Rating Success – Class of 2003

This is Part 2 of an ongoing series taking an in-depth look at past Penn State recruiting classes (2002-present) and whether ‘ratings’ really predict success.

Today, we’re taking a look at the 2003 recruiting class at PSU, certainly the smallest in recent years with only 11 players listed.   In fact, the recruiting class didn’t even make the top 50 in team ranking, the only unranked recruiting class during the ‘rating’ era.  Even the most recent post-scandal 2013 class broke the top 50 in team rankings.

Keep in the mind the Nittany Lions sucked on the field too during this time.  Despite winning 9 games in the 2002  season, PSU went 3-9 in 2003 (only wins came at home against Temple, Kent State, and Indiana).  Definitely a down time for PSU football.

So did the 2003 recruiting class pretty much blow as predicted?  Not entirely…but close.

Player Rating Status
Joel Holler 4 ~360lb, couldn’t cut weight; Transferred
Dan Mazan 4 Transferred
Austin Scott 4 Kicked off team (rape allegations)
John Shaw 4
Terrell Golden 3 Former free agent, graduate assistant for PSU
Tony Hunt 3 Originally signed by Eagles; now in Austria
Jon Jackson 3
Rodney Kinlaw 3 Originally signed with Jets; now in Germany
Paul Posluszny 3 NFL; plays for Bills
Amani Purcell 3 Transferred
Brent Wise 3

The 2003 class has 1 player in the NFL (Posluszny) with a Rivals rating of 3.

Paul Posluszny

Best in Class
Paul Posluszny
Brent Wise – only because he saved the life of his then-girlfriend and World Cup gold medalist Ali Krieger (http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/ali-krieger-overcomes-some-bumps-on-the-road-to-the-womens-world-cup/2011/06/13/AG3JBlTH_story.html).  He is now an MD…naturally.

Paul Posluszny

Joel Holler
Austin Scott
Dan Mazan
John Shaw

Overall, 2003 was a pretty weak class.  The highest rated recruit was the massive highly-recruited OT Joel Holler, who failed to drop weight, never made it higher than third on the depth chart, and eventually transferred to Univ. of Delaware.  Never made it beyond that.  Austin Scott was a stud RB, but rape allegations led to his removal from the team (although he was later cleared of the charge).  Then there was Paul Posluszny, one of the most dominant LBs in the country and remains a force in the NFL.  So with the exception of Posluszny, this is definitely one of the weakest recruiting classes, if not the weakest, in terms of production and success on the field.

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Typical PSU loss, typical Nebraska win

Penn State losses another game (32-23) in the 2nd half despite a 20-6 lead heading into the half. Nebraska is comfortable playing from behind, in fact, that seems to be the standard.  As for PSU, well, all four of their losses have come in the 2nd half.  In fact, every game they have lost, they have either been ahead or tied at half, yet failed to finish the game in the 2nd half.  Here are some quick highlights:

Quick hitters:

Zwinak stiff arm

PSU running game
Bill Belton, preseason starter, has yet to really stand out this season.  Zack Zwinak had another  big game, despite a key fumble loss near the goal line.  Zwinak had 141 yards rushing (178 total) and 1 TD.

Ficken fantastic
Ficken is finally coming around.  3/3 on FG attempts.

2nd half failure
PSU had 255 yds and 20 points in the 1st half, but held to a 136 yds and a field goal in the 2nd half.  Outscored 26-3 by the Huskers.  Overall this season?  PSU has been outscore in the 3rd quarter 56-6. Outscored in 2nd half 99-28.  Not good.

Blown call
Down 23-27, about to go 30-27 in the 4th quarter, TE Matt Lehman was called for a fumble on the goal line that resulted in a touchback.  After replay, officials let the play stand as called.  As you can see if for yourself, the ball crossed the goal line.  Unfortunately, the refs missed this one.   PSU still had a chance to drive the field, but failed to convert after an ‘intentional grounding’ call in the endzone, resulting in a safety.  McGloin was not happy.

Three big turnovers really hurt the Nittany Lions.  Zwinak fumble near the goal line, McGloin interception turned into a TD for the Huskers, and then the questionable Lehman fumble at the goal line.  14 points off the board for PSU, + 7 for the Huskers.

Moving Forward
PSU’s 1st Quarter dominance this season (outscoring opponents 83-6) doesn’t mean a whole lot when you’re getting owned in the 2nd half.  PSU has been failing to finish games.…let’s hope they can finish the season with two wins at home.

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Rating Success – PSU recruiting, 2002

This is Part 1 of an ongoing series taking an in-depth look at past Penn State recruiting classes (2002-present) and whether ‘ratings’ really matter….

Today, rating systems such as Scout, Rivals, 247, and ESPN have taken over the recruiting process; however, it was not until 2002 did such ranking systems first become available.  Many question the accuracy of such systems, rightfully so.  Most 4 and 5 star athletes tend to excel at the college and perhaps professional level, but you can always find a handful of under-ranked players who exceed expectations.  Aaron Rogers, Patrick Willis, Joe Flacco — all rated 3 stars coming out of high school.  Chris Johnson, Matt Forte — 2 stars.  A sports consultanting group came up with the following probabilities of a prospect with a particular star rating being named all-conference at some point in his career.

  • 5-stars 33.8%
  • 4-stars 20.0%
  • 3-stars 11.6%
  • 2-stars 7.2%

All of this made me curious as to how past PSU players have fared given their Rivals rating.  So I went back and did some searching — found all the committed players for each recruiting class, their rating, and then set out to find how they did at PSU and beyond.   We start with the recruiting class of 2002.  By no means is this an entire list of all players for the class of 2002.  Rather, this is the Rivals commitment list, which supposedly reflects the top scholarship athletes joining the team.   Are the ratings indicative of success?  Let’s find out.

 Recruiting Class of 2002



Jason Alford 4 Played 4 years in NFL;  now plays in CFL
Brian Borgoyn 4 Neck injury at PSU ended career
Levi Brown 4 NFL; Currently for Arizona Cardinals
Mark Farris 4
Tamba Hali 4 NFL; Currently for Kansas City Chiefs
Josh Hannum 4 Transferred (due to family illness)
Jim Kanuch 4
Calvin Lowry 4 Current NFL free agent
Brandon Snow 4 Former NFL free agent
Chris Wilson 4 Left team
JR Zwierzynski 4 Transferred
Chris Auletta 3
Patrick Hall 3
Maurice Humphrey 3 Kicked off team (assault charges)
Donnie Johnson 3 Former NFL free agent
Ed Johnson 3 NFL; Currently for Carolina Panters
Lee Lispi 3
Robert Price 3
Tim Shaw 3 NFL; Currently for Tennessee Titans
Vince Gliatta 2 Transferred
Jeremy Kapinos 2 NFL; Currently for Pittsburgh Steelers
Steve Roach 2

The 2002 class currently has 5 players in the NFL (avg Rivals rating of 3.2).

Best in Class
Tamba Hali (LB) – 2012 Pro-Bowl selection

Tamba Hali

Over-performers (played above rating)
Edward Johnson
Tim Shaw
Jeremy Kapinos
Donnie Johnson

Under-performers (played below rating)
Mark Farris
Brian Borgoyn
Josh Hannum
Jim Kanuch
JR Zwierzynski

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PSU at Nebraska — Nov 10

PSU (6-3; 4-1) is clicking again under McGloin, and if the Nittany Lions maintain balance offensively it could give the Husker defense some problems. Nebraska  (7-2; 4-1) is tough in Lincoln though, and the Huskers have a lot to play for right now – Big Ten Championship, Rose Bowl berth.  PSU has excelled on the road in the Big Ten, but Illinois, Iowa, and Purdue are certainly not at the level of Nebraska this year.  Nebraska has more Big Ten wins this season than all three of those teams combined (Purdue and Illinois have yet to win a Big Ten game).

