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PSU's class has few peers, depth

Thursday, February 03, 2000

By Mike White, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Penn State Coach Joe Paterno gets a national championship after all. Too bad it has nothing to do with what his team did on the field last season.

Penn State's recruiting class of 2000 is ranked the best in the country by one of the top recruiting services. Super Prep in Laguna Beach, Calif., has Penn State No. 1 ahead of Florida, Texas, Ohio State and Tennessee.

"They started off quickly, they finished strong and they never let up in between," said Super Prep's Allen Wallace. "The problem with Penn State is they get so many players so early that there's not a lot of excitement to their class coming down the stretch. The players who commit early are not talked about as much. They're out of the market, so to speak. So you have to watch that you don't underrate those players.

"But look at the thickness of their class. They have exceptional players at every position."

Penn State had 25 scholarships to give this year, but actually signed 29 players. Under NCAA rules, a college team can't take more than 25 scholarship players in a year. So, four Penn State recruits will come into school in the spring of 2001. By then, some fifth-year seniors will graduate and will free some scholarships.

While Wallace had Penn State on top of the heap, other services had Penn State in the top five. Rivals.com had Penn State No. 1 until recently when Tennesee moved to the top spot and the Nittany Lions dropped to No. 2.

Penn State's class does not have one super recruit, such as a LaVar Arrington, who was Parade magazine's player of the year as a senior at North Hills High School. No Penn State recruit in the class of 2000 is ranked among the top 50 players in the country by Super Prep. But there is still plenty of quality.

"We rate the absolute best players in the country with 5 stars," said Jeremy Crabtree of Rivals.com. "Penn State's class is full with guys who are 4 stars or at least 3 stars."

Rick Kimbrel of Prep Star said, "This is the type of class that can help you win a national championship someday."

Phil Grosz of G & W Recruiting in State College has Penn State's class at fifth in the country.

"The secret of Penn State's recruiting class this year is they did their best job ever in recruiting for needs," Grosz said. "They needed defensive ends and they got maybe five. They needed linebackers and got maybe seven. They brought in maybe the best group of defensive backs they've had in a long, long time. Plus, they got two good quarterbacks."

Penn State got commitments from two quarterbacks last spring - Zac Wasserman of Westlake Village, Calif., and Zack Mills of Ijamsville, Md. The Nittany Lions offered scholarships to other QBs, but decided to take the two who committed first.

Super Prep ranks Wasserman as the No. 11 quarterback in the country and Mills No. 21. Wasserman completed 185 of 313 passes for 2,860 yards and 37 touchdowns as a senior. The knock on Wasserman is that he does not move well.

"I've seen film of him," Wallace said. "He's not a real mobile guy, but he can certainly throw it."

Penn State's top defensive line prospects are tackle Erik Noll of Gaithersburg, Md.; Sam Ruhe of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio; Jeremiah Davis of Annandale, Va.; and Scott Davis of Parkersburg, W.Va. Noll was the Gatorade player of the year in Maryland. Ruhe is considered one of the best players in the Midwest.

"Next to maybe Alabama, nobody recruited a better group of defensive linemen," Wallace said.

Tim Johnson of Morristown, N.J. leads the crop of linebackers. Super Prep picked him as the Northeast defensive player of the year. Scott Sanden of Fairfax, Va., is an excellent defensive back along with Gerald Smith of Ellicot City, Md.

Tony Johnson of State College is ranked among the top 20 running backs in the country by some scouting services, but he will play receiver at Penn State. Sean McHugh of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, is considered one of the top tight ends in the country.

Penn State signed two WPIAL players - offensive lineman Nick Marmo of New Castle and fullback-linebacker B.J. Evangelista of Franklin Regional. Marmo is ranked among the top 20 offensive linemen in the country by some scouting services.



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