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Penn State Football: O'Brien Makes Pitch to Recruits as Team Zeroes in on Critical Juncture of Season

by on October 02, 2012 1:19 PM

Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said Tuesday that 40-50 prospects have attended each home football game this season, and every NFL franchise has been represented by scouts at practice throughout the season.

It’s Northwestern week, one game to go before the bye week, and Penn State is hitting its stride coming off three straight victories, including an emotional peak against Illinois.

The Nittany Lions (3-2, 1-0 Big Ten) are feeling good. They have a top 25 opponent coming to Beaver Stadium. A student-organized whiteout started gaining traction on Monday. The season is starting to reach a critical juncture, and O'Brien knows the impact it can have on the future of his program over the course of the next few seasons in the wake of the NCAA sanctions.

So, O’Brien gave his pitch to recruits during his weekly Tuesday press conference. The message hasn’t changed much since July. He emphasized a coaching staff littered with NFL ties or men who have churned out quality NFL talent in recent years. He emphasized Beaver Stadium, which, even if 95,000 people fill it, still is among the nation’s largest stadiums. The Lions are a staple on national TV.

"People enjoy watching this team play because of the effort with which they play," O'Brien said. "They play like their hair is on fire every play."

But the NCAA has skinned down Penn State’s scholarship allotment by 40 over the next four seasons. It’s banning it from postseason play for four seasons. Perhaps most devastating is the lax transfer rules that allow any player to transfer to any school after the season and become immediately eligible.

Penn State's next three games are 5-0 Northwestern, at Iowa for an 8 p.m. kick and then the Oct. 27 home date with Urban Meyer and Ohio State, a coach who pounced on several members of Penn State's 2012 recruiting class and a program that routinely challenges Penn State for the top talent in the Northeast. Keep the momentum moving, and there's more reason to feel good about what might happen after the season.

Still . . .

“Is it going to be hard?” O’Brien said. “Yeah, recruiting is hard."

Other notes:

  • O’Brien said he’ll continue with a running back-by-committee approach, saying Bill Belton, like each of the running backs, can probably expect a 12-15 carry load.
  • Defensive end Pete Massaro (knee, shoulder) and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong (leg cramps) are expected to play Saturday against Northwestern (noon kick, ESPN).

Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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