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The state of Pennsylvania produced what was considered a very deep class of talent in 2010. Led by a national top-five recruit in defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, the Keystone State put eight players in the final Rivals250 and was deep overall at many positions. However, the 2011 class appears to be a different story which makes prospects like the state's top player, tight end Ben Koyack, that much more important on the recruiting trail.
The top-end talent is certainly a full notch down from 2010 and some say that this could be the thinnest year for talent in Pennsylvania in years.
"For me, it's the worst I've seen since I've been doing this," said Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Mike Farrell, who has covered the region since 1999, of the Pa. crop. "There are some talented players for sure, don't get me wrong, but the top-end talent is a bit down from past years and beyond the first seven or eight prospects, there is a huge drop. In years past we would almost always have at least three-stars at the bottom of the Pennsylvania top 40 but this year we hit two-stars near 30."
However, Farrell feels that players will emerge and admits that a cautious approach is being taken towards rankings in the state this year.
"Because there are players out there we haven't fully evaluated or really want to see more of, some of the three-star guys could jump up to four and some of the twos could become threes," he said. "But the one thing I don't see this year, not even close to be honest, is a five-star candidate. Even though Sharrif Floyd didn't start off as a five-star kid in the rankings, you could see that potential based on his size, ability and rarity at his position. Right now I don't see anyone who could make that kind of leap, but I guess you never know."
Koyack, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound tight end from Oily City Senior, checks in at No. 1 and is ranked No. 71 in the nation. The nation's No. 5 tight end was coveted by both Pitt and Penn State and the Nittany Lions especially counted on keeping him in state. However, Koyack opted to commit to Notre Dame, making the remaining top in-state prospects that much more important to the Panthers and Lions.
Monroeville Gateway defensive back Dondi Kirby checks in at No. 2 but outside the Rivals100. The 6-foot-3, 180-pounder is another prospect who is likely headed out of state as Ohio State and Florida seem to be the two teams most mentioned. Defensive end Deion Barnes, cornerback Kyshoen Jarrett and running back Jameel Poteat round out the top five. Barnes, a 6-foot-5, 220-pounder from Philadelphia Northeast is rumored to be favoring Penn State and the same can be said for Jarrett, a 5-foot-11, 182-pounder from East Stroudsburg South while Poteat, a 5-foot-11, 195-pounder from Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt is a Pitt lean according to most. Koyack is the only prospect in the top five to have made his decision.
Pottstown Pottsgrove athlete Terrell Chestnut and Landsdowne Penn Wood defensive end Shawn Oakman round out the four stars in the state. Chestnut, a 5-foot-11, 175-pounder, is considered a lean to Rutgers right now while Oakman, a 6-foot-8, 240-pounder, has Penn State as his favorite according to most.
Beyond the top seven, numerous prospects have some work to do to get to the four-star level. Imperial West Allegheny safety Mike Caputo and Dallastown linebacker Ben Kline are the closest right now. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Caputo was once considered a strong Penn State lean but now Pitt might have taken the lead while the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Kline is committed to the Panthers already.
Other commitments in the top 40 include Scranton Prep offensive guard Kevin Reihner (No. 13) who is a pledge to Stanford, Mechanicsburg Cumberland Valley linebacker Kevin Snyder (No. 18) and Exton Downingtown East tight end Tyler Kroft (No. 20) are both committed to Rutgers and Newtown Council Rock North athlete Brandon Cottom (No. 24) and Pittsburgh North Allegheny tight end Robert Kugler (No. 26) are both committed to Purdue. Harrisburg Central Dauphin offensive guard Artie Rowell joins Kline as the only two in-state commitments so far.
The class of 2011 is considered similar to the class of 2007 when defensive end Derrick Morgan was No. 1 in the state but checked in at No. 76 in the nation, the lowest for a Pennsylvania prospect since 2002 when no one made the Rivals100. Since then the state has placed a prospect inside the national top 35 each year and in the top five twice with Terrelle Pryor No. 1 in 2008 and Floyd at No. 4 last year.
Perhaps the most telling evidence of a down year in the Keystone State is the lack of offers from Penn State and Pitt to in-state prospects. The Nittany Lions, who have to be very picky with limited scholarships, have offered only six in-state prospects while Pitt has offered 20.
"The fact that the in-state powers are being so selective when it comes to offers speaks volumes about how down it is in state," said Farrell. "That's why the top seven are so important and the loss of Koyack hurts so much. Neither program can afford to lose anyone else to out-of-state recruiting rivals this year."
Also being released Monday are the Michigan Preseason Top 25, Kentucky Preseason Top 5, Arkansas Preseason Top 10, Missouri Preseason Top 20 and the Nevada Preseason Top 10. Look for the state rankings from Louisiana, New Jersey, Illinois, Nebraska and Utah on Tuesday.