Notes for Saturday:

Best in the Legends
Ranked 16th in the BCS rankings – highest among all Big Ten schools (OSU would be higher, but not eligible).  Only losses were at UCLA early in the season and in Columbus against the Buckeyes.  They’ve beat Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan, and Michigan St.   The only two opponents that PSU and Nebraska have both played this season?  Northwestern and OSU.  Both Nebraska and PSU beat Northwestern……both lost to OSU.  You could argue that winner of Nebraska vs Penn State holds the #2 spot in the Big Ten, behind OSU (don’t tell that to Michigan fans).   Nebraska is the clear leader in the Legends division – but could the two ineligible teams in the conference (PSU and OSU) claim the top spots in the conference?

Year a ago
Recall last year in Happy Valley when Nebraska came to town in what would be the first game since 1950 without Joe Paterno on the sidelines.  No one really knew what the game would be like let alone what would take place in the months that followed.   But on that day my respect for Nebraska increased ten-fold.  Every coach and player from both teams met at the center of the field before the game, and kneeling together, Nebraska assistant coach Ron Brown led everyone in a chilling prayer.  Nebraska won 17-14.  Since that game though, a lot has changed.  Now in Lincoln, Nebraska – a revitalized PSU program tries to continue their surprising success against one of the best in the conference.  Nebraska willing be playing for a shot at a trophy, a chance to play in the Rose Bowl.  And PSU?  Pride.

Nebraska at PSU – 11/12/11

Injury updates
Last week PSU was without their starting TE Kyle Carter.  He is ‘day-to-day’ but I expect he’ll be ready to go against Nebraska.  Starting DT Jordan Hill though, despite being listed as ‘day-to-day’, is not likely to play after straining his knee against Purdue.   Hill is one of the best defensive lineman in the conference.  Hopefully, senior James Terry can fill the hole against a tough Nebraska offense.  Also, don’t count out RB Rex Burkhead, who rushed for 1,357 yards last season.  He is getting very close to being back on the field – current status is “day-to-day”.

Nebraska running game
In addition to mobile QB Taylor Martinez,  RB Ameer Abdullah has continued to produce in place of injured starting RB Rex Burkhead (still rehabing a knee injury).   Nebraska has the highest-scoring offense in the Big Ten.  However, we all know the PSU defense is tough.  This won’t be the first game the defense faces a dual threat QB in combination with a solid RB.   Expect O’Brien and defensive coordinator Ted Roof to learn from the OSU loss and get the defense prepared for the potent Nebraska offense.

Turnovers will be key
Nebraska is the worst turnover margin team the Big Ten (-1). They’ve lost 23 turnovers.  Penn State? The best turnover margin team in the Big Ten (+1.)  They’ve lost 8 turnovers.  If that holds true for Saturday, it could bode well for the Nittany Lions.   We already know the LBs are stellar, but look for the secondary to step up this game.

Zwinak                                               Belton

Belton will be back
Didn’t see much of Belton against Purdue.  I expect that to change on Saturday.   Apparently, Belton hasn’t been doing too stellar in practice  –  “I felt like you gotta earn it on the practice field,” O’Brien said Saturday. “So I felt like ‘Zwinny’ deserved to start. I talked to Billy about “that.’  I’m sure Belton will bringing it to practice this week.  I like this approach though by O’Brien — in order to start, you have to earn it every day on the practice field.  Also, game plans are not always the same depending on your opponent.  This is especially true with the RB position and style of offense.   Against Purdue, Zwinak and Zordich were the lead RBs — both resemble more a of FB than RB.  Zwinak runs at you (and through you) whereas Belton is a quick all-purpose back that will make you miss.  Both Zwinak and Belton, in their sophomore year, are the future of PSU’s running game.  Expect to see both Belton and Zwinak take the lead on Saturday.

McGloin vs Martinez
Two contrasting QB styles – both having considerable success.  McGloin leads the Big Ten in passing yards (2436 yds) and tied with Martinez for the most TDs (18).  McGloin has a 145.3 passer rating; Martinez 147.1 passer rating.  McGloin recently set the school record for most 300-yard passing games, passing Kerry Collins. Then there is Martinez, arguably one of the best dual threat QBs in the Big Ten, 2nd only to Braxton Miller of the Buckeyes.  Nebraska also has the highest-scoring offense in the Big Ten.  Martinez had 365 total yards in their win over MSU this past Saturday (205 yards rushing) and became the all time leader in total offense at Nebraska.  That’s right. ALL TIME.  Pretty impressive considering the history at Nebraska.  Then again, McGloin only needs to average 190 yards in the last three games to break the PSU single season passing record.

