- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
One reason to believe Manalapan (N.J.) receiver Saeed Blacknall’s recruitment is about to explode: College football’s coach of the year and the leader of 2012’s only undefeated team have both been in to see him over the last month.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was at Manalapan in December and earlier this week ESPN Coach of the Year Bill O’Brien of Penn State was along the Jersey Shore gathering intel on the 6-foot-3, 200-pound receiver.
Due to NCAA rules, O’Brien cannot talk much with Blacknall as he is only a junior, but he let him know he is squarely on Penn State’s radar.
“It was cool meeting him,” Blacknall said, “especially because his track record. He’s a real good coach.”
Blacknall was told at the beginning of the week Penn State would be in, but he only expected assistant Ron Vanderlinden. Then Blacknall’s coach told him a few days ago that O’Brien would be joining him.
“He’s a big-time coach, just like Urban Meyer,” Blacknall said, “maybe even bigger because he’s been in the league and coached in the NFL.”
Although the Blacknall does not have a Penn State offer -- he has five total -- he is already considering the Nittany Lions. He is not worried about the sanctions in State College either. Following an 8-4 season and a class that is still among the top 25 nationally, Blacknall believes Penn State is once again among the Big Ten’s top programs.
That is good news for Penn State as the Lions recruit New Jersey heavily, and if one of the state’s top prospects is high on Penn State, others may follow suit.
“Penn State is back on the rise especially with recruiting,” Blacknall said. “I feel like Penn State, even with what happened, the attitude is there that no matter what Penn State is gonna be big. They still have enough recruits and I would consider them any day like any other school.
“It’ll definitely be an option.”
Boston College coach Steve Addazio, Pittsburgh assistant Bobby Engram and Wisconsin assistant Thomas Hammock also visited Blacknall’s school recently.
Blacknall has not planned any visits for the winter or spring yet. He hopes to make it to Pitt for its junior day Feb. 2 but is unsure if he will have transportation. He hopes to visit Georgia, Georgia Tech and Ohio State in the coming months.
2dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney