Penn State's 2017 season is under way. It stands at 2-0 ahead of Saturday's game, and hopes are high as conference play looms one week later. All the while recruiting remains a priority.
Playing Georgia State in Beaver Stadium Saturday night at 7:30, the Nittany Lions are also hosting at least 15 of its top recruiting targets. Taking care of business against the Panthers on the field is of utmost focus, but coaches will be paying close attention to the future prospects in attendance as well.
"It's all hands on deck," defensive recruiting coordinator Terry Smith said about the approach PSU takes when welcoming visitors. "We understand the most important ingredient to our program is the next recruit who signs on to come to Penn State. We make sure that person feels really important anytime they step on campus here. We want them and their families to know that."
While the bulk of this weekend's visitors are in the Classes of 2018 and 2019, the coaching staff is also expecting a couple of the best from the Class of 2020, including Julian Fleming of Southern Columbia (Pa.) and Chris Tyree of Thomas Dale in Chester, Va.
Both Fleming and Tyree earned Penn State offers after camp over the summer before their sophomore seasons began. Having a chance to see the underclassmen perform firsthand and interact for the first time is what allows the coaching staff to get a head start on recruiting prospects who are still in the first half of their varsity careers. Unless they're on campus for an unofficial visit, NCAA rules prevent coaches from contacting recruits until September of their junior season.
Smith and PSU's coaching staff have just started messaging back and forth with Class of 2019 targets, and they have their eye set firmly on the next class as well.
"The way recruiting is now (with) your national prospects, or your elite prospects, we start to know information when they're in eighth grade, going into ninth grade," Smith said. "We try to make sure we do our due diligence with those guys but there are certain kids who are so elite there is no denying it.
"You have to get on those things early because the other schools are getting in early on them as well. We’re aware of them. We’ve watched their film. 7-on-7 isn't a big indicator for us. We’d rather see them come to camp so we can truly see him work out, see his movement and his change of direction. Actually get a 40 time on him, see what his speed and agility is."
Then they like for the recruits to return in the fall in order to get a full game-day experience. That's what Saturday is about.