Penn State Football Recruiting: Grading Every Commitment
Did Penn State bring in a top-flight recruiting class in 2012?
No, but that does not necessarily mean that there is not potential for Penn State's Class of 2012 down the line. What Bill O'Brien and his staff did in a short period of time was keep the majority of the recruits in the fold, and add a couple players not previously on the radar that could be considered sleepers in the recruiting class.
Here is a look at each prospect in Penn State's Class of 2012, with brief thoughts and a grade for the pick-up.
QB Steven Bench
Steven Bench was a late addition to the Class of 2012, and his commitment essentially fills the hole at quarterback left by Skyler Mornhinweg, who decided to