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Friday, February 1, 2013
NittanyNation mailbag: Sanctions, maybes

By Josh Moyer

Tyler Boyd
Tyler Boyd likely would have committed to PSU if there were no sanctions.

Welcome to NittanyNation's bi-weekly mailbag! We asked you to tweet or email your questions this week, and we've selected three to answer in-depth.

William Amesbury (@WAmesbury16) writes: Where do you think the 2013 recruiting class would be without the sanctions?

Josh Moyer: Well, first off, Penn State has clearly done an incredible job in the face of the sanctions. ESPN currently ranks this class No. 25 in the nation, and it still boasts the top high school QB and TE. That being said, without the sanctions, this class -- and this is being conservative -- would move up at least 12 spots. Let's take a look at some numbers, and feel free to skip this next paragraph if you're dragging at work right now or just hate math.

Even if PSU was able to keep its past decommitments -- guys such as Dorian Johnson (No. 29 in ESPN 300) and Gregg Webb (No. 159), the recruit who decommitted just after the Freeh Report but under the specter of potential sanctions -- its class would then boast a half-dozen players ranked within the top-20 of their respective positions. Let's compare that to UCLA, which is currently ranked No. 12, because it's a good indicator of quality. (Everything else -- number of ESPN 300 recruits, four-star guys, class size -- is also pretty similar between the two.) The Bruins also have six guys ranked within the top 20 of their positions, but PSU has the best quarterback and tight end. UCLA has just one athlete, Priest Willis, who's ranked within the top five at his position. In other words, in my opinion, the advantage goes to PSU because its top recruits would be of a higher caliber.

In short, Penn State would have a class similar in quality to UCLA -- but it should get the tie-breaker. Again, this is all being conservative. Obviously, other guys would have committed and some others such as Anthony Smith might not have been offered a scholarship as a result. But let's dig a little deeper to play this "what if" game.

Tyler Boyd likely would have committed to PSU if there were no sanctions. Ditto for David Williams. Add just those two guys and the decommitments into the mix, and you suddenly have a class that might be just outside the top five. And we're not even taking into account the absence of transfers, a resulting extra two wins and a potential BCS bowl that would've further made Penn State a more attractive choice. In other words, if there were no sanctions, I think Penn State's class would have surpassed -- or, at the very least, been close to -- the likes of USC, Georgia and Florida State.

David Houtz (@david_houtz) writes: With all the walk-on QBs and the likelihood of Hackenberg redshirting, will PSU even bother looking at a QB in the next class?

Josh Moyer: Will PSU look? Yes, it's actually already looking. This staff has offered two QBs verbal scholarships and has been in contact with at least another 10. But will PSU take another QB? Probably not.

Penn State appears to still be looking at quarterbacks here as a backup plan in case of a serious injury and/or if the current quarterbacks don't work out. I doubt you'll see any written offers to QBs until at least the middle of the season, when Bill O'Brien should know whether he's in dire need of another signal-caller or not. They're not going to take someone here unless their hand is forced, and I don't expect it will be. Jack Seymour and D.J. Crook should turn out to be quality players in their own right.

Peter Boyer writes in an email: I know you said on your chat before that QB was the biggest question mark heading into next season, so what do you think the second-biggest thing is to watch?

Josh Moyer: Hmmm, that's a good question. There's definitely a few places to pick on defense, most notably the secondary without Stephon Morris and the defensive tackles without Jordan Hill. I don't know about you guys, but I'm kind of split on that -- but I'm leaning toward DT.

I think a lot of people are already projecting DaQuan Jones to be the next great DT at Penn State, but I'm not yet sold on him. He finished 13th on the team in tackles last season and had just eight solo stops. Guys who had more solo tackles included reserves Ben Kline and Anthony Zettel. Heck, Derek Day had five on special teams. Jones wasn't a dominant force last year, and his job's not going to get any easier with Hill playing on Sundays.

I think the interior of this defense will struggle early on -- even Hill struggled the first few games of 2012, adjusting to double-teams without Devon Still -- and the No. 2 spot is still up for grabs. So, not only is Jones going to be focused on, but PSU will also have to find another solid starter, which will likely be Kyle Baublitz or Austin Johnson. So, to me, there's too many question marks to pick another position right now.