McGloin                                                                  Martinez

A couple differences worth noting– McGloin has 3 interceptions this season, Martinez has 8.  McGloin has been sacked 12 times, Martinez only twice.  These stats reflect their distinct styles.   McGloin is a pocket passer, efficient.  Martinez is a mobile QB, creating plays with his feet.  OSU caused problems for the PSU offense a few weeks ago, Nebraska could do the same.   The question will be how O’Brien and the offense can adjust to slow down Nebraska….

If both offenses get clicking, it could be an old fashion shootout – something Nebraska has been doing all season.   I like PSU offensively to be able to put up a decent amount of points against the Nebraska defense.  The big question will be whether the defense can slow down Martinez and company?   Regardless of the result, it’ll be fun to see how the PSU defense matches up against the high-powered Nebraska offense.
This week I’m going with the favorite Nebraska winning over PSU in a hard fought battle.

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PSU pounds Purdue


Penn State bounces back with a big victory over Purdue in clear O’Brien fashion — 506 yards on offense. The defense continued to play solid as well. Let’s take a look at some highlights.

Crazy Fitz

If you didn’t see it – worth checking it out. In warm-ups, strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald rips off his shirt, does some sort of odd up/downs ….apparently the worm, and clearly gets the players jacked. Keep in mind, the temperature is in the 30s. Best part? Fitz continues to wear shorts and t-shirt for the remainder of the game. I love it.

Fitz getting players pumped before the game

McGloin impresses
Built up the stats this weekend, although he should thank the offensive line for giving him better pass protection this time around (or perhaps thank Purdue’s defensive line). With 321 yards passing (2 TDs), McGloin broke Kerry Collins’ career record with the fifth 300-yard passing game of his career. With 3 games remaining, don’t surprised if McGloin closes in on a few other school records. Also, it was great to see back-up QB Steven Bench come in for some snaps towards the end of the game. Nothing exciting, but good to see the young true freshman getting some minutes – much needed for the future of this team.

Zordich hits a hole

Running game returns
Sure enough, control the trenches, establish the run game, control the field. Last week PSU had 32 rushing yards – this week 185 yards on the ground — using their big backs Zwinak and Zordich. Zwinak ran for 134 yards and Zordich added two rushing TDs..

Ficken fantastic
4/4 on PATs and 2/2 on FGs. Nothing impressive, but for Ficken and this special teams? We’ll take it. A solid homecoming performance for the Indiana native.

Jordan Hill injury
PSU’s DT Jordan Hill (one of the best in the conference) was in some clear pain after an awkward fall in the 2nd quarter. Reports say that his knee was sprained and no ligaments were torn. BIG relief, although he’ll likely be out for the next game at Nebraska.

Big Ten Road Warriors
PSU @ Illinois – 35-7
PSU @ Iowa – 38-14
PSU @ Purdue — 34-9

Belton quiets Iowa crowd

It seems that this team does better on the road, taking the crowd out of the game early. Well, in the case of Illinois and Purdue, not much of a crowd presence though. Still, this team gets down to business on the road — removed from the comfort and commotion of Happy Valley, not getting caught up in the emotion, and focusing much better as a team on a common goal and game plan. Then again, Illinois, Iowa, and Purdue are not the best teams in the conferences. We’ll really find out at Nebraska on Saturday — the last away game of the season and certainly the toughest. Make sure to come back for the game preview later in the week.

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PSU at Purdue – Nov. 3


Both teams took a loss over the weekend.  Purdue (3-5; 0-4) is hoping to break a 4 game losing streak, while PSU (5-3; 3-1) is looking to bounce back after a disappointing finish in Happy Valley against OSU.



Hurricane Sandy forced PSU practice indoors Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  Not ideal.  Forecast for Saturday’s game in West Lafayette looks to be a mix of clouds, sun, and perhaps showers; mid-40s at kickoff.  Sounds like your standard football conditions in the Midwest if you ask me.

