Bill O’Brien has shown time and time again that he has no problem recruiting, displayed by the litter of talent he’s already brought in.
But the struggles were always in numbers.
With a limited number of scholarships, Penn State could only sign around 15 scholarships for the 2014 recruiting class, a solid 10 less than every other Division I program.
However, the NCAA announced Tuesday it would gradually reinstate Penn State’s scholarships early because of progress the university has made. Prior to the change, the full 85 scholarships were supposed to be restored by 2018-19. Now, they’ll be back to this total amount by 2016-17, and back to the 25 scholarships per year by 2015-16.
The governing body also said it would allow Penn State five more scholarships for the 2014 recruiting class. Struggles in numbers are ending.
O’Brien said Tuesday that having 10 less scholarships per year to dole out often allowed the coaching staff to take only one athlete from each position. That makes it difficult -— especially if the athlete doesn’t live up to expectations.
Ryan Snyder, a recruiting analyst for Blue White Illustrated, said Penn State could sign up to 23 athletes now for the 2014 recruiting class, but he thinks the staff will save some for the 2015 class and sign around 20 total. The 2014 class now stands at 12 verbal commitments.
As far as where those additional scholarships go, Snyder said the staff is targeting linemen on both sides of the ball and may take one or two linebackers to boost the depleted position.
While Penn State now has the ability to hand out additional offers, the increase in scholarships can draw in recruits to the school, maybe even more than a restoration of bowl opportunities would.
“These guys that are coming in now, they’re coming in for the right reasons,” Snyder said. “For these guys, I don’t think bowls are as a big of a factor as many would think, but every recruit is different.”
For many of these high school athletes, knowing the school has better recruiting success and more scholarships is important in terms of going against the best guys possible in practice settings.
Snyder used defensive tackle DaQuan Jones as an example. Yes, Jones can go up against walk-on’s in practice, but there’s going to be a considerable size and skill difference.
With more scholarships, that divide could narrow.
On the heels of Tuesday’s announcement, Penn State’s coaching staff is hitting the recruiting trail this week. This bye week and the next one will be vital to finding the right athletes to be the next Nittany Lions.
And with strength in numbers, O’Brien’s got a larger arsenal of ways to sell Penn State to the individual.
“We always felt that, from the day we walked in here, that once we were able to get a young man and his parents here on campus,” O’Brien said, “that the place sold itself.”
Anna Orso can be reached at email@example.com or (814) 865-1828. Follow her on Twitter at @anna_orso.