Jeremy Crabtree, the national recruiting editor of Rivals.com, was talking about Penn State’s football recruiting class on Wednesday when the subject turned to Terrelle Pryor.
Crabtree related a story from one of his scouts about Pryor’s press conference at Jeannette earlier in the day.
‘‘He told me he felt like people were there stalking Britney Spears. It was like the paparazzi were staking out the place, helicopters were flying overhead,’’ Crabtree said.
‘‘It’s just amazing what this has become.’’
Equally amazing is how the entire spectacle that is Pryor’s recruitment seems to have become so intertwined with the final act of Joe Paterno’s illustrious coaching tenure at Penn State.
Who would have thought the decision of one high school senior would play such a integral role in how the career of the second winningest coach in college football history, a legend with two national championships, wraps up? It seems inconceivable.
In point of fact, it probably is being overstated. Of course, landing the No. 1 recruit in the nation, especially given that many had Pryor signed, sealed and delivered to Big Ten rival Ohio State, would go a long way to quieting those that question Paterno’s ability to keep the Nittany Lion program at an elite level. But not signing Pryor won’t signal Penn State’s fall from perception as a top program, just as landing Pryor won’t silence the critics beyond the next loss.
What isn’t being overstated is the next few months will be crucial to how the last chapters on the book of Paterno are written. He’s in the final year of his contract and would like an extension, but there’s a lot of sentiment that Penn State at least needs to decide how his succession is going to be handled.
‘‘I do believe before spring the uncertainty has to be remedied,’’ BlueWhite Illustrated publisher Phil Grosz said. ‘‘It could have a real impact on the next recruiting class, because between now and May is when the coaches build relationships with the prospects.’’
Grosz expects the Lions to give out a full complement of 25 scholarships in 2009. Penn State’s traditional recruiting base looks fertile, but, coming off a class of just 14 recruits, the Lions can ill afford to fall very short in next year’s signing efforts.
Bringing in Pryor would give the Lions a little more room for error in that class and a positive vibe all around in addition to building a healthy dose of momentum for Penn State recruiting. How much do you think it would be worth to be able tell a recruit your school was good enough for the player everyone wanted, and now you want them? Remember the monster class that followed the year Derrick Williams and Justin King signed?
Grosz went so far as to suggest reeling in Pryor would be ‘‘a major feather in Paterno’s cap and a bargaining chip when he meets with Graham Spanier’’ to discuss his future.
That might be, but hopefully that’s a card that wouldn’t have to be played. As much as this writer enjoys following recruiting and believes it is a big part of the life blood of any successful program, something seems ‘‘out of whack’’, as Paterno might say, for any coach’s future to be so dependent on the decision of one high school senior.
SUBHED: Rodriguez’s impact
Not that Rich Rodriguez would or should care, but it doesn’t seem like he’s made many friends in Big Ten coaching circles since taking over at Michigan.
Rodriguez spirited away running back Michael Shaw from Penn State halfway through signing day, which didn’t sit very well with Nittany Lion fans. Rodriguez also snatched wide receiver Roy Roundtree from Shaw’s alma mater of Trotwood, Ohio, Madison.
While Penn State coaches said nothing publicly about losing Shaw, outgoing Purdue coach Joe Tiller took a not-so-veiled shot at Rodriguez.
‘‘If we had an early signing date, you wouldn’t have another outfit with a guy in a wizard hat selling snake oil get a guy at the last minute, but that’s what happened,’’ Tiller said.
And the ill will was not limited to coaches. At least one scout to whom I spoke had some very uncomplimentary things to say about Rodriguez’s approach, pointing out how rarely Big Ten programs actively recruit players that have committed to a fellow conference school (although other teams seem to be fair game and it has become an accepted part of recruiting almost everywhere else).
But I can’t process that right now. I am too busy trying to picture Rodriguez in some ‘‘Lord of the Rings’’ takeoff.
Cmor can be reached at 946-7440 or firstname.lastname@example.org