Despite loss, PSU gets recruiting win

(WILKES-BARRE) Times Leader (TNS)

Terry Smith didn’t have the exact number off the top of his head. But the ballpark figure was still pretty impressive.

Heading into the weekend, Penn State’s cornerbacks coach and defensive recruiting coordinator estimated that the Nittany Lions would be hosting “upwards of 150 guys” on visits for the home finale against Michigan.

“It’s a really important day for us,” Smith said Thursday. “We have a big list of guys that are coming into town. Clearly playing Michigan is a big draw. But it’s an important day for us to get guys on campus, have an opportunity to showcase the season we’ve had this year and display where certain guys may fit into the future.

“Just getting them on campus is most important. The white-out, the atmosphere and it’s always nice being at home, playing in front of your home crowd in front of the recruits that come into town.”

It paid off early on Saturday morning.

Some 90 minutes before kickoff, the Lions landed a commitment from Virginia junior linebacker Dylan Rivers, who came to campus for the game.

“Very proud and thankful to announce my commitment to Penn State University!” Rivers wrote on Twitter.

Rivers, a four-star recruit out of Sherando High School, became the second member of Penn State’s 2017 class, joining Cincinnati quarterback Sean Clifford, who also made the trip to Happy Valley. The 6-foot-2 Rivers is the top-rated linebacker in Virginia and the state’s No. 9 overall prospect per the 247Sports Composite.

After the game, Penn State’s recruiting lounge, which overlooks the media room at Beaver Stadium looked to be filled with prospects and their families checking out coach James Franklin’s post-game press conference.

Several members of the Lions’ 2016 class set to come aboard in the next few months were also in attendance. That included Lake-Lehman center Connor McGovern, who attended all seven of Penn State’s home game this season.

The Lions have 19 players committed for this upcoming signing class. McGovern is one of a handful in line to graduate early and enroll at Penn State in January. The rest of the class would sign in February.

Up next: Penn State will be firmly in the national spotlight for Saturday’s regular season finale at Michigan State.

Michigan State can clinch the Big Ten East title by beating the Lions and presumably be alive for a spot in the College Football Playoff if the Spartans can also top unbeaten Iowa in the Big Ten championship.

Should Penn State spring an upset, the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan game would take the East instead.

The Spartans, left for dead after a blown officiating call cost them a win against Nebraska, rallied to become the first Big Ten team to beat Ohio State under Urban Meyer in the Horseshoe.

Not only did Michigan State ruin Ohio State’s unbeaten season, the Spartans did it without future NFLer Connor Cook at quarterback.

Cook has been dealing with an injured throwing shoulder and sat out the second half the previous week before spending all of the Buckeyes game on the sideline.

Backups Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry split reps under center in his absence, with O’Connor playing the traditional drop-back role and Terry running the ball eight times.

The duo wasn’t asked to do much, going a combined 8 for 16 passing for just 91 yards, a touchdown and, most critically, no interceptions.

Michigan State’s much-maligned defense carried the day, holding the powerhouse Buckeyes to a paltry 132 total yards. The Spartans also topped 200 yards on the ground.

Cook’s status for the Penn State game may not be known all week. Spartans coach Mark Dantonio kept it under wraps this entire past week as Cook suited up and took warm-ups Saturday but was said to have little velocity on his throws.

Kickoff will be at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN. Michigan-Ohio State will be in its traditional noon time slot on ABC.