Purdue QB switch
Current Purdue QB situation seems to be an issue of concern.  Purdue’s senior Caleb TerBush has been starting all-season, but head coach Danny Hope pulled him towards the end of the game on Saturday against Minnesota in favor of fellow senior Robert Marve.  Coach Hope confirmed on Tuesday that Marve will be starting against PSU.   It’ll be interesting to see how the offense performs given the change in ‘command’.

Newsome, Jones, Bolden, McGloin

It has a similar feel to what PSU was going through the last couple years – Kevin Newsome, Paul Jones, Rob Bolden, Matt McGloin – it wasn’t until this season did PSU have a true starting QB in McGloin.  As we’ve heard many times already — Newsome, Bolden, and Jones were all highly recruited QBs coming out of high school.  None remain on the team.  Newsome now plays back-up at Temple, Bolden 3rd string down at LSU (personally, I’m happy he’s gone), and Jones attends PSU but no longer on the team (likely transfers come Spring).  And then there is McGloin, the walk-on from Scranton, who waited his turn, and continued to out perform his supposedly more talented counterparts. A good example where character and discipline often beats out talent and size.

Purdue Record Deceiving?
Purdue has lost all of their Big Ten games thus far (Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Minnesota), which puts them at 3-5 overall.  The only other loss was at Notre Dame very early in the season, where they lost a close battle 20-17.  And then 2 weeks ago many thought they were about to upset the Buckeyes in Columbus, until losing in overtime.  My point is that Purdue can play (although the Minnesota loss sure doesn’t help this point).  They’re due for a win and PSU may in for a surprise challenge.

Robbie Hummel

Special Teams a hit or miss
Inconsistency remains a big concern for PSU special teams.  Mike Hull had a clutch punt block against OSU, but otherwise, special teams remains stagnant.  I’ve yet to see a solid kick or punt return. O’Brien has made it clear that starting return players  will be decided on a week-by-week basis.  Hard to say how things will turn out — it’s really a hit or miss.  Kicker Sam Ficken seems to be building some much needed confidence after a dismal start to the season, despite recent news that he is battling a quad issue (doesn’t sound too concerning).  I wouldn’t be surprised if Ficken nails a few big FGs this game.  He grew up about 90 minutes from Purdue campus, so I’m sure he’ll have some friends and family in attendance — perhaps his cousin Robbie Hummel (former Purdue basketball star, now Minnesota Timberwolves)?  I would love to see Ficken have a break out performance and this might be it.

Offensive recovery
A good offensive line can make a mediocre player look good…..a decent player great.   PSU never really got things going offensively against the Buckeyes and it started with the offensive line.  OSU manhandled PSU up front.  I bet after seeing film and getting an ear full from the coaches, these guys will be ready to move some bodies around come Saturday.  This will open the running game with the 1-2 punch of Belton and Zwinak, which never did get going against the Buckeyes.  And of course once you establish the run game and control the line?  Well, McGloin can start throwing daggers, pad his stats, and heck, maybe even get a run play in there himself.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you’re the most talented RB or WR on the field if you don’t have a solid offensive line creating holes and protecting the QB.  Control the trenches — control the field.

Prediction: Both teams have some concerns.  PSU is favored to win, but I see it being a closer match-up than many people think.  I don’t expect Purdue to put too many points on the board, especially with the solid PSU front 7.  The PSU offense comes out aiming to establish the run game and controlling the line — expect Belton or Zwinak to run for 100+ yards.  O’Brien took the OSU loss to heart and I know he’ll make sure to have his team more focused and ready for Saturday. PSU wins by 14 points, although it’ll feel much closer.

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PSU closing in on 2013 recruits

Adam Breneman and Christian Hackenberg, 2013 commits

With 12 commitments for the 2013 recruiting class, only a few scholarships remain due to the 15 limit set by the NCAA sanctions.  However, three committed players (Adam Breneman, Jordan Smith, and most recent legacy commit Richie Anderson) plan to enroll early which indicates that 6 scholarships remain available.  Who are the likely prospects to fill the class?  Let’s take a look.

