Penn State Recruiting Mailbag: Impact of coaching changes; offensive line development

Have Penn State football recruiting questions? We have answers. Join us every Thursday for the Land of 10 Penn State recruiting mailbag to discuss Nittany Lions recruiting. This week, we discuss the potential of a 5-star receiver prospect and the recent academic acceptance of Penn State’s top-ranked target.

Penn State recruiting efforts are relentless, so we always have plenty to address here. Let’s get started.

Even though it happens each year, the college football coaching carousel can be startling because of the unpredictability it creates across a large landscape. One move leads to another, like dominos, leading to major ripples.

Those ripples reached Happy Valley this week, and Bryan’s question was one of several we received regarding what happens next.

Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead became the coach at Mississippi State. Reports surfaced Tuesday night, and confirmation arrived Wednesday from Franklin and Moorhead himself.

Obviously this is a significant development for the Nittany Lions. Moorhead, who replaces former Bulldogs coach and new Florida Gators coach Dan Mullen in Starkville, was the architect of a dynamic and highly productive offensive attack at Penn State.

The Nittany Lions averaged nearly 42 points per game in 2017, and scored more than 30 points in 21 of his 26 games as a staff member. Quarterback Trace McSorley, receiver DaeSean Hamilton, tight end Mike Gesicki and running back Saquon Barkley each set program records under Moorhead’s direction.

Things became even more interesting Thursday afternoon when news broke that Penn State running backs coach/special teams coordinator Charles Huff will join Moorhead at Mississippi State. Aside from playing a prominent role in managing the Nittany Lions roster, Huff is regarded as a highly effective recruiter.

Routinely pointed to as a favorite by key running back targets, his departure undoubtedly creates speculation about 2018 commit Ricky Slade, 2019 targets such as Devyn Ford and Jordan Houston, and top-ranked 2020 rusher Chris Tyree.

“I’ve been talking to Coach Huff probably more than anybody else,” Tyree told me prior to the season. “I feel like he’s a really cool, down-to-earth person, but when it’s time to work he’ll push you. I saw that when I went to camp for just one day, and I think that’s why the running backs there are so successful. He pushes them so much, but at the same time he’ll care for them when they need him.”

Slade, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound standout at C.D. Hylton (Woodbridge, Va.) High School, pledged to Penn State in February. He is a scintillating all-purpose back who fell just shy of 2,000 rushing yards as a senior and may end up in 5-star territory by National Signing Day.

According to a report Wednesday from Greg Pickel of PennLive, Slade remains firmly committed to the Nittany Lions. However, his family will be following Franklin’s search for a replacement closely.

“Ricky is still 100 percent committed to Penn State,” his father, Ricky Slade Sr., told Pickel. “However, we have to make sure he’s comfortable with the new RB coach and vice versa.”

Following the departure of Moorhead, Nittany Lions commits were overwhelming positive about Penn State’s ability to maintain offensive momentum moving forward.

“I trust that the next step at the OC position will be the right one,” defensive lineman Aeneas Hawkins said. “Coach Moorhead obviously did a terrific job and helped bring Penn State back to power. The train will keep rolling, though, and I’m confident in the players who will return next year, and the men in my class to help it become a smooth transition.”

James Franklin and his assistants are currently traveling to various regions on a mission to strengthen recruiting relationships, and you can be sure they’re receiving inquiries from prospects and parents alike about what happens next with staff structure. However, this is a common theme across college football and program stability should help alleviate some concerns.

Remember, Franklin received a long-term contract extension this summer. That’s a major advantage while working to build trust with top high school talent. Time will tell if more staff changes lie ahead, but I wouldn’t be overly concerned about the 2018 recruiting class eroding.

Beyond 2019, Taquon Roberson expressed confidence in the program and appreciation for Moorhead.

“Coach Moorhead’s my guy,” he said. “I’m happy for him and for his family. Excited to see what happens next for our offense.”

Let’s turn our attention to the trenches.

This question from Will came during our weekly Facebook Live show (8 p.m. Wednesdays), which you can join here. Offensive line play was a major focal point among Penn State fans throughout the regular season, so it’s no surprise to see it come up as a consistent topic on the recruiting trail.

Penn State carries four commitments along the offensive front in its 2018 class: Nana Asiedu, Bryce Effner, Fredrick Scruggs and Antwan Reed.

Scruggs is considered a top-10 interior lineman prospect in the 247Sports composite rankings, while the other three create a trio of top-50 tackles. Asiedu is the headliner here, considered a top-10 talent at the position and top-100 overall recruit.

Beyond this group, there is a chance the Nittany Lions add a fifth lineman. For a while now, that’s been a Rasheed Walker-or-bust situation.

Walker, a 6-6, 300-pound tackle from Waldorf, Md., will use an official visit at Penn State during the second weekend of December, according to Brian Dohn of 247Sports. It will be his first official visit, but he has previously traveled to Happy Valley multiple times.

Competition comes from Maryland, Ohio State and Virginia Tech. Walker, a U.S. Army All-American, would cap off arguably the highest-rated Penn State offensive line class of at least the last decade if he signs in February.

Looking further down the road, Franklin has sights set on several top-tier 2019 offensive linemen. This collection of targets includes 5-star tackle Devontae Dobbs and 4-star guard prospects Zeke Correll and Caedan Wallace.

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Rasheed Walker will visit Penn State in December. (Land of 10/File)

Have a question about Penn State recruiting? Tweet us  @Landof10PSU and we’ll try to answer it in a future mailbag. Check to see if your issue already was addressed by reading previous Penn State recruiting mailbags  here.

The post Penn State Recruiting Mailbag: Impact of coaching changes; offensive line development appeared first on Land of 10.

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