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Penn State Football: Recruiting Strategy Changes As Program Continues Rebuild

by on February 03, 2016 4:30 PM

Penn State's recruiting over the past several years has been an interesting mix of conventional tactics coupled with unconventional circumstances.

On the one hand, Penn State has faced unprecedented hurdles. In turn it has required taking on the recruiting trail with the need to fill critical holes all across the depth chart each and every year.

The Nittany Lions under Bill O'Brien stockpiled offensive talent in a way that would give the program a chance to survive. Under James Franklin there has been a push for a stout defense during years the offense was likely going to struggle.

As a result the strategy on the recruiting trail has been to simply take care of the biggest needs. While that's not exactly an earth shattering concept, it has left Penn State on the outside looking in on a few occasions. There simply isn't enough room for everyone.

So as the rebuilding continues, Penn State will slowly shift from plugging holes in a sinking ship to simply taking the best players the program can get its hands on. That's a good thing.

"Interestingly enough in some ways the further you get along the more you can just take best available because you're not trying to just fix problems that are currently there.," Director of Player Personnel Andy Frank said Wednesday.

"So the deeper you get the more you have depth and competition, the further you get the more you can almost say "hey we want this player over this player" regardless what the position is. So we're trying to fill in and balance things out right now, we're getting there, we're not there yet, we're getting there. And then once you are there you just take the best player available."

The question obviously now is how far Penn State is from being a program that can simply take what it wants rather than what it really needs. With four defensive tackles in the 2016 class instead of just a single DT in 2015 it's clear those needs will always be changing. But with eight offensive linemen over the past two seasons it is still a work in progress getting the program's feet underneath it again.

"You're never going to be perfect, every year there's always going to be a position or two that you feel like "hey we really have to sign, roughly this number in the class."' Frank added. "But I think for the most part we're getting close, we're probably a class or two away from feeling like we're in the power position when it comes to each individual position and how we feel about each position."

And without a doubt Penn State is closing in on that position of power. For three straight years the Nittany Lions have brought in Top 25 recruiting hauls. That talent is sitting on Penn State's roster developing and maturing. The Nittany Lions have been one of the nation's youngest teams, but sooner or later they'll turn the corner.

When that happens, this whole thing might start to turn with it.

"The next phase that you're talking about on the field is taking those steps [forward]," James Franklin said about collecting talent. "I think we have made progress. We've still got a lot of work to do. This spring ball is going to be a big part of that. These freshmen reporting this summer and being able to contribute in significant roles or in backups is going to help with those things as well."

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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