Penn State Football: How Ted Roof's Departure Impacts Nittany Lions' Recruiting

John McGonigalCorrespondent IIJanuary 15, 2013

Sep 29, 2012; Champaign, IL, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Ted Roof during the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports
Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

After just one season operating Penn State's defense, Ted Roof said sayonara to Happy Valley.

Roof left the program on Jan. 9 to assume the same defensive coordinator position at his alma mater and former coaching post at Georgia Tech.

While not many people can fault Roof for moving himself and his family back to where he started, the move was a surprising one after the success Penn State had this year.

As many Penn State fans know, the development of the Lions' defense for the past decade and in the present can be primarily attributed to assistant coaches Larry Johnson, Sr. and Ron Vanderlinden.

Still, the Lions posted phenomenal statistics and credit is owed to Roof's aggressive style. In 2012, Penn State was second in scoring defense in the Big Ten, first in red-zone defense and first in sacks.

However, the biggest hit the football program will take from Roof's departure is his recruiting presence in the South and the Lions' expansion there.

While Johnson and Vanderlinden remain forces on the recruiting trail in the Tri-State region, Roof holds roots in the South from his previous coaching experiences at Auburn, Georgia Tech and Duke.

Sure, when Roof came in he wasn't able to immediately cash in and grab a boat load of upper-echelon talent from the Southeast. He had limited time to recruit for this past season after being hired in January 2012, and the sanctions probably hindered his chances of bringing in premier talent for the upcoming season.

Regardless, I would still pin Roof's job at recruiting Southern talent as successful, and I believe it would have grown had he stayed in State College.

First of all, with the team facing eventual depth issues at the time, Roof was able to use his Southern connections right away. Within two weeks of being at Penn State, the defensive coordinator was able to bring in Steven Bench, a lightly recruited quarterback from Georgia.

Now, Bench is expected to contend for the starting job under center in the spring.

Another example of the influence Roof had was the recent decommitment of Alabama linebacker Jonathan Walton from Penn State.

While this departure comes as no surprise, the Class of 2013 backer was a guy I thought could become a starting linebacker with some development.

Walton, who is a 2-star recruit according to Rivals, has recently received interest from Auburn, South Carolina and Tennessee, which made his decommitment easier once Roof departed.

Many may say, "Oh, he's just a 2-star recruit, it's no big deal." However, I'm not a huge believer in stars ratings, but rather film, and Walton looks strong, athletic and promising on tape (he was also a running back in high school if that says anything).

While Walton and Bench are just a couple of examples, there's an abundance of talent in the South, and I think Roof could have brought in more of these underrated, overlooked recruits during the sanction period.

Sure, Penn State will still be able to bring in productive defensive players with Johnson, Vanderlinden and the "Linebacker U" mantra, but it would help to have a guy with Southern roots like Roof looking for unearthed talent.