By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) I wonder which school is going to get busted for recruiting violations while courting current Penn State players.
Oh the irony. You know it’s going to happen. This is basically college football free agency.
Admittedly, it seems uncomfortable to talk about which Penn State players will transfer where in light of everything that has led to this unprecedented situation in State College.
Asking Northwestern head football coach Pat Fitzgerald about it Monday evening felt wrong, yet completely necessary considering training camp opens in about two weeks.
Naturally, Fitzgerald wanted to answer the question just as badly I wanted to ask it.
“I think it’s a little premature to talk about other teams’ players,” he said. “We’re going to focus on our players.”
Pressed a little bit on whether or not Northwestern would be willing to accept transfers from Penn State, Fitzgerald said:
“I think it’s a little premature for me to discuss anything like that. I’m excited about the group we’ve got coming back.”
To his credit, beyond not tipping his hat in regards to recruiting, Fitzgerald wanted to keep the focus on Jerry Sandusky’s victims.
“To see the way things went down (Monday) is a bold statement by the NCAA in full support of supporting the tragic events that have happened, and to support those who have been impacted,” he said. “It’s a tragic situation and it’s a tough day (for the Penn State football program), there’s no question about it, but it pales in comparison to the poor victims who had their innocence taken away from them.”
Still, it’s seems doubtful Fitzgerald hasn’t at least looked at Penn State’s roster to see if there is anyone who can help the Wildcats. While NU might not be the football powerhouse Penn State is — err, once was — the university offers an even better education and could be a good fit for any players who are concerned about leaving behind PSU’s academic reputation.
Elsewhere, coaches from all over the country were already faxing in their lists of Penn State players they are interested in and ESPN’s Joe Schad even reported that Penn State starting running back Silas Redd is considering transferring to USC.
Yes, the Nittany Lions feeding frenzy, as CBSSports.com’s Bruce Feldman put it, has begun.
Usually, I don’t pay much attention to recruiting. I cover college football and the players that are currently in college. National Signing Day is pretty much my limit. But for the first time, we are basically going to see an entire group of current college players be recruited and go wherever they want without penalty or restriction.
The only rule? The player must notify Penn State it is going to talk to another school and schools must notify Penn State that it is going to talk to that player.
So which players are going to be sought after? Well, a lot of them. Here’s a look at some of the bigger names:
LB Gerald Hodges (Sr.) – The one-and-done players will receive less attention from other schools, but Hodges is an exception. Russell Wilson proved last year that transfers can have a huge impact in just one season and Hodges has that potential on the defensive side of the football. He’s a preseason first-team All-Big Ten player and All-American candidate in my book.
RB Silas Redd (Jr.) – The electric running back ran for 1241 yards last season (5.1 ypc) on an anemic offense that couldn’t throw the ball. He only had seven touchdowns to show for it, but put him on a team like USC with a quarterback like Matt Barkley and he could be a star. Two years of eligibility is a bonus.
LB Glenn Carson (Jr.) – Carson had 74 tackles as a sophomore and can help for two years. He’ll get a ton of looks.
WR Eugene Lewis (Fr.) – The incoming 4-star wide receiver was Bill O’Brien’s highest rated recruit in his first class. Considering he signed after all this went down though, will he want to leave?
WR Justin Brown (Sr.) – Brown was overshadowed by Derek Moye last year, but he caught 35 passes for 517 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 14.8 yards per catch. Could help a contending team short on receivers.
RT Donovan Smith (rFr.) – The former 4-star recruit has a ton of potential and four years of eligibility remaining.
LB Mike Hull (So.) – In his third year at Penn State, the former 5-star recruit was the No. 1 overall LB 2010. With three years of eligibility remaining, some team will want to scoop him from Linebacker U.
OG/C Miles Dieffenbach (So.) – The former four-star recruit was the No. 2 overall center out of high school and still has three years of eligibility remaining.
OG Angelo Mangiro (rFr.) – Scout.com had him rated the No. 3 overall OG in 2011 class. Four years of eligibility remaining.
QB Paul Jones (So.) – The verdict is still out on Jones, who was a 5-star recruit and the No. 3 overall QB in 2010 class. He could beat out Matt McGloin for the starting job this season if he stays at Penn State. Three years of eligibility will be attractive to other schools.
K/P Anthony Fera (Jr.) – Laugh at recruiting a kicker, but Fera can kick and punt at a high rate. Any contender needing an experienced kicker should send a fax over to Penn State immediately.
DT Jordan Hill (Sr.) – Some teams might not be interested because he’s a senior, but Hill is one of the better defensive tackles in the Big Ten.
LB Michael Mauti (Sr.) – The talented linebacker has been hampered by injuries but is great when healthy. Will a team risk a scholarship for just one year though?
DE Sean Stanley (Sr.) – Penn State’s best returning defensive end had 4.5 sacks last year.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Penn State’s roster is full of players with potential. Joe Paterno’s 2010 recruiting class had three 5-star recruits and 12 4-star recruits alone, according to Scout.com. This is a start though.
Of course, if all of these players were to leave, Penn State would be in a ton of trouble for 2012.
And that brings up another issue. With Penn State facing scholarship issues through 2018, will they be able to stay competitive at all in the Big Ten? And does that create problems with the competitive balance within the Big Ten divisions?
“Not necessarily,” Fitzgerald, whose Northwestern team is in the opposite division as PSU, said. “Penn State has a tremendous ball club with a lot of good football players. I would assume that like most young men, they are going to want to band together as brothers and continue to be teammates with each other. That’s what I would assume as someone who has been in a locker room before as a football player.”
That’s if they stay. Which, given the culture at Penn State, they might. Especially because the NCAA is allowing them to transfer at anytime — not just before the 2012 season starts.
Let the madness begin.
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.