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Why is Penn State off to a fast start in recruiting?

Something very surprising has happened over the past week. Penn State secured their first two verbal commitments for 2013 with four star QB Christian Hackenberg out of Virginia, and high three-star defensive back Ross Douglas from Ohio. Hackenberg was a UVA legacy, although his family was originally from Pennsylvania. Douglas had some good upper-mid level offers, although nothing yet from Ohio State (as it is very early in the recruiting process still, so who's to say how that would have gone.) Hackenberg, like many a Notre Dame recruit during the Charlie Weis era, publicly marveled at PSU coach Bill O'Brien's offense with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

Several days back, Penn State was also rumored to be close to a commitment from Philadelphia-area Mike McGlinchey, who was once seen as a BC lean. They are also believed to lead for Pennyslvania tight end Adam Breneman. Word came on Sunday that New Jersey defensive end Garrett Sickels had issued a verbal commitment to the Nittany Lions. In a purely descriptive sense, Penn State lured a big fish quarterback recruit, who has instantaneously turned into an early pied piper for the rest of their recruiting class. You can call it the Tom Savage theory of recruiting, which makes the success of Rutgers in that respect (without a consensus blue chipsignal caller) in the tail end of the Greg Schiano era even that more remarkable.

All of this would make sense on the surface if this were say, March of 2011, or there was an alternate history where the past six months or so had not happened. They did though, and that is why it's so hard to comprehend how Penn State could actually compete for legitimate high-level DI recruits, instead of having Urban Meyer poach their class one by one, and have to correspondingly fill in the gaps with UConn targets. This isn't just about not caring for Penn State. Pre-Sandusky, one could dislike PSU while conceding that others may feel differently. It was not for me, but it could hold appeal for thee. This is qualitatively different. Coming to terms with the fact that anyone could look at that program with anything other than horror and revulsion is admittedly a bit difficult to process right now.

It's still early, with nearly a year to go until the next Signing Day. Other players could feel differently, or they could want to jump on board as well. O'Brien could be an instant success, or a spectacular failure. Urban Meyer might be waiting for the perfect moment to strike, or cowering in his boots at the new budding juggernaut. Penn State could be in the clear for Sandusky, or Louis Freeh or the federal government might be close to raining down holy hell on the campus. No one really knows, and the fact that Penn State somehow is not currently a pariah program (shattering all expectations, if not all faith in humanity's capacity to do the right thing, for once) is the surest possible indicator of the amount of pure uncertainty that still lingers in trying to ascertain any insight at all about the former 800-lb gorilla of college football in the Northeast.