything can happen.
As it stands, the Lions' class is a strong one, too. It sits at No. 19 after being as high as No. 14 before the sanctions. The class boasts nation's top quarterback (Christian Hackenberg), top "Y" tight end (Adam Breneman) and No. 2 offensive tackle (Dorian Johnson). While all three remain committed, college coaches from every top program will be calling to gauge their interest. And how many times will they be able to say no to the Nick Sabans or Urban Meyers or Gene Chiziks or Brian Kellys?
And that could leasd to the biggest issue facing Penn State’s recruiting for the remainder of the 2013 class and beyond: getting uncommitted prospects to verbal to the Lions instead of simply solidifying a previous commitment. With a class that now stands at 11, O’Brien will have a tough job filling the final few spots with the kind of caliber prospect the Lions are used to getting, and he cannot afford to lose any of the current pledges.
It will be even harder in 2014 and beyond.