January is typically the most hectic time in the recruiting calendar and that has been amplified with the Early Signing Period. This is the one time of the year that coaching staffs have away from the football field and can focus all of their attention on recruiting and put the finishing touches on a recruiting class.
Enter 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NCAA originally shut down campus visits and in-person contact between coaching staff and recruits in March. That got extended countless times and has is now in place through April of 2021. That means coaches can't do their home visits, host last-second official visits, or do any last-second in-person evaluating which is crucial to a coaching staff's ability to effectively identify talent. This is where things get tricky for coaches trying to close out this 2021 class.
This is the time of year the staff can find someone like Journey Brown. The staff closed in on him after figuring out their scholarship situations and evaluating their class post-signing day. Without the ability to hit the road, someone like Brown could slip through the cracks. There's also the online profile factor for some of their remaining targets. Coaches get these profiles on recruits but who's to know if a high school coach didn't add two inches or 15 pounds if they don't get to see them in person and verify those sorts of things themselves. The staff is likely to be less willing to take a chance on a recruit if they can't verify measurables and testing numbers.
Frankly, it's difficult to predict how the Penn State staff, in particular, will handle this short window before the next signing period. Where they shine best, with campus visits and being face-to-face, is currently not allowed. With the eligibility pause, it's also tough to predict exactly how many scholarships they'll have available to give out. In what is typically the most hectic and jam-packed time of the year in recruiting, this could be an eerily quiet January.