If Penn State feels the need to rebound from what most rated as an average recruiting class in 2011, the chance will be there to do it in 2012.
By all accounts, the Nittany Lions' recruiting base is absolutely loaded with terrific juniors. The coaching staff has wasted no time getting started pursuing them, either.
"There are already 18 players they've offered verbally,'' said Phil Grosz, whose been following Penn State recruiting for around 30 years as the publisher of BlueWhite Illustrated and G&W Prep Report. "I never can remember that.''
With more than 20 scholarships estimated to be available, Penn State could bring in a class rivaling its top-five haul in 2006, or, at least, the top-10 showings it had in 2009 and 2010. Of The Sporting News rmagazine list of the top 150 juniors in the country, 18 were from areas that Penn State traditionally recruited well.
"People ask, 'Will it be much better next year?' It really will be,'' FightOnState.com's Cory James said. "With three weeks to go before signing day, they were aggressively recruiting for next year.''
Penn State's positions of biggest emphasis look like they'll be the secondary, running back, defensive tackle and linebacker. Depending on how the situations play out with Rob Bolden and Kevin Newsome, the Lions could bring in multiple quarterbacks, as well.
Three verbal offers are already out there for wide receivers, too - this is the first year schools won't be allowed to send out written offers until the fall.
With four defensive ends among this year's signings, it doesn't seem like that position will be at issue. However, there's a DE in Penn State's backyard who is so good, he's impossible to pass up: Noah Spence.
Spence could be the best defensive end in the country and might contend for top prospect overall.
"They were definitely in on him early,'' Lions247.com's Sean Fitz said. "Larry Johnson has made him a high priority. He's been on campus a couple of times already.''
As for defensive tackles, expect Penn State to sign at least three. Washington's Eddie Goldman might be the top-rated tackle in the country, but, although his coach is Lion cornerback Stephon Morris' uncle, he might be looking to play in the south.
No worries, because there's still a lot out there to help the Lions.
"They picked a great year to need defensive tackles,'' Fitz said. "There are some legit studs.''
Among them are Rochester's Jarron Jones, who Grosz said is like a young Jared Odrick. Speaking of which, Odrick's younger half-brother, Julian Pinnix-Odrick from New Jersey, is another DT in the Lions' sights, as are emerging Hershey sleeper Harold Brantley and Tommy Schutt, a blue-chipper from Illinois who grew up loving Penn State.
Massachusetts' Armani Reeves is the Lions' chief early target at cornerback, and he could be a package deal with high school teammate Camren Williams, a linebacker Penn State has offered already. At safety, New York City's Wayne Morgan and McDowell's Greg Garmon have offers.
Garmon also is a possibility at running back, where most think Penn State will try to sign two players. The biggest name there is that of Rushel Shell, the record-shattering tailback from Tony Dorsett and Paul Posluszny's alma mater of Hopewell. Opinions are great divided about the Lions' chances with him, but he is said to have a very good relationship with Tom Bradley.
The Lions' only offer at quarterback so far is to Kentucky's Zeke Pike, but they are rumored to be very high on Maryland's Ian Fisher and Allentown Central Catholic's Brendan Nosovitch, the Pennsylvania Football News 2010 Mr. Football.
"He reminds me of Northwestern's Dan Persa,'' Fitz said of Nosovitch.
Two in-state prospects head the list on the offensive line, Pennsbury's J.J. Denman and Fox Chapel's Adam Bisnowaty, who is now being coached by former Lion Eric Ravotti.
Landing a couple bigger names early could be key, for a couple of reasons.
"It kids start hesitating, questions will arise about Joe Paterno and the future of the program,'' Grosz said. "Jarron Jones loved his unofficial visit. Getting guys like that early could really start momentum.''
If that happens, this might be a class for the ages.
"If they prove the program is stable,'' Fitz said, "it could be a very good year.''