By: Ken LaVicka
ESPN 106.3 Staff Writer
Penn State fans aren't alone in their appreciation for restored scholarship numbers from the NCAA.
Add Dwyer defensive back Shawn Boone to that list.
The 2014 prospect grabbed an offer from the Nittany Lions last week, a reality that likely would've been impossible if it weren't for the NCAA's change of heart in late September.
The base to PSU's offer to Boone was formed over the past several months when Nittany Lions' safeties coach Anthony Midget began to take notice.
As a Clewiston native, Midget has close ties to the area. After starring a Virginia Tech and spending a few years in the NFL, Midget came back to South Florida where he worked at Dwyer while holding several football coaching roles at Lake Worth. During that time, he struck up a relationship with long-time Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels. Both men kept in contact when Midget left Palm Beach County in 2007 for a graduate assistant position at Virginia Tech, then moved on to Georgia State as an assistant, had a quick spell at Marshall, and then finally found his way to Penn State this past winter.
Midget's path to Boone was fairly easy because of Daniels, but the NCAA sanctions made offering the three-star prospect difficult.
Facing massive scholarship reductions due to the Jerry Sandusky aftermath (a reduction of 25 to 15 annually), Midget and PSU head coach Bill O'Brien didn't have enough 2014 scholarships to offer to Boone. Midget didn't drop his pursuit, however. He kept in regular contact with Daniels for several weeks.
Then, on September 24th, the NCAA announced it would gradually begin restoring scholarships to O'Brien & Co. because of strong initial compliance from Penn State. The football program would be given five extra scholarships per season, eventually gaining it's full arsenal of 85 by the 2016-17 campaign.
That allowed Midget to come back to Dwyer and throw Penn State into Boone's recruitment ring, a stable that includes four SEC offers, three from the Big Ten, an offer from Florida State, and other notable Division I interest.
Will Boone's offer open a Penn State pipeline to Palm Beach County, an area Joe Paterno hardly ever touched in his decades of control in Happy Valley? That's unknown, but it appears as if Penn State's image is improving.
Daniels, whose father was a born-and-raised Penn State die-hard, didn't mince words when he talked to ESPN 106.3 about the prospects of sending one of his athletes to PSU
following the iron-fisted punishment, including a four-year bowl ban (which still applies), given to the school last July:
Should a head coach steer one of their athletes away from Happy Valley? When posed with that hypothetical, Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels didn't even flinch.
“I would absolutely do that,” said Daniels. “Players want to play in bowl games and be on TV. If I were a kid, I'd be getting out of there.”
Added Daniels: “[Paterno] is very tarnished. It's very sad.”
Numerous high school coaches will have to help their players make a very difficult decision about Penn State in the coming years. No matter what approach they take, Daniels assessed the situation properly.
“The Sandusky thing has ruined Penn State for a lot of people.”
For Daniels to have that sort of stance, and a year later, Penn State is in his school? That's major progress.
It took Penn State detaching itself from the past to start righting its deep-seeded wrongs. In a similar vein, turning a blind eye to South Florida in football recruiting is antiquated and damaging. As the near-future continues to improve for Bill O'Brien and Penn State, expect to see the sight of Penn State recruiters in Palm Beach County and Treasure Coast become infinitely less rare. It's all about becoming current, and that process appears to be approaching full speed at PSU.