Surf the Penn State football message boards, and you'll find that fans are in a tizzy because the Nittany Lions only have four commitments for their 2011 recruiting class.
It's a legitimate concern. Recruiting's the life blood of a college program.
But the number they're getting hung up on shouldn't be four, it's 20. That's how many prospects to whom Penn State already gave written offers have committed elsewhere.
It's going to be a small class even if sophomore receiver Shawney Kersey's transfer opens up another scholarship. Land Ishaq Williams, Darius Jennings, Deion Barnes, Donovan Smith, Conner Crowell and a few other players of that caliber, and it fills out nicely. That's still more than reasonable.
However, there only were 40 or so guys Penn State felt secure enough to offer early, players they apparently felt strongly could help them compete in the Big Ten that they could sign. Half of them are off the board, not including highly-rated players like Savon Huggins, Damiere Byrd and Miles Shuler, who already essentially have eliminated the Lions, or perceived longshots like Doran Grant, which thin the list even further.
The Lions have responded by going out of their usual recruiting territory to offer Florida running back Tre Mason and defensive tackle Quinton Pompey and Texas linebacker Anthony Wallace, but Penn State is now in a position where it has to bat almost 1.000 or risk reaching for players late. When you do that, typically you wind up with a lot more Kinta Palmers than you do Deon Butlers.
Even a master craftsman can't expect to build a high-rise out of mud bricks and thatch. You need material to compete on a regular basis.
Be certain of this: Penn State will get recruits. Right now, it's more a question of the quality.
Penn State probably could have gotten a commitment from West Virginia running back Allan Wasonga already - "I'm not looking anywhere else, if that tells you anything,'' Wasonga recently told the Mirror. However, according to recent reports, the Lions haven't been in touch with Wasonga much since giving him the written offer he coveted. His status is now in limbo.
Crowell, the linebacker from Maryland, visited Penn State for the Kent State game. He made an official visit to Ohio State the previous week and still has to go to Stanford before choosing from among those three colleges.
Williams, a big-time defensive end prospect from Brooklyn who his coach says plays like Jason Taylor at the high school level, has more than 30 offers but seems to be looking most closely at Penn State, Notre Dame and Alabama. His closeness to his family has many believing Penn State has the inside track.