- Josh Moyer, ESPN Staff Writer
Good teams need good recruiting, it's as simple — and as hard — as that.
NittanyNation recently looked forward at the Class of 2012, so it decided to glance back at the previous three recruiting classes to see where they stacked up.
Here's a breakdown of those classes based on commits, starters, gems and busts:
Class of 2009
Number of Commits: 26
ESPN 150: 1
ESPN 300: 0
Players Still On Team/Remaining Starters: 19/10
Although the coaching staff focused on offense with this class by signing 17 offensive prospects, defense has become the bright spot. More than half of this year's defensive starters came from this class and all but one (Mike Wallace) of those prospects contributed heavily to the Nittany Lions at some point. The offense recruiting here was a three-pitch strikeout, but the defense was a walk-off home run.
Hidden Gems: DT Jordan Hill, OG John Urschel and TE Garry Gilliam. Neither Urschel nor Gilliam was ranked by ESPN, but both are penciled in as starters this season and should be solid contributors. Hill was a low-end three-star player who led the defensive line last season with 59 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He'll be a force again this year.
Biggest Bust: OL Eric Shrive. He was Penn State's lone ESPN 150 prospect, and big things were expected out of the No. 74 overall prospect in the nation. ESPN scouts believed he could become a dominant blocker, but he instead has been relegated to a backup role behind Urschel.
Class of 2010
Number of Commits: 20
ESPN 150: 6
ESPN 300: 0
Players Still On Team/Remaining Starters: 9/3
With nine four-star recruits, this class was supposed to be one of the best that Penn State had ever assembled. Instead, it's turned out to be one of the most disappointing. The biggest talents in this class -- Khairi Fortt, Silas Redd -- have transferred. More than half of the class is gone, through just about every way imaginable: Seven overall transfers, two other departures from the team, one serious injury and a prep school route that didn't pan out. Fans and analysts will be discussing this class for years to come but for all of the wrong reasons.
Hidden Gem: DT DaQuan Jones. ESPN ranked him near the bottom of Penn State's signees, but he's one of only three starters this season to come out of this class. He played in every game last season as a reserve and should be a starter the next two seasons.
Biggest Busts: TE Dakota Royer and QB Robert Bolden. Royer was ranked as the No. 70 prospect in the nation, and scouts said he "should be a good and productive college player." Instead, he never saw time on the field and left the team recently after a spring that saw him moved from defense to third- or fourth-string tight end. Bolden had Penn State fans excited his freshman season but seemed to get worse the longer he stayed in Happy Valley. Bolden was pegged as a quarterback who could lift the Nittany Lions to the next level but instead acted as a distraction and would have been a backup to a former walk-on this season had he not transferred.
Class of 2011
Number of Commits: 16
ESPN 150: 2
ESPN 300: 0
Players Still On Team/Remaining Starters: 13/6
What this class lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. Half of the remaining class will likely be three-year starters — and that's not even including talented second-year players such as Deion Barnes, Ben Kline, Anthony Zettel and Angelo Mangiro. Because of sanctions and defections from the Class of 2010, this class will be pushed into service sooner than usual, but it has the talent to do just fine.
Hidden Gems: WR Allen Robinson and CB/S Adrian Amos. Robinson raised some eyebrows when he was offered a scholarship, but he has worked hard and could be one of Matt McGloin's top receiving targets this year. Amos played in every game as a true freshman and should already be a solid starter for Penn State.
Biggest Busts: DE Jordan Kerner. OK, it's difficult to label a redshirt freshman a bust. But he's the closest thing to a bust this solid class has. ESPN rated him slightly ahead of Shawn Oakman -- who could also be rated a bust -- and he has a long way to go before finding playing time on a young and talented defensive line.