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December 20, 2011

Roundtable: Penn State, Pitt botch searches

MORE ROUNDTABLES: Nov. 18 | Nov. 11 | Nov. 4

Rivals.com football recruiting analysts weigh in on topics in a roundtable format.

Which school has hurt itself in recruiting the most by its coaching change this offseason?

Mike Farrell: Not that it was by choice, but Pittsburgh appears to be in trouble. The Panthers fired a good fit and recruiter in Dave Wannstedt, hired Mike Haywood, who was fired pretty much immediately after domestic violence charges were brought against him, and then hired Todd Graham as the man for the future - only to see him bolt for Arizona State after a year. While I don't think it will hurt them this year because most of their top recruits are either out of other options or never wanted to leave the area in the first place, Pitt is now looked upon by many recruits and families as a stop-gap job and not a final destination. The Panthers had a guy who lived and breathed Pitt football, showed him the door and now they are looking for their fourth coach in a little over a year. Not good for the future. Athletic director Steve Pederson has made the head coaching job a mockery.

Adam Gorney: I would say without question it's been Penn State. Obviously, the circumstances aren't normal but the Nittany Lions have already lost a few top-notch prospects and many others could leave as well after the school fired Joe Paterno as the child sex scandal continues to rock State College. Getting rid of Paterno surely hurt recruiting but the bungling of hiring a new coach has also been a factor in this whole mess. When the Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach, Baylor's associate head coach and Harvard's coach are three leading candidates that doesn't inspire a lot of people, especially when Ohio State just hired Urban Meyer and he smells blood in the water.

Josh Helmholdt: The situation at Penn State has gone from bad to worse. I'm not sure I have seen a more destructive coaching transition in all my years of covering the sport. You have an ugly breakup with the legendary head coach whose name is synonymous with your program. There is a lingering scandal that makes people's skin crawl. And to top it off, we're well into the second month of a coaching search that seems to be going nowhere real fast. I really liked the class Penn State was putting together before the scandal broke, but recruits are bailing quickly and the longer this coaching search goes on the more commitments they will lose.

Chris Nee: Penn State's coaching change combined with an ongoing scandal and a slow-paced search for a replacement has simply led to too much uncertainty in Happy Valley. The right hire and a fresh start for that program will be critical in January to make a late surge. With the likes of Urban Meyer at Ohio State, top-tier prospects are being swallowed up.

Brian Perroni: The coaching search at Penn State has seemed to drag on and doesn't look to be concluding anytime soon. The longer the Nittany Lions go without a coach the more recruits will be poached by other schools. There's enough turmoil in State College already; they can't afford to be without a head coach.

Name one prospect for which the Under Armour or U.S. Army games is most critical?

Mike Farrell: I think it's quarterback Zeke Pike, who is committed to Auburn. He'll play in the Army Bowl and is coming off a poor season and some off-the-field troubles so he really needs to redeem himself and show that he has the ability to be the next great SEC quarterback.

Adam Gorney: The Army game is most critical for two players and that is top-rated Dorial Green-Beckham and four-star defensive end Arik Armstead. This could be Green-Beckham's opportunity to put a stamp on the No. 1 ranking without debate or consideration for other players if he can dominate all week in San Antonio. No one doubts his unbelievable skills but finally competing against some of the nation's best players will give everyone an opportunity to see whether he's without a doubt No. 1 in this class. Armstead's week is also crucial since he would have a great chance to be a five-star offensive tackle but if he can prove himself at defensive end then a bump in the rankings might be warranted. We've always believed his brightest future is at offensive tackle but he wants to play defense in college so this could be his chance to prove that he can legitimately excel there as well.

Josh Helmholdt: Cleveland Heights (Ohio) offensive tackle Kyle Dodson missed all but four games of his junior season and played in 11 games as a senior. That is just 15 games of varsity football over a two-year stretch. There are many in Ohio who feel Dodson has the highest ceiling of any offensive lineman in the state's 2012 class. Getting game and practice experience against fellow Division I prospects will certainly help Dodson's learning curve, and he has a chance to see his stock soar if he comes in and performs like many say he is capable of.

Chris Nee: Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips wide receiver Trey Griffey is determined to use the Under Armour All-America Game to generate more interest. He enters with double-digit offers but is hoping to lure more significant BCS interest. He is capable of doing so as a great red zone target.

Brian Perroni: Mario Edwards is huge for a defensive end. There are a lot of people who think he's destined to play defensive tackle in college. He can prove his doubters wrong or right at the UA practices against elite offensive linemen.

What bowl game is particularly critical this year in terms of helping recruiting for a certain school?

Mike Farrell: I think it's the Florida-Ohio State matchup in the Gator Bowl ,and it's important for Will Muschamp and the Gators. While Urban Meyer won't be coaching the Buckeyes, the irony and importance of this matchup is clear. Muschamp replaced the Gators' legend, recruiting has not gone as well as it did under Meyer and he had the worst season at Florida in a long time. He is losing coaches, he is losing recruits and things are not looking good in Gainesville. A loss to Ohio State, Meyer's new school, would only enhance the negative comparisons between the two coaches even if Meyer is absent. The Gators must win and win big.

Adam Gorney: Especially out West, there might be some particular attention paid to the Holiday Bowl between California and Texas. The Golden Bears usually have huge recruiting weekends in December and January, and beating the Longhorns might be a big-time boost to their efforts. Both teams are 7-5 and had identical conference records so it's definitely possible for Cal to win this game. Letting prospects see a win against one of the highest-regarded programs in the country could help things moving closer to National Signing Day.

Josh Helmholdt: The Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando on Dec. 29 is important for both Florida State and Notre Dame. Neither fan base is particularly jazzed about the season either team had after high expectations back in the summer. For Notre Dame, how the Irish fare against the Seminoles could have an impact on the last month of the recruiting process as well. The Irish have a solid class of 16 commitments, though a couple of their bigger recruits are still taking visits to other schools. They have roughly a half-dozen more scholarships to fill in 2012 and several four- and five-star prospects they are still pursuing. A 9-4 mark looks a whole lot better than 8-5, especially if their performance in the game instills confidence in the future direction of the program.

Chris Nee: Oklahoma State finishing with a win and making a statement that it should have been given more consideration for a shot at the BCS National Championship Game would be crucial. A win builds instant excitement for next year and that program's quest for reaching that next level. Prospects are recognizing Oklahoma State's success, so it'd be big to end on a high note with a national audience watching the Fiesta Bowl.

Brian Perroni: I don't think prospects really take bowl games too much into account. They're basically glorified exhibitions. I guess the winner of the national championship game could see an advantage.

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