- Josh Moyer, ESPN Staff Writer
Where would the Nittany Lions be without their Pennsylvania commits?
Well, they might find out with the 2014 class.
Bill O'Brien and his coaching staff are venturing farther south than ever before, and they feel no obligation to focus on the Keystone state. O'Brien has offered just one in-state prospect on the ESPN Watch List, while he's targeted five players on the list from Georgia and another four from Virginia.
This might be the fewest scholarships offered to in-state players since Joe Paterno first tried on glasses. Safety Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) is the lone ESPN Watch List player in Pennsylvania to grab an offer, while 14 other offers were delivered to out-of-state athletes.
Before O'Brien arrived on campus, between 2006 and 2011, about 85 percent of recruits hailed from Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Delaware, Connecticut, Pennsylvania or Ohio. And only one Georgian, Steven Bench, currently finds himself on Penn State's roster.
So it's no coincidence this new emphasis on Georgia recruits comes with defensive coordinator Ted Roof on staff. A former Auburn assistant, Roof boasts an impressive list of Southern connections and toured Alabama and Georgia for hidden gems in the 2013 class.
O'Brien may be in charge of recruiting, but he'll be leaning heavily on Roof. Thirteen of the 15 offers to prospects on the ESPN Watch List went to defensive players. Penn State boasts plenty of young receivers, offensive linemen and a quarterback -- but the staff is trying to retool a veteran defense.
Five defensive backs are included on the offer list, and Penn State isn't aiming for under-the-radar prospects. Fifteen of their 17 targets are on the Watch List.