Never before have two Penn State recruiting classes been linked like these two.
There’s the 2012 class that, oddly enough, is still not quite finished 10 months after national signing day.
And there’s the 2013 class that should be wrapped up in the coming weeks, maybe even sooner.
They are both part of the post-Jerry Sandusky scandal period of turmoil and sanctions and even re-birth.
They are really two recruiting classes blended into one large one, many of the players recruited by two Penn State coaching staffs.
They are players like promising receiver Eugene “Geno” Lewis, who committed to the Lions before any of the scandal broke and ultimately still signed with the team last February — after several others bailed and went to other schools.
They are players like Christian Hackenberg and Adam Breneman, who were the first big names to sign up under new head coach Bill O’Brien — then ultimately stayed even after the NCAA sanctions hammered the program last summer and fellow recruits bolted.
They are Harrisburg’s Zayd Issah, the linebacker who pledged for Penn State before the sanctions, then backed away, only to come back to the team this past weekend.
There’s Breneman, who gave his word last March, and will count against the 2012 numbers because he will enroll early next month. The same would be for Iowa junior college star quarterback Jake Waters, if he decides for Penn State on Thursday.
No matter how you view it, though, these are 36 players who will define the future of Penn State in the midst of unprecedented unrest and uncertainty.
Consider that all three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster next season may come from these two classes in Waters, Hackenberg and Steven Bench. Penn State quarterbacks from Iowa, Virginia and Georgia?
Consider that the 2013 class features four players with southern roots, from places Penn State rarely went in recent years: linebacker Jonathan Walton and defensive end Parker Cothren (Alabama), safety Kasey Gaines (Georgia) and safety Neiko Robinson (Florida).
Consider that two classes of recruiting during sanctions could help produce the top wide receiver class in the Big Ten over the next two years, thanks to Lewis, Trevor Williams and DaeSean Hamilton — who will back up Allen Robinson, Brandon Moseby-Felder and Alex Kenney.
And the final piece, in a sense, would be Waters.
His commitment would produce a promising competition between him and Bench and allow Hackenberg to redshirt in 2013. It would provide security and possibly the starting quarterback come next August.
And it would seem to complete O’Brien’s surging, high-scoring offense for next season. All of the team’s top tight ends, receivers, main tailback and key linemen already are returning.