Justin K. Aller
Most of Penn State's First Team All-Big Ten selections weren't rated elite prospects coming out of high school.
The stars weren't quite out for Penn State during Monday's Big Ten awards announcements.
As the Centre Daily Times' Guy Cipriano noted on Twitter, of Penn State's six First Team All-Big Ten selections, only linebacker Michael Mauti, who also took home the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year Award, was rated a four-star prospect or better at the time of his recruitment.
Wideout Allen Robinson, named the Richter-Howard Wide Receiver of the year, and center Matt Stankiewitch were rated three-star recruits out of high school, while defensive tackle Jordan Hill, offensive lineman John Urschel and tight end Kyle Carter all earned two stars.
For a program that will have its available scholarships reduced over the next four seasons as a result of NCAA sanctions handed down over the summer, this is a good sign. It shows that coach Bill O'Brien and his staff can turn players who might not be highly-regarded in the high school ranks into productive players at the Big Ten level.
Of Penn State's 13 commitments to the recruiting class of 2013, only four, tight end Adam Breneman, defensive end Garrett Sickels, quarterback Christian Hackenberg and offensive lineman Brendan Mahon, are rated four stars or better by Rivals.com. That leaves the class ranked No. 40 nationally and No. 7 in the Big Ten.
But if Monday night revealed anything, it's that good coaching on the college level can turn the nine three-star-or-lower rated prospects into productive players.
O'Brien also showed he can get it done with walk-ons, players Penn State will count on increasingly through the scholarship reductions. Those guys have their own role models in Big Ten Honorable Mention Matt McGloin, who shattered several Penn State passing records in throwing for 3,271 yards with 24 touchdowns in 2012, and tight end Matt Lehman, who caught 24 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns.
After Penn State's 2012 class signed in February, O'Brien said: "I could care less about player rankings. What I care about is that we found the right fit for Penn State with all these prospects."
A year into his tenure in Happy Valley, it appears that's not just coach-speak. This should be encouraging not just to fans, but lower-rated prospects looking for a program where they'll be considered valuable moving forward.