Owls must beat Penn State to catch them on recruiting trail

Posted: September 21, 2012

ARMED WITH a new practice facility and a new conference, Temple coach Steve Addazio knows what must come next for his football program: a new level of attracting talent. The Owls, thrust into the Big East early this season, should now be able to utilize their improved profile to help with recruiting.

But will they be able to compete with the likes of Penn State? With Saturday's matchup in Happy Valley looming, Addazio was asked if a guy like Lions sophomore defensive end Deion Barnes, a former four-star recruit from Northeast High, was the caliber of player the Owls must target going forward.

"I think there is no question," Addazio said. "As we start to build and recruit - we have our new facility and our new conference - it's like a whole new Temple. I think we are hoping to get a few of those guys. And that will happen."

On the field, Temple has closed the gap on Penn State. Since losing by 42 in 2008, the Owls have steadily become more competitive. Last year at Lincoln Financial Field, the Owls lost on a fourth-quarter touchdown, 14-10. With Penn State hampered by NCAA sanctions and bad press, can the Owls take that progress to the recruiting trail?

Bob Lichtenfels, a national recruiting analyst for Fox Sports and Scout.com, says not necessarily.

"I honestly couldn't tell you a Temple kid that had a Penn State offer," Lichtenfels said. "I just don't see it happening, even in the time it takes for all of this to play out. If [Penn State] wins two or three games the next 3 or 4 years, then maybe. But at the end of the day, they still have the support of all those people. Penn State and Temple are very different atmospheres."

After the sanctions on the football program were levied in late July, Penn State commits went running. But the Lions still have four-star recruits in tight end Adam Breneman and quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Their commitment to Bill O'Brien has some analysts rethinking how disastrous the punishment will be.

Despite the overlap in recruiting territory, Lichtenfels said the gap between the programs is too significant to matter. In fact, he said there may be an adverse effect on the Owls' efforts. Because of Penn State's recruiting limitations, players that normally would be high on Temple's list may now have an opportunity to go to play for the Lions. And playing in front of 100,000 people still beats playing in an empty Linc, Lichtenfels says. Some players may even turn down scholarships at Temple-type schools for a chance to walk on at Penn State.

Additionally, Happy Valley and North Broad Street couldn't be more different places to go to school. Kids choose a destination based on more than the football program.

"The reason kids don't go to Temple - because they don't like a city - will still exist regardless," Lichtenfels said. "And kids that choose Temple are still going to choose Temple for the same reasons.

"Penn State has had years of success, tradition and national championships. Temple is not just going to leapfrog up to their level because of 4 or 5 years of sanctions."

So if the profile gap between the programs is as insurmountable as Lichtenfels says, then how should Temple go about chopping it down? That is simple: Just beat the Lions on Saturday.

"Here is how you climb up quicker," Lichtenfels said. "If Temple beats Penn State, that gives them a year or two of ammunition. No matter how big your stadium is or how many fans they have, when it comes down to it on the field and you can say, 'We beat them,' that is big. That would be the best recruiting boost Temple could ever have if they knock off Penn State."

Tom Lemming, a recruiting guru for CBS Sports and MaxPreps.com, agrees.

"If [Temple] wins on Saturday, it would really enhance 2013 and 2014 recruiting," Lemming said. "They would have that under their belt-something to brag about, head-to-head competition which is what people look at."

Lemming is far more bullish than Lichtenfels on Temple's ability to attract top talent, calling Addazio "relentless" and "one of the better recruiters in the country."

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