There's an ages-old argument in college sports about recruiting.
Nearly every year, our message board, our friends, and our experts sit around and debate the merits of recruiting athletes in particular sports. It doesn't matter which sport we're talking about; recruiting seems to always be a hot-button topic designed to bring out the worst in arguments.
In college football, recruiting is more of a controversial discussion piece than any other topic. What can start as a simple discussion usually devolves into a debate on Boston College, its athletics, its students, its academics, its facilities, and its financial resources not being spent. It usually takes about 30 seconds for this to explode, and when it does, it's an exercise in futility to put the train back on the tracks.
There is one thing that cannot be debated, though: recruiting is intense and highly competitive between schools. It's up to the coach to determine if a player is the right fit for his program. Sometimes the best athletes aren't the right fit, and sometimes the best fits aren't the right athletes. It's an imperfect alchemy of a science, but the race to get the best athletes to help a program succeed is the most competitive, year-round portion of the sport.
This year's Pinstripe Bowl is often touted as a head-to-head matchup with programs associated closely with one another, two traditional schools from the northeast residing an equidistant amount of miles from New York City. This is a collision course between the two schools. That's because without playing one another, they often compete on the same playing field every year: recruiting.
Of the athletes in uniform for Penn State, 29 claimed offers from Boston College. Of those 29, two players, including running back Akeel Lynch, originally verbally committed to BC. All are either four-star or three-star athletes, the type of kids who come to a school with the ability to do two or three things exceptionally well but require development to become a complete athlete.
Three of the 29 players are wide receivers. Two are four-star recruits in Saeed Blacknall and Chris Godwin. Godwin had more catches for Penn State than nearly every wideout for Boston College.
Akeel Lynch is one of the team's leading rusher.
There are multiple offensive linemen, multiple safeties, a couple of tight ends, and a couple of linebackers. All of these guys are upperclassmen.
To me, that means two things:
Even with NCAA Sanctions, Penn State out-recruited Frank Spaziani.
I don't think I can stress this enough: Spaz might've been the worst recruiter in college football. By all accounts, he was a great guy, a really nice guy. He was one of the best defensive coordinators BC ever had. But Penn State had a four-year bowl ban and massive scholarship reductions. Bill O'Brien was given a half of a deck of cards, no jokers, and no poker chips. His recruiting pitches included telling kids they could join a team half-built by walk-ons. He told kids they couldn't play in a bowl game until they were seniors. He took these recruiting strategies and out-recruited Spaz on nearly every single kid they went head-to-head on. Again, none of this is a knock against the current Boston College roster. It means that four years ago, on raw ability, Spaz couldn't get anyone.
The only recruit choosing Boston College over Penn State is James Hendron, by the way. He's an offensive lineman who hasn't played yet, though he's only a freshman and was a part of the Spaz/Daz crossover class that feels weird to say.
I think I'll go drink Drano now.
It makes this Saturday's game important to recruiting.
Steve Addazio is fielding a roster pieced together with chewing gum and fishing wire. He has a number of fifth-year seniors who are playing for a different program than the one they started with, meaning they had to learn new playbooks pretty quickly. We saw how well that went for Chase Rettig.
He has a number of guys left over from the Spaz era. See above; most of them aren't the same caliber as some of these programs. They're great kids, and the coaches developed some fine football players. Some of them may even see roster spots on Sundays. But four years ago, we wouldn't see this as an even game based on paper, especially when every single kid on BC's wish list ended up in Happy Valley.
He has a number of freshmen. I don't care how good they are as freshmen. They aren't as physically developed as seniors. An 18 year old body is vastly different from a 22 year old body. That's right, folks—Jon Hilliman still has places to grow and mature. Crazy, huh?
He's going up against a program that for the last few years has gotten nearly every single recruit that would've come to Boston College. Penn State is a team built almost exactly like Boston College: stout, physical defense. They're built with all of the kids Spaz couldn't recruit. It should make the Eagles hungrier. Athletes wait for the big moment when they can prove they were better. The numbers are proving everyone thought Penn State would be much better; now it's their turn to go out and prove the prognosticators WAY wrong.
For Addazio, beating Penn State is a huge lift on the recruiting trail. He could walk into a kid's living room, the borderline kid like Christian Wilkins currently deciding between Penn State and BC, point to this game and say, "Hey look, all of these young men chose Penn State over Boston College, and we went into a bowl game against them and won. Imagine what you can do here. You're not a part of the past. You're a part of the future."