Penn State head coach Bill OBrien, above, got a verbal commitment from Florida defensive back Neiko Robinson on Sunday night. Robinson is the Nittany Lions
Penn State head coach Bill OBrien, above, got a verbal commitment from Florida defensive back Neiko Robinson on Sunday night. Robinson is the Nittany Lions first recruit from Florida in more than a decade. (File photo)

Sunday night, Penn State got a verbal commitment from a Florida recruit for the first time in more than a decade.

That would seem like a cause for celebration in Nittany Nation.

After all, Florida, is generally regarded as one of the nation's top scholastic football hotbeds. Since Penn State's last national title in 1986, Florida, Florida State and Miami have combined for nine national championships, largely because of the Sunshine State's abundance of prep football talent.

So the Blue-and-White faithful should be pumped up that PSU is finally dipping its toe into the Florida football pool, right?

Well, that depends.

There's no denying there are great football recruits in Florida.

The question is this: Should Penn State dedicate precious time and limited resources to try and get them? Or would the Nittany Lions be better served focusing their efforts on their traditional recruiting base?

For the most part, Penn State has typically recruited within a 300-mile radius around State College. That philosophy has served the program pretty well over the years.

But there's also no denying that the nation's best football talent has migrated in the last generation from the nation's Rust Belt to the Sun Belt -- particularly Florida, Texas and California.

So the simple answer would seem to be that Penn State must recruit heavily in those states if it wants to return to being a perennial national championship contender.

There's just one problem -- that's much easier said than done.

Competition for recruits in those three states is absolutely fierce. And the in-state powers in those states have huge advantages over the Lions in location, contacts and fan bases.

It's hard to imagine PSU beating out the Texas Longhorns for a blue-chip linebacker from Odessa, the Southern Cal Trojans for a five-star quarterback from Los Angeles or the Florida Gators for an All-American wideout from Jacksonville.

It just isn't going to happen.

Which means that the best Penn State can probably hope for is luring an occasional under-the-radar recruit, like the one they got on Sunday -- Florida defensive back Neiko Robinson. Alabama, Florida and Florida State had expressed interest but had not made offers to Robinson. Penn State was reportedly his first offer.

New defensive coordinator Ted Roof, who has many contacts in the South, helped spearhead Robinson's recruitment for the Lions.

Still, the question remains: Was it worth the effort to land Robinson? Especially when the time and resources used to recruit him could've been used on a Pennsylvania recruit who is being wooed by Ohio State's Urban Meyer, or a New Jersey kid who is looking at Notre Dame.

New PSU head coach Bill O'Brien, and Roof, apparently thought so.

Five years from now, we'll find out if they were right. If Robinson turns into an All-American, they'll look like geniuses. If he fizzles out and never sees the field, they'll look foolish.

That's the nature of the recruiting game.

Until then, you can expect the debate to continue.

-- Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@york or at 854-1575, ext. 455.