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Mag Column: Official visits will make busy weekend even busier

The newest issue of Blue White Illustrated's magazine - our Blue-White Game preview edition - has been printed and mailed out to our subscribers. Check out our recruiting story from the issue, as well as our complete issue preview, below!

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By Ryan Snyder

Penn State’s annual Blue-White Game has always been a major recruiting event, but since James Franklin took charge of the program, it’s become arguably the biggest of the year. Yes, in some ways, it’s even bigger than the White Out game in the fall or the Lasch Bash barbecue in the summer. That’s mainly due to sheer numbers. The staff hosted just shy of 200 prospects last year, a quarter of whom either signed this past winter or currently hold scholarship offers from schools in the Power Five conferences.

This year, the Nittany Lions are expected to host another large contingent of prospects for their spring game. But there will be one major difference compared to previous years. Last April, the NCAA’s Division I Council moved up the start time for prospects to begin using the five official visits they’re allotted. Players are no longer forced to wait until September of their senior year of high school to travel at the school’s expense. In addition to the traditional fall visit period, they have a three-month window in the spring of their junior year in which they are permitted to take official visits. The period begins April 1 and ends on the final Wednesday of June.

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Penn State's hosting duties for Blue-White Weekend are even more important now that official visits are in the mix.

This change in the calendar elicited mixed opinions from coaches across the country, and James Franklin was among those who saw both pros and cons. While he wasn’t totally against the decision, he made it clear that he had some concerns, mainly regarding the Blue-White Game.

“Typically, when you do official visits, you have official visits and that’s about it,” Franklin said in February. “For the spring game, we usually average about 200 to 250 unofficial visitors who need to have a good time. We [also] have the game to coach. You also have the issue with hotels [in State College].

“Let’s be honest, the Blue-White Game will be a big official visit weekend for us, [and] we still have to coach the game. We still have to entertain the guys who are going to come unofficially to Penn State, underclassmen and others, and then you’ve got [what’s probably your biggest] official visit weekend of the year. It’s going to be challenging.”

Franklin has surrounded himself with some of the best recruiters in the country. They will figure out a way to make sure everyone leaves Happy Valley just that: happy. Sure, it may cause them a few headaches along the way, but they also know that this is a good thing for many of the players they’re targeting.

For the elite junior prospects who have held scholarship offers for at least a year, the opportunity to take official visits in the spring should only help assure that they make the right decision. There will still be plenty of decommitments – that’s an aspect of modern recruiting that is here to stay – but for the players who previously put in the time building relationships and taking unofficial visits, these early officials should only put a bow on their recruitment, allowing them to enjoy their senior year with peace of mind.

But while the new schedule should help top prospects, there are others who either bloom late or don’t have the best of mentors to guide them. For those players, the decision to use their official visits in the spring could come back to haunt them. At this stage in the cycle, there are hundreds of prospects who only hold offers from smaller schools in the Group of Five, the consortium of lower-profile leagues that features Conference USA and the American Athletic, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt conferences.

Just like Penn State, schools in those conferences are also planning to host dozens of prospects for official visits in the coming weeks. It’s inevitable that some of these players will end up receiving opportunities from bigger programs as the early signing period approaches. And just as inevitably, some of those players will regret using their official visits in the spring rather than waiting to see what materializes in the fall.

As with the early signing period, it will take some time to work out the kinks in this latest change to the recruiting calendar. Some players will be negatively impacted this year and likely next, but with time, the change should prove to be a positive step in a recruiting process that’s only speeding up.

Nittany Lion fans should take some comfort in the knowledge that Franklin and his staff are forward thinkers when it comes to recruiting. But even Franklin would tell you that it’s going to take some time for he and his staff to take advantage of this rule change. That process will begin just a few days from now.

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DeAndre Thompkins is our cover boy for the Blue-White Game issue of our magazine.

What else is in the latest issue of our magazine? Check out our lineup, below:

THE RUNDOWN:

RECRUITING - As always, BWI recruiting analysts Ryan Snyder and Tim Owen have your Penn State football recruiting fix! In this issue, we break down Penn State's expanding approach to national recruiting, while detailing the processes that landed Judge Culpepper, Aeneas Hawkins, and Nana Asiedu in Happy Valley in their Up Close and Personal entries.

PHIL'S CORNER - Blue White Illustrated publisher Phil Grosz takes an in-depth look at the position battles that started to sort themselves out through Penn State's 2018 spring practice session. Along with his spring depth chart, these are the story lines that dominated Penn State's spring practices.

SPRING FOOTBALL WRAP: BWI editor Matt Herb kicks off our spring football wrap with an analysis of Penn State's youth across the board of its depth chart. From the holes at tight end and linebacker to other young players hoping to make a name for themselves and stand out this spring, these are the players that Penn State is counting on to make an immediate impact this year.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Following the departure of veteran wideout DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State is turning to a youth movement in its wide receivers corps. Led by an emerging performance from Brandon Polk, the likes of DeAndre Thompkins and newcomers K.J. Hamler and Mac Hippenhammer are filling out Penn State's burgeoning group of options in the passing game.

RYAN BUCHHOLZ - BWI web site editor Nate Bauer caught up with Penn State defensive lineman Ryan Buchholz as he makes the transition from up-and-comer into a team leader nurturing the development of a group of young hopefuls. Dropping 25 pounds himself this offseason, what does the future hold for Buchholz? Learn more in this exclusive feature story.

LOU PRATO - Blue White Illustrated special contributor Lou Prato highlights Wally Richardson's impact on Penn State's success and the other recruits out of ACC and SEC country that helped develop the program at an integral time.

WRESTLING - Recapping Bo Nickal's stunning pin to send Penn State to yet another team national championship, Tim Owen provides his unique insight and commentary into what has become a dynasty for Cael Sanderson and the Nittany Lions.

NIT CHAMPS - BWI hoops writer Nate Bauer chronicles Penn State's tear through the NIT to a championship in March, and what's next for the program as it continues to ascend to new heights under the direction of head coach Patrick Chambers. Contributor David Eckert also weighs in on the impact of Shep Garner through his four year Penn State career.

These stories, plus swimming, fencing, men's ice hockey, John Reid, Tommy Stevens, and the welcomed return of Bill O'Brien are all part of our bursting magazine. You won't want to miss this in-depth issue!

These are just a few of the many stories and features that come with every edition of Blue White Illustrated's magazine! Be sure to order your subscription, here:

CLICK HERE FOR ANNUAL SUBSCRIPTIONS - 11 issues, $56!