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Penn State football had worries even before top coaches left

Welcome to The Crootletter (sign up to get this in your inbox every morning!). I'm Bud Elliott, SB Nation's National Recruiting Analyst, and in this space I'll be sharing news, rumors and musings on the world of college football recruiting.

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The Big Ten has lost some high profile coaches of late to the SEC. Some left for familiarity or better opportunities, others have left because of money.

James Franklin has lost yet another assistant at Penn State as Herb Hand leaves for Auburn. That's not good news, according to a rival coach speaking to ESPN.

"Ouch," a Big Ten assistant said when asked for his initial reaction to the move. "He is one of the best offensive line recruiters in the country. That’s going to impact Penn State, maybe not as much for the 2016 class, but I can see it really having an impact on next year’s class. Auburn’s getting a good coach and a great recruiter."

This is on the heels of defensive coordinator Bob Shoop leaving for Tennessee.

Not everyone agrees with these departures being a huge loss for Franklin.

"Penn State shouldn't be overly concerned," said Nick Polak of SB Nation's Penn State outlet, Black Shoe Diaries. "Losing Bob Shoop hurts, but Brent Pry is a more than capable replacement, and the defense will be just fine under his control."

"As for Herb Hand, while he's a well-regarded and likable guy, he certainly didn't turn Penn State's offensive line into world-beaters. He was given very little to work with, but with the talent level quickly improving, his replacement will have every opportunity to succeed. Not to mention, it's hard to blame Hand for wanting to coach with one of his best friends, in Gus Malzahn. But Hand was an excellent recruiter by offensive line coach standards, so Franklin will need to find another ace to put on the trail."

I think I fall somewhere in the middle. The loss of Hand is probably overstated because of his twitter fame and affable personality, but I wonder if the coaches believe the window for Penn State to get back as an elite is beginning to close. This summer I wrote the following about Penn State in our SB Nation College Football Preview:

There comes a point in the tenure of every head coach at which he must transition from selling fresh ideas, new hope and abundant playing time to selling winning and a history of development.


James Franklin has only been in Happy Valley for one season, and in his first full year, he signed more four- and five-star recruits (13) than the Nittany Lions had in the previous three classes combined (11). Penn State has a cakewalk of a schedule this year and is likely to be favored in all but two games (Ohio State and Michigan State).

Franklin has more mileage when it comes to selling newness and playing time, but he also resides in a division that just added Jim Harbaugh to go along with Urban Meyer. If Penn State can win 10 games, including a bowl, Franklin will be armed with marked improvement to sell.

Turns out Penn State was favored in nine games, not 10. Ultimately it finished the season with just seven wins, none of them particularly memorable. Michigan State living up to its preseason billing and Michigan greatly surpassing expectations is going to make things tougher in Happy Valley than I expected it to be a year ago. Penn State is bringing in a top-15 class as of this morning, but if the Nittany Lions have another five or six-loss season on the heels of losing these coaches, that recruiting momentum will come to a halt.

Is Wisconsin committed?

I agree with Ivan Maisel's note on Wisconsin losing yet another talented coach in defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to LSU in part because it would not pay a competitive salary.

1. I don’t buy Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez’s rationale for losing another good coach to the SEC. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda went to LSU for a reported $1.3 million per year, more than double what Wisconsin paid him ($520,000). Three years ago, Badgers coach Bret Bielema left for Arkansas after tussling with Alvarez over paying assistants. Alvarez blames the discrepancy on Wisconsin sponsoring 23 sports, while LSU and Arkansas have only 19. So what about Stanford (36), Ohio State (35) and Penn State (29)? Shouldn’t they be struggling? They’re not.

Either you're willing to spend the money to compete at the highest levels of college football, or you're not. Wisconsin doesn't have access to much recruiting talent, so it has to nail down the development and deployment portions of coaching, and it appears it is not committed to doing so at the highest level. This is part of the reason why Brett Bielema left to coach Arkansas.

NCAA closing loopholes in camp, coaching rules could mean less Harbaugh

Speaking of Michigan, Jim Harbaugh wants to hold spring practice in Florida at the most talented high school in the country, IMG Academy. You already know why: recruiting. The talent in Tampa or Miami is better than the entire state of Michigan, and gaining more exposure in the Sunshine State could help the Wolverines sign even more of it.

The schools in those talented areas, however, are not fans of this. At all. And they are doing something about it.

If those measures pass, satellite camps, like the ones Michigan held in Alabama and Florida last summer, would be banned, and so would the practice of having coaches from one school "guest coach" at another school. For example, Michigan's staff could not be guest coaches for the week at USF's camp.

Quick game

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SB Nation presents: The official way-too-early 2016 college football top 10