Could Virginia Tech Benefit From The Penn State Sanctions?


The NCAA dropped the hammer, so to speak, on Penn State this morning in the wake of a child abuse scandal revolving around former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.  The penalties given to Penn State are as followed:

  • $60 million fine
  • All wins (112) from 1998-2011 vacated
  • Four-year postseason ban
  • Players may transfer and play immediately at other schools
  • Reduction of 10 initial scholarships, and 20 total scholarships for the next four years
  • Athletic department on probation for five years

Take note of the fourth item, “players may transfer and play immediately at other schools.”  This is huge for not only Virginia Tech, but every other school in the NCAA.  Penn State players are now fair game again.

Normally this is a dead period in recruiting, meaning that coaches and schools aren’t allowed to contact recruits.  However, if this is similar to the USC situation, the NCAA will allow schools to contact Penn State players during the dead period.  If this is the case, you can imagine phone calls are being placed as we speak.

What does this mean for Virginia Tech?  The Hokies have been on the losing end of some recruiting battles with Penn State over the past few years and these sanctions might be a good opportunity to get some of that lost talent back.  Many players might be turned off from the school following the litany of punishments that have been handed down from the NCAA.  If there are players looking to get out, Virginia Tech should be in the mix for some of them.  Let’s run down some of the possibilities for the Hokies to try and poach from the Penn State roster.

Zach ZwinakZwinak was a fullback in the 2010 recruiting class.  According to he was a 4-star prospect and the 2nd ranked fullback prospect that year.  Zwinak’s recruiting battle came down to Penn State versus Virginia Tech with Penn State obviously being the victor.  Now that players are free to transfer, Zwinak might give Virginia Tech a look in order to finish his college career by playing in the postseason.  Zwinak tore his ACL during his freshman year and still has three full years of eligibility left.  He would be an interesting pickup for the Hokies because he would give our power running game a new look.  Virginia Tech rarely uses fullbacks but if the Hokies had a capable one at their disposal they might be willing to experiment with it.  It should be noted that Zwinak is a legacy of Virginia Tech, too.  His dad, B.J. Zwinak, played nose tackle for Virginia Tech from 1980-1983.

Eugene LewisLewis was a wide receiver in the 2012 recruiting class.  According to he was a 4-star prospect and a top-150 player in the nation.  Similar to Zwinak’s recruitment process, his decision was down to Penn State or Virginia Tech.  Similar to Zwinak, Lewis also chose to attend Penn State instead of Virginia Tech.  It should be noted that the Hokies were a very strong no. 2 to Lewis and the Hokies have a lot that they could pitch to Lewis now.  If Lewis attended Virginia Tech he would be able to catch passes from an elite quarterback in Logan Thomas.  Wide receiver is also a bit of a question mark for the Hokies this year, so if Lewis comes to Virginia Tech he could compete for playing time immediately.  And if not this year, he would certainly see playing time next year after the Hokies lose four senior wide receivers after this season is finished.  I would be absolutely shocked if the Hokies don’t make a run at Eugene Lewis for a second time.

Donovan SmithSmith was an offensive lineman for the 2011 recruiting class.  According to he was a 4-star prospect and was almost a top-100 player in the nation.  Of the questions marks that the Hokies have coming into this season, the offensive line as a whole are among the biggest.  It’s a group that has potential, but is mostly unproven.  The addition of a solid lineman like Donovan Smith would be a blessing for the Hokies to be able to add depth to their offensive line.  The 2-deep for the offensive line this year is serviceable, but not necessarily great.  The addition of Smith would give Virginia Tech some more options and more security within that 2-deep.  Smith was a big, physical body coming out of high school (6’5, 270 pounds) and certainly bulked up once he arrived at Penn State.  However useful Smith would be to Virginia Tech, all signs point to him staying at Penn State.  I expect teams to inquire about Smith, but I imagine it would be to no avail.  In fact, Smith dropped this tweet yesterday:

"“Stop asking if im transferring im staying at PSU no matter what I love my school #WeAre”–Donovan Smith, Penn State offensive tackle"

Granted, this tweet was sent out before he knew of the sanctions levied by the NCAA.  We’ll see if the punishments have any effect on his mindset towards staying for three more years at a school where he won’t be able to play in the postseason, and most likely won’t be able to play competitively against most teams.  Of the three players listed above, Smith is the least likely to come to fruition.