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Rivals who claim Penn State could face more NCAA sanctions are taking a credibility risk

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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.

Penn State v Michigan State Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Tuesday at Big Ten Media Days, head coaches fielded questions about negative recruiting from Penn State writers. That came after Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said opposing teams are lying to recruits and claiming the Nittany Lions could again be put on NCAA probation for the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

"It's not factual," she said to the Associated Press. "It's one thing to take facts and skew them a little bit. It's another thing not to be factual."

The questions arose after a Q&A with the Reading Eagle in which head coach James Franklin seemed to imply Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State were negative recruiting by using the scandal.

A month ago, I'm in Chicago at a wedding of one of my former players and the most recent things (allegations that late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was told that Sandusky abused children in the 1970s) come up. I spend all Friday and Saturday on the phone talking to all of our players because other schools are contacting them and telling them the NCAA is going to get involved again and impose more sanctions. I think everybody will feel really good when everything has been resolved and we can truly put this thing in our past. When I say our past, I don't mean we just move on. We have to learn and grow from those experiences. We have to have things in place to make sure we don't have any issues moving forward. I think one of the things that's a challenge is as Penn Staters, we're so proud and we know what we're all about and who we are. The people we're competing with -- Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame - this is just not something they have to deal with. Although we want to move on, those other schools are not letting us move on.

Q: How would you describe the challenge of being in the same division with Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State?

A: Like most things in life, there are some real positives about it. We're able to tell kids they're going to compete against the very highest level week in and week out. What makes it tricky, they're not having to deal with some of the things we're dealing with and working through, which magnifies it. Those programs as well as others know that and use that against us. We have that conversation with every single prospect. We don't usually initiate it, but it's coming from somewhere.

Later, Franklin denied to Fox Sports that he’d accused specific programs:

"All I said was that every kid that we're recruiting is also being recruited by Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame and that they don't have the same challenges that we have now," Franklin said. "Then, in a separate quote, I mentioned that right now we're (dealing) with negative recruiting. It was two separate quotes, though, over a 35-minute interview.

"I never said that any of those schools are the ones doing the negative recruiting against us. They're not. There is one other particular school, but I didn't name who that was."

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio issued denials, as is standard practice when accused of negative recruiting.

Since recruiting is about relationships and trust, telling fantastical lies to a recruit, like Penn State’s AD claims is happening, is incredibly risky. The NCAA ended PSU’s sanctions early two years ago and faced years of courtroom battles over the matter, so any further NCAA punishments related to this scandal are not going to happen. Schools will continue to use the scandal to recruit against Penn State, but lying to a prospect opens one up for a counter-attack, ultimately driving the prospect away from the school making up claims.

Penn State has a unique circumstance, which teams will continue to use against the Nittany Lions, but if the claims are too specious, the Nittany Lions can turn the tables by exposing the lies told by other schools.

I believe Franklin’s claims, because our own Steven Godfrey reported on them when he embedded with Penn State this past National Signing Day.

Behind closed doors, any aspect of Paterno's fall and Sandusky's prosecution is fair game for other coaches to talk about to recruits. That's another reason for Franklin to adhere to his total positivity campaign. He wouldn't elaborate on specific rival schools or subject matter.

"Some of the things we have to battle on the road and in recruiting ... nobody else in the country has to battle," he said.

Still, I do wonder how much of it is a peremptory attempt to soften the blow of another year in which Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame soundly beat Penn State on the recruiting trail. So far at Penn State, Franklin has signed 26 four- and five-star prospects, while Ohio State has inked 49, Notre Dame 40 and Michigan 33. All are on track to again have better classes than Penn State this season as well, and the Spartans are trending.

I don’t know whether these teams are specifically using the Sandusky scandal against Penn State, but I do know that every team publicly will say it does not negative recruit while claiming others do.


Speaking of Penn State, Black Shoe Diaries has an update on the Nittany Lions recruiting.

Auburn is back to taking mobile QBs to run its spread-option offense after a few years in which it took pro-style quarterbacks. Dawson (Ga.) four-star prospect Tray Bishop pledged to the Tigers Monday.

Missouri landed FOUR COMMITMENTS Tuesday evening with its "Night at the Zou" camp.

LSU landed defensive tackle recruit Neil Farrell, who also had offers from Florida State, Clemson, Florida, Michigan and Alabama. I saw Farrell at a camp last week and he had impressive footwork and quickness.

Arizona added versatility in the form of three-star JUCO linebacker prospect Delshawn Phillips.

Miami picked up one of the top defensive ends in the country Monday in California’s Deonte "DJ" Johnson.

The Crootletter will return Friday when I record our next episode of the College Football Recruiting Podcast.