It could end up being the perfect storm of recruiting: Penn State pulling off a sensational rally to defeat Michigan in four overtimes in a sold-out, white-out Beaver Stadium.
The sidelines were lined with dozens upon dozens of high school stars checking out the Nittany Lions.
And everything went Penn State’s way in the end.
Since, the Nittany Lions have reeled in two verbal commitments for their 2014 recruiting class, Massachusetts tailback Jonathan Thomas and one of the top tight ends in the nation, New Jersey’s Mike Gesicki.
“The game against Michigan has really changed a lot. Penn State has become one of the hottest recruiting teams in the country,” said Mike Farrell, a national recruiting analyst with Rivals.com.
But can one game mean that much?
“It can,” Farrell said. “That type of atmosphere with Penn State and a thrilling game and the freshman leading them back and all the ups and downs. A game like that can change a kid’s mind. On a scale of one to 10, when it comes to atmosphere and excitement, that’s a 13.”
And Gesicki, a senior from Southern Regional High in Manahawkin, N.J., took in the entire evening from the sidelines.
He quickly announced afterwards that he would be decide between Penn State and Ohio State by the end of last week.
He chose the Nittany Lions on Thursday night.
While some national recruiting services have the 6-foot-6, 230-pound recruit in the top 15 tight ends nationally, 247.Sports has him as the No. 1 tight end in the country.
While Gesicki has plenty of potential, his skill set may not be as refined as Cedar Cliff’s Adam Breneman, arguably the nation’s top tight end last year, said Greg Pickel, a recruiting analyst with FightOnState.com.
“(Gesicki is)very athletic. He’s tall and skinny and has got to fill out, but … he’ll be a good compliment,” Farrell said. “They’ve got a huge tight end in Jesse James and a combo buy in Breneman and then Gesicki is athletic enough to be a big wide receiver-type.
“Tight end has become a position that’s extremely important in college football and in the NFL. He’s the go-to guy and the check-down guy. Those guys dominate football games.”
Meanwhile, the Lions picked up their third tailback in the class with Thomas, who is 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds and is a three-star recruit. He had been committed to Randy Edsall and the University of Maryland since the spring.
Thomas was off to an impressive start to this season before injuring his ACL late last month and is done for the season. He also is reportedly a good receiver out of the backfield.
“He’s fast. He’s a burner,” Pickel said. “But he’s a physical runner, too. You don’t always get that combination of speed with the ability to run between the tackles. He’s willing to drop his pads and run kids over.”
Farrell describes Thomas as a talented, under-the-radar pickup.
“He’s a slasher who should do well in that offense, where he can be utilized out of the backfield to do a lot of different things. Bill O’Brien obviously likes versatile offensive players.”
Penn State now has 14 commitments to its class that can now bring in 20 and possibly even 22 with early enrollments because of the recent lessening of NCAA sanctions.
Though there may be a lull in commitments over the next few weeks, one highly-rated targets continues to be New York defensive lineman Thomas Holley. He may choose between Penn State, Ohio State and Notre Dame.
Holley also was at the Michigan game in Beaver Stadium.
“They’ve come a long way,” Farrell said of Penn State’s recruiting since the NCAA penalties were handed down in July of 2012. “From an apparent death sentence, we all thought, to holding that (2013 recruiting) class together, to getting sanctions reduced and to now recruiting at a normal level.
“Even with the bowl ban, they’re recruiting at a Penn State level. There’s not really a thought about sanctions anymore. Kids aren’t really affected at all by what happened last summer.”