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Recruiting Scorecard: Penn State edges Southern Cal

February 8, 1996

This time, Penn State got the quarterback it craved and ended up the big winner on national signing day in college football.

The Nittany Lions, who lost top-rated Dan Kendra to Florida State a year ago, signed Rashard Casey, the highly touted quarterback from Hoboken, N.J., on Wednesday.

Add versatile running backs Joe Dawkins of Hackensack, N.J., and Ken Watson of Harrisburg, Pa., plus the usual lot of promising linebackers and coach Joe Paterno’s incoming group topped Southern California for the nation’s strongest recruiting class.

``The edge goes to Penn State because they have the best quarterback,″ said Allen Wallace, publisher of SuperPrep magazine in Laguna Beach, Calif. ``Casey is a guy who can get it done on the ground and through the air. He makes the difference for Penn State.″

Casey, 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, was rated the No. 2 quarterback by SuperPrep, just behind Tim Couch, a 6-foot-5, 215-pounder from Hyden, Ky., who stayed home and signed with Kentucky.

The Trojans, who finished 9-2-1 after a Rose Bowl win over Northwestern, were the best in the West, signing a talented trio of wide receivers and a top quarterback in Mike Van Raaphorst, from La Mesa, Calif.

Rounding out SuperPrep’s top 10 were Notre Dame, Ohio State, Florida State, national champion Nebraska, Michigan, Tennessee, Colorado and LSU.

Paterno said he was looking for speed and versatility. He has it in Dawkins and Watson. Dawkins, 5-10 and 185 pounds, starred at tailback and defensive back at Hackensack High School and also was the 100-meter state champion. Watson, 6-0 and 190 pounds, ran for 1,495 yards on 189 carries and also plays wide receiver.

Among the Nittany Lions’ other top recruits are: linebackers Courtney Brown (6-6, 230) of Macedonia, S.C.; Eric Sturdifen (6-2, 215) of Huguenot, Va.; Mac Morrison (6-2, 223) of Port Orchard, Wash.; and Justin Kurpeikis (6-4, 225) of Pittsburgh; wide receiver Titcus Pettigrew (6-3, 220) of Winston-Salem, N.C.; and offensive linemen Imani Bell (6-5, 290) of Philadelphia and John Blick (6-7, 300) of Pleasant Valley, Pa.

``There is no weakness at any spot, except for tight end,″ Wallace said. ``They have three All-American offensive linemen, the best group of linebackers in the country led by Brown and the No. 2 wide receiver.″

The Trojans snared three of the top seven wide receivers in Stan Guyness (6-3, 185) of Los Alamitos, Calif., Troy Garner (6-3, 195) of Sherman Oaks, Calif., and Rodney Soward (5-11, 165) of Fontana, Calif.

``Southern Cal has been known for its running backs, so this is a little different,″ Wallace said. ``They also have a terrific group of linebackers.″

Notre Dame, which had the No. 1 class last year, was third this time. The Irish, 9-3 after a 31-26 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl, filled a need on the defensive line. Among the Irish signees: Brad Williams (6-5, 265) of Santa Ana, Calif.; Jason Ching (6-4, 265) of Honolulu; B.J. Scott (6-4, 250) of Brookville, Ind.; Jim Jones (6-3, 255) of Oak Lawn, Ill; and Lance Legree (6-2, 253) of St. Stephen, S.C.

Also, the Irish are expected to sign highly regarded wide receiver Raki Nelson (6-1, 180) of Harrisburg, Pa., on Saturday.

``I think it’s an awfully good year,″ Irish coach Lou Holtz, adding he was pleased with the signing of quarterback Eric Chappell, a 6-5, 215-pounder from Montgomery, Ala., who passed for more than 1,600 yards last season.

Ohio State signed three of the nation’s top-rated running backs in Michael Wiley (6-0, 180) of Monte Vista, Calif.; Nick Goings (6-0, 200) of Dublin, Ohio; and 6-02, 220) of Sylmar, Calif. Also, the Buckeyes added junior college quarterback Mark Garcia of Modesto, Calif.

``When so many recruiting services had us ranked as high as they did, it’s very rewarding,″ Ohio State recruiting coordinator Bill Conley said.

Added coach John Cooper: ``There are a lot of happy faces around here today.″

Florida State signed two players from Jacksonville, Fla. _ Laveranues Coles, the nation’s top-rated running back, and Vannez Gooch, the sixth-rated running back, also from Jacksonville.

The Cornhuskers picked off the top-rated defensive back in Mike Brown (5-11, 195) of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Wallace said several teams fared surprising well, including LSU, Maryland, Georgia Tech and Miami, which was allowed to sign only 13 recruits because of NCAA sanctions. Teams such as Georgia, Oklahoma, UCLA and Washington did not fare as well as expected.

``Teams in transition usually can’t wait until the end for the players they really want,″ Wallace said. ``They usually find themselves with players they might not normally sign.″

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