Although some members of the next recruiting class said Monday they remain committed to Penn State, the Nittany Lions over the weekend lost Greg Webb, a four-star defensive tackle from Sicklerville, N.J., to North Carolina. Then, just minutes after Monday's announcement of the NCAA's decision, four-star cornerback Ross Douglas, from Ohio, withdrew his commitment to the Nittany Lions.
Since taking the reins at Penn State in January, Bill O'Brien and his staff had built an impressive recruiting class of players who seemed committed to restoring pride in the tainted program. Given the severity of the NCAA's punishment, the chances of that class remaining intact seem slim.
"I think they're all going to look around," said Mike Farrell, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com whose website a week ago had the Penn State class of 2013 ranked near the top 15 in the nation.
"It would really take a special group of kids to band together and stay," he added. "The 4-year bowl ban is what really kills this — the fact that heading into their senior year in high school, these kids know they'll never play in a bowl game [until their senior year in college]. That destroys the possibility to keep this class together."
In recent weeks, Farrell expressed hope that Penn State could retain this tight-knit group, but after Monday he is no longer confident. He says that tight end Adam Breneman and quarterback Christian Hackenberg, both four-star recruits, are the keystones. On Monday, Breneman expressed his desire to stick with Penn State.
"They're the two most important," Farrell said. "If they stay, I think at least part of the rest of the class will stay. It will help with the other kids because I think they've emerged as the leaders of the class. But at this point, I can't see the whole class staying together."
Some analysts have opined that the levied sanctions are worse than the death penalty. While Farrell disagrees with that, he does think there will be a negative impact on future recruiting. Historically, Penn State has lured players to Happy Valley with its facilities, fan support and success.
"I think they're going to lose a lot of that," Farrell said, adding that it may take up to 10 years for the program to recover. "They're going to lose fan support once they start losing. I think they're going to lose facility upgrades with the money they're losing and losing the bowl games is the lynchpin in this whole thing."
Not everyone is as pessimistic when it comes to the program's recovery time. Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst from CBS and MaxPreps.com, agrees that Penn State will lose most of their 2013 blue-chip recruits. But given some tweaks to its recruiting strategy, he thinks Penn State can come back strong.
"They still have a lot to sell," Lemming said. "They have great tradition, they're one of the powerhouses in the country, they have incredible facilities and they send a lot of guys to the NFL.
“It is up to O'Brien to stem the tide. I have been a glass is half-full guy about the football program. I think it will take them 5 years to get back. If they do things smart and evaluate well, they will be OK."
Lemming mentioned programs like Wisconsin and Iowa as potential short-term recruiting models for Penn State. Both have built up impressive preferred walk-on programs and put more stock in evaluation than quantity on the recruiting trail.
"Every school recruits six, seven or eight guys a year that wind up being not as good as they thought," Lemming said. "So Penn State has to be dead on with the guys they do recruit. They have to outwork other schools."
Lemming projects that in 2 to 3 years, once the bowl ban has nearly run its course, O'Brien will once again be able to attract blue-chip recruits.
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