Crayton at PSU vs OSU

Top Targets

Rod Crayton (DT) out of Dadeville, Alabama.  Rivals lists him as a 4 star.  A big time player being recruited by many heavyweight programs.  Attended PSU vs OSU game.  Appears to have it narrowed down to a few programs, with PSU making the list.   A big position of need for PSU — would be a big pick-up.

DaeSean Hamilton (WR) out of Virginia.  Rivals rating: 3 star. Has offers from Miami, Michigan State, Illinois, Virginia Tech.  PSU is in the running.


Lemelle at PSU vs OSU

Brian Lemelle (WR) out of Harrisburg, PA. Rivals rating: 3 star. Has offers from Nebraska, Iowa, Purdue, West Virginia, Virginia Tech.  Attended PSU vs OSU game.  PSU definitely towards the top of the list, but if Hamilton commits, I would expect PSU to ease off their recruitment of Lemelle (or vice versa).

Zayd Issah (LB) out of Harrisburg, PA.  Rivals rating: 3 star. Originally committed to PSU over the Summer, then reopened recruitment following sanctions.  Attended PSU vs OSU game.  Still has PSU in the list….although offers continue to increase.  Looks like PSU will have a big challenge trying to pull him back.

Jake Waters (QB) currently starting at Iowa Western Community College is one of the hottest junior college prospects in the nation right now.  Plans to visit for the Indiana game.  Waters would be a much needed pick-up at the QB position, which has zero depth.

Interest Rising

Jonathan Walton (LB) out of Alabama.  Rivals lists him as a 2 star. Not being recruited by any big name football programs, yet being recruited hard by Ted Roof (unless Zayd Issah recommits, then the need for Walton declines). PSU is currently his biggest offer, would expect him to take it unless another big fish in South comes along.

Bullock at PSU vs OSU

Wesley Bullock (RB) out of Tampa, Florida.  Rivals lists him as a 2 star.  Attended PSU vs OSU game.  A small but very skilled all-purpose back at 5’7” 160 lbs.  Still, I wonder with Belton, Zwinak, and Lynch returning as well as the recent addition of Richy Anderson (RB) and 2014 commit Mark Allen (RB) – will the staff continue to recruit RBs? 

Aaron Wimberly (RB) also at Iowa Western C.C. with Waters.  Verbally committed to Iowa State, but plans to make the trip to visit PSU with Waters for the Indiana game. Same scenario as Bullock — will the staff pull for another RB in this year’s class?

Chasz Wright (OT) out of Woodbridge, VA.  Rivals rating: 2 star.  PSU currently competing with N.C. State and Connecticut.  Would be a solid pickup for the offensive line.

Malcolm Cook (CB) out of Fork Union, Virginia.  Plays on the same high school team as top PSU recruit Christian Hackenberg at Fork Union Military Academy.  Although committed to play at Virginia, I wouldn’t be surprised if he jumped at an offer to come play with his high school teammate, especially after making the trip with Hackenburg to attend the PSU vs OSU game


Final Commitments
PSU really wants to pick up Rod Crayton (DT) and certainly has a good shot.  I expect they’ll take either Hamilton or Lemelle at WR as well as another LB (ideally Issah, but Walton more likely). They would love to pick up Jake Waters (QB) and will certainly try to reel him in when he visits in November.  I imagine Bullock (RB) takes the offer, despite PSU no longer having a huge need at the position.

‘Linebacker U’ fading
One has to wonder though how much longer “Linebacker U” status remains with PSU struggling to recruit even mediocre LBs.  You can’t ignore the hurdle in bringing in the talent like we have in years past.  PSU use to be a top choice for some of the best LBs in the country, current starters Mauti, Hodges, and Carson were all highly recruited athletes coming out of high school, some of the best in their class (as were Mike Hull and transfer Khari Fortt).  Will the 2 and 3 star recruits of today’s PSU be able to compete at the same level as we’re use to seeing the 4-5 star recruits perform?

Fortunately, coach Ron Vanderlinden is one of the best and will continue bringing the best out of every player he coaches, regardless of “rating” coming out of high school.  That alone will keep PSU LBs relevant, but will it be sufficient to remain Linebacker U?

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