Penn State was once the quiet leader for Noah Spence, No. 4 in the ESPNU 150 and the nation's No. 2 DE. But now, the Nittany Lions are being given equal consideration alongside four other schools: Maryland, Ohio State, Florida and LSU.
“Basically, it's a wait and see process with Penn State with so much up in the air,” said Greg Spence, Noah's dad. “There's so much uncertainty with the coaching staff.”
Spence would like for his son's recruiter, Larry Johnson, to be retained on the next coaching staff. He'll know if that's the case before national signing day in February. As for a completed investigation into widespread charges of child abuse, Spence, who is a probationary officer, knows that could be a long time coming.
“We expect to get hard news about the football coaching staff,” he said. “In regards to the charges, the allegations and things of that nature, sometimes those things take two or three years. That's a lot of negativity. ... We realize that and we'll take that into account.”
The scandal has been a significant setback for Spence's recruitment, but his dad knows it pales in comparison to the scope of the alleged abuse.
“It's been disappointing for thousands, not just my household. Very, very disappointing for thousands across this country," Greg Spence said. "It's very disappointing that people might have been hurt.”
Penn State's slide in the race to land the Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt star has opened the door for Ohio State, which hired Urban Meyer as its coach on Monday. The two-time national championship coach didn't waste anytime reaching out to the Spences.
“That sends a tremendous statement,” Greg Spence said of the prompt conversation with Meyer on Tuesday evening. “Noah was really excited by it. As his father, I was excited to hear from coach Urban Meyer, and honored. He expressed that at the rush end, Noah would be a strong candidate to fill their need.”
Spence described Meyer as energetic and down-to-earth but made sure to point out that the recruiting process has just begun with the Buckeyes' new coaching staff.
“We feel really good about him but it's purely on the conversational level, the feeling out process,” Spence said. “Very happy and excited to talk with Coach Meyer and for Noah to even be considered to be a prospect in his eyes, but it's really in the initial stage.”
LSU has been there much longer, using defensive coordinator John Chavis to recruit Spence personally.
“Coach John Chavis, tremendous man, tremendous history in college football,” Spence said. “We've spoken with him several times. He's come to one of Noah's games. We had a chance to speak with coach Les Miles a couple of times. We like them all.”
Spence said his son also likes how LSU plays defense: hard, fast and aggressive.
Playing for an SEC championship and likely a national title this season doesn't hurt either.
Florida, on the other hand, will not be playing for a title. The Gators finished 6-6 and 3-5 in the SEC in Will Muschamp's first season. However, that doesn't seem to be holding back the Gators.
“Coach Muschamp's energy is tremendous,” Greg Spence said. “They hit a bump in the road this year but they won't stay there long. They'll be right back to be a national contender shortly I'm sure.
“The position they have in mind for Noah is kind of a hybrid defensive end. It's meant to make a lot of plays and put pressure on the passer. Noah is really looking at that hard as well.”
Maryland's record, at 2-10 and 1-7 in the ACC, was even worse. Yet the Spences are still considering the Terrapins thanks to coach Randy Edsall, who just finished the first season of the Terps' rebuilding process.
“It's really does not worry us because it's a transition year,” Greg Spence said.
Spence said they like defensive line coach Greg Gattuso's ability to develop defensive linemen. He also said the Spence family believes Maryland's coaches build character as well as football players.
“It's not just lip service,” Greg Spence said. “We really believe he cares about the student athlete even after they finish up at the University of Maryland.”
Noah Spence hasn't taken any officials and won't until his high school season is complete. If Bishop McDevitt wins its next two games, the championship game will be on Dec. 16.
The Spences plan to fly out the next day. Where? Greg Spence said he still wasn't sure where his son would take his first official visit. They've already been to Maryland and Penn State, which would leave LSU, Florida and Ohio State vying for a visit in just three weeks, as Spence is scheduled to make his announcement at the Under Armour All-American Game on Jan. 5.
Greg Spence said his son wants what most other prospects want: a good relationship with the coaching staff, a stable coaching staff and a top-notch educational environment.
Of course the Spences also want winning, but only a certain kind.
“A commitment to winning, but trying to do it the right way,” Greg Spence said. “In this age of scandal and programs being set back with difference scandals and NCAA involvement, you want a team, a coach and a program that has really tried to win.
“But win the right way and a way that the program will sustain itself and be consistent.”