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Penn State football: Does Urban Meyer retirement affect Nittany Lions’ recruiting?

Ohio State’s Urban Meyer announced his retirement on Tuesday — but don’t expect the recruiting landscape of the Big Ten to shift dramatically.

“The machine is still intact,” Barton Simmons, 247 Sports’ Director of Scouting, told CBS Sports. “What Urban Meyer has built and set in motion at Ohio State is still intact.”

Losing a coach who won 82 of 91 games in Columbus, captured three national titles over a 17-year career and developed endless NFL talent isn’t ideal for the Buckeyes. But the promotion of offensive coordinator Ryan Day should ensure recruits don’t jump to Happy Valley or elsewhere. The Chip Kelly disciple who earned a 3-0 record as interim head coach guided Dwayne Haskins, J.T. Barrett and Ohio State’s offense to crazy numbers each of the last two seasons.

Sitting here in early December, it’s hard to know what this means for Ohio State, Penn State and the Big Ten East on the field and in the distant future. But in the short-term, Meyer’s departure shouldn’t disrupt too much on the recruiting trail.

“What he’s built at Ohio State is a recruiting machine,” Simmons said. “And it’s really important to understand who is staying behind.”

The obvious constant is Day, who reportedly signed a five-year contract and is now among the youngest head coaches in college football. “The recruits love the guy,” 247 Sports’ Alex Gleitman said of the former Philadelphia Eagles assistant. That’s partly why he landed the job. It’s also why this happened when it did.

With the Class of 2019 early signing period two weeks away, Meyer’s announcement and Day’s immediate promotion were calculated. Ohio State boasts the country’s No. 12 class right now. By letting recruits know in an already-tumultuous year where the program stands moving forward, the Buckeyes can assure their verbal commits of the future.

And that promise goes beyond Day’s promotion. Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports reported that Ohio State plans to keep strength coach Mickey Marotti, director of operations Brian Voltolini, personnel director Mark Pantoni and player development director Ryan Stamper. Since Meyer arrived in Columbus in 2012, the Buckeyes never had a signed recruiting class ranked outside the top 10. Those four staffers were a big reason why.

“Marotti is considered one of the top-five strength coaches in the country, Voltolini has helped Meyer build programs since his early days at Bowling Green, and Pantoni is the most respected personnel director in college football,” Thamel wrote. “Stamper is a key figure behind the scenes in Columbus.”

It will be interesting to see which coaching staff members stick around, most notably defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and former Penn State ace recruiter Larry Johnson. But at the very least, key cogs in Meyer’s machine are staying put.

So, how does that affect Penn State and the rest of the Big Ten? Over the next couple weeks, the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes are battling for a few 2019 prospects, like five-star defensive end Zach Harrison, four-star defensive tackle D’Von Ellies and four-star offensive tackle Trevor Keegan. Harrison is leaning toward Michigan, Ellies was locked in as a Nittany Lion by 247’s Crystal Ball Predictions for months, and Keegan is also projected to pick the Wolverines.

Without Meyer in the picture, James Franklin isn’t going to gain a huge advantage during this cycle.

But Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith is trying to pull an Oklahoma 2.0 here. Two years ago, Lincoln Riley — a young, inventive playcaller — took over for longtime Sooners coach Bob Stoops and continued Oklahoma’s Big 12 dominance and playoff standards.

If Smith’s plan to keep the Meyer machine churning through Day works, then Franklin and the rest of the Big Ten East still have quite the challenge on their hands. But if it doesn’t pan out on the field, on the recruiting trail or both, Penn State’s path to bigger and better things could get a whole lot easier.

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