STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State running-backs coach Ja’Juan Seider sounded wise beyond his 11 seasons as a college football assistant and one of the nation’s top recruiters when he spoke about the tricky landscape of persuading high school players to continue their careers with the Nittany Lions.
“One of the biggest things we talk about, we’ve got to recruit until the ink is dry,” Seider said Wednesday, during a media availability with the Lions’ assistant coaches. “If it ain’t dry, recruiting has a long way to go.”
The ink to which Seider referred was players’ signing their national letters of intent, either during the early signing period in December or the next one in February. Before then, programs continue to recruit players even after they have made an oral commitment.
Penn State has seen that first-hand this week, losing two players who chose to reopen their recruitment after committing to the Nittany Lions’ class of 2020, and a third who flipped his commitment to Ohio State. All are consensus four-star recruits.
NCAA rules prohibit head coach James Franklin or any member of his staff from commenting on when players do or don’t commit. Seider was answering a general question about how he would evaluate Penn State’s efforts with the 2020 class and spoke of staying on players even after they’ve committed.
“We’re talking about 18-, 17-year-old kids making decisions, and December ain’t here yet,” said Seider, ranked as the nation’s No. 8 recruiter in 2019 by 247Sports. “The day you slack up and not continue to recruit that kid, that’s when the decommits start. Because if a kid commits to Penn State, guess who else wants him — Ohio State, Clemson? We’re competing with the same people.
“So when you get a kid committed, you’ve got to recruit him as hard as you were doing if he wasn’t committed, because he’s expecting that attention, and if you slack off, you’re in trouble.”
Offensive tackle Grant Toutant, the first player to commit to the Nittany Lions’ 2020 class, announced Sunday on Twitter that he had flipped to Ohio State.
The latest players to withdraw their commitments — offensive lineman Aaryn Parks and cornerback Joshuah Moten — are teammates at National Christian Academy in Fort Washington, Md. Both voiced a similar theme when they made their announcements via Twitter: Parks on Wednesday, Moten the next day.
“I feel as though I made my decision off of emotions and locked in too early without giving other universities an equal opportunity to recruit me,” said Parks, who committed to Penn State on April 25. “Penn State will continue to be a top choice on my list of schools I am interested in. But as of right now, my recruitment is 100 percent back open.”
Moten, who gave his pledge to Penn State on Feb. 2, said, “I think I pulled the trigger too fast.
“I didn’t equally give some of the universities that have been recruiting me an equal chance,” he said. “So I will be decommitting from Penn State University and opening my recruitment up all the way.”
The three losses affected the Nittany Lions’ team rankings in recruiting. Rivals dropped them to 25th overall and fifth in the Big Ten. The Lions are ranked 21st in the nation and fourth in the conference by 247Sports, and 13th and second by ESPN.com.
Decommitments are a fact of life in college football and with Penn State. The Nittany Lions saw six players from the 2016 class decommit, but those numbers have dwindled to two, three, and two in the last three years.