The first Wednesday of February has been Signing Day for FBS level college football for many years. The first Signing Day I remember was 1986. Back then there was an article in each of the Philadelphia papers stating who had signed with PSU and Temple; nothing was mentioned about what schools had the highest ranked signing classes. There also was no TV coverage of Signing Day-something that remained true at PSU as long as the “Old Regime” was in place. Obviously things are much different now.
February 6, 2013 truly marks the start of a new era at Penn State in terms of Signing Day, which is the first day that coaches can comment about players who will be going to their respective schools. Joe Paterno would never talk about recruits who had just officially committed to Penn State and would not have a press conference on Signing Day. Bill O’Brien‘s approach is markedly different and frankly better. Today when the first class consisting of recruits only he and his staff had recruited to go to PSU he had a press conference similar to that held every week during the regular season. Coach O’Brien then appeared on the Big Ten Network, ESPNU and the CBS Sports Network to discuss his new recruits. Although much of what he said was what can best be described as generalities, certainly it is refreshing to see the face of the PSU football program actively engaged with the media.
As for the recruits themselves, the most important by far is QB Christian Hackenberg. Here again the contrast between the “Old Regine” and Coach O’Brien cannot be greater. Shockingly Hackenberg, who is originally from Pennsylvania and grew up a PSU fan, did not even have an offer from PSU prior to Coach O’Brien’s arrival in State College in January 2012. However, within 2 months of BOB taking the job Hackenberg not only had an offer from PSU but had committed to go there. Despite the heavy-handed sanctions handed down by our friends at the NCAA in July 2012 young Mr. Hackenberg never wavered in this commitment to PSU. In large part this was probably due to the open lines of communication which Coach O’Brien and his staff kept open with him and all the other recruits in the Class of 2013.
Will Hackenberg be an All-American and perhaps even a Heisman candidate before he leaves Penn State? I don’t know; nobody does. In fact, he may not even play this coming season as there are already two scholarship QBs at PSU who unlike Hackenberg will have the benefit of spring practice. However, I think it is safe to say that as long as Bill O’Brien remains at Penn State Christian Hackenberg will have an opportunity to develop as a quarterback that he never would have had under the “Old Regime”. I mean Matt McGloin went from a walk on with a lousy arm and poor judgment under Paterno to one of the 2 or 3 best QBs in the Big Ten under Coach O’Brien last season.
Given the scholarship restrictions handed down by the NCAA PSU’s Signing Class is excellent. Most services have it in the top 25 or 30 nationwide and in the upper echelon of those in the Big Ten. Only Ohio State and Michigan clearly have better classes than PSU among Big Ten schools including future members Maryland and Rutgers. Of course recruiting is now an ongoing full time process and all schools are now actively seeking out players who will be seniors and even juniors in high school this coming fall. If Signing Day 2014 is close to as successful as that in 2013 PSU will be much closer to weathering the draconian NCAA sanctions handed down last summer.Tags: Bill O'Brien, Christian Hackenberg, college football, Joe Paterno, Penn State, recruiting class