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Penn State takes charge on recruiting trails

| Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010 recruiting analyst Mike Farrell compared it to theft.

Six of Pennsylvania's top 10 football recruits — as ranked by — are from WPIAL schools. Four of those six, including two with ties to Pitt, are verbally committed to play at Penn State.

With National Signing Day set for Wednesday, Penn State's recruiting class is ranked No. 9 in the country by Rivals — well above No. 26 West Virginia and No. 29 Pitt.

Five of the Nittany Lions' 20 verbal commitments are from the WPIAL, and four — Canon-McMillan linebacker Mike Hull, Sto-Rox quarterback Paul Jones, North Allegheny lineman Tom Ricketts and Fox Chapel lineman Miles Dieffenbach — are among the state's top eight prospects.

On top of that, Dieffenbach's father, George, is Pitt's women's tennis coach. Ricketts' dad, Tom, played tackle at Pitt in the late 1980s.

And Joe Paterno turned 83 in December.

"They don't seem to have a problem," Farrell said, referring to Penn State's recruiting despite Paterno's age. "Their big thing this year is going into Western Pa. and stealing a bunch of guys. The weird thing is, Dieffenbach has ties to Pitt. Ricketts' dad played at Pitt. I didn't expect it to happen that way."

Penn State also hopes to sign top-100 prospects Silas Redd (No. 44) and Khairi Fortt (No. 49) on Wednesday.

West Virginia, meanwhile, could sign the highest-rated recruit of the big three schools in the region. Cleveland defensive back Latwan Anderson, the No. 15 prospect in the country, verbally committed to the Mountaineers, although he is still looking at other schools. A 5-foot-11, 185-pound athlete who committed to West Virginia during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in early January, Anderson visited USC this weekend and is still hearing from Ohio State.

The Mountaineers also have a commitment from Memphis' Barry Brunetti, who is ranked the third-best dual-threat quarterback in the nation.

Before getting Brunetti's pledge, the Mountaineers had seen several of their recruits follow former defensive coordinator Doc Holliday to Marshall, where he is the new head coach.

"West Virginia had an excellent year, but they can't afford to lose these guys at the end," recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said.

Farrell said on-the-field results typically take an extra year to translate to a team's recruiting, so Pitt's class next year might reflect its 2009 performance, which included the school's first 10-win season since 1982.

In the meantime, the Panthers expect to sign 24 players, including four-star New Jersey defensive ends T.J. Clemmings and Bryan Murphy, Cleveland quarterback Mark Myers and former Beaver Falls receiver Todd Thomas, who is spending this year at Milford Academy prep school in New Berlin, N.Y.

"All three teams are doing well — Penn State the best — but Pitt, once again, is coming up with a quality class," Lemming said. "The perception out there is that Pitt is the juggernaut in the Big East. If they keep everyone happy coach-wise, there's nobody in the Big East that's going to stop them in the next few years."

Where they stand ...

A look at how the 2010 recruiting classes are shaping up for Penn State, WVU and Pitt:

PENN STATE class rank: 9

Commitments: 20

5-star: 0

4-star: 12

3-star: 6

Top prospect: WR Silas Redd ( No. 44 overall)

WEST VIRGINIA class rank: 26

Commitments: 16

5-star: 1

4-star: 4

3-star: 10

Top prospect: ATH Latwan Anderson ( No. 15 overall)

PITT class rank: 29

Commitments: 24

5-star: 0

4-star: 4

3-star: 19

Top prospect: DE T.J. Clemmings (Tom Lemming's No. 69 overall)

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