Every time Adam Breneman walks through the tunnel at Beaver Stadium, an indescribable feeling overwhelms him.
“I still get the chills every time I do it,” Breneman said. “You can’t explain it until you’re actually there.”
Although the No. 1 ranked tight end of the class of 2013 isn’t suiting up his pads to play for Penn State just yet, he will be one of close to 100 recruits — including both commits and non-commits — in attendance for Saturday’s game.
Coach Bill O’Brien said on his radio show that he expects the largest recruiting turnout of the season for the showdown against Ohio State, predicting at least 80 recruits to make the trip.
Attending the highly-anticipated game will allow potential future Nittany Lions an opportunity to watch the team first-hand against an undefeated Ohio State squad.
“Being able to see what the stadium is like on Saturday and see the Penn State fans and see the culture and the atmosphere around there,” Breneman said, “it’s pretty hard to walk away from.”
The two teams that will be on display have often found themselves targeting the same players, such as defensive tackle Jordan Hill, and Penn State’s coaching staff understands the importance of the showdown with Ohio State from a recruiting perspective.
“The fact that we’re playing well and the fact that we’re playing an undefeated football team with a lot of enthusiasm around the game,” linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden said, “I think a lot kids will say, ‘I want to be apart of that.’ “
The Buckeyes currently possess the eighth-ranked 2013 recruiting class. The Lions are ranked No. 44, according to the recruiting website Scout.com.
Brian Dohn, a regional recruiting expert for Scout, said he anticipates more of a presence from the 2014 graduating class recruits at the game than 2013, because the Lions have minimal scholarships left to dish out for next season.
Dohn said the recruiting battle between the two schools has died down for the 2013 class, but it will continue to be present in the years to come, at least to some degree.
“For the kids who are juniors and sophomores, it is a little bit of a pull,” Dohn said. “But at this point, Ohio State can dangle the carrot of postseason and playing for a national championship that Penn State cannot.”
The effect that the NCAA sanctions — which will also reduce the number of the program’s scholarships the team has to offer, beginning next season — will have on recruiting remains to be seen.
Yet, Scott Kennedy, the director of scouting at Scout.com, said this game provides Penn State an opportunity to help recruits look past the program’s limitations.
Kennedy said Saturday’s matchup is more imperative than most big conference games because of the chance for recruits to see how the sanctions haven’t affected fan support.
“‘The Penn State nation has not given up on you.’ That’s the big message that I think Penn State can send this weekend, no matter how the game turns out,” Kennedy said. “That’s secondary.”
Meanwhile, Breneman said he and Christian Hackenberg — the No. 1 ranked quarterback in his class, according to ESPN.com — along with the other commits have acted as ambassadors for the class in an effort to welcome more recruits onboard.
And one of the main ways to do this, Breneman said, is by encouraging them to come out to games where they are able to bond as a recruiting class.
“When your recruits are standing there on the sideline and you’re standing there with your fellow recruits and the guys you’re going to be playing with in the future,” Breneman said, “just being able to be on the sideline during that is something that you don’t feel watching on TV.”
Although Breneman doesn’t believe a win is necessary to woo specific recruits into the program, he said a Penn State victory certainly wouldn’t hurt.
“It would be a huge impact, a huge statement to the world that Penn State’s not going anywhere,” Breneman said. “The NCAA can do whatever they want, but Penn State’s not going to go down and we’re actually on the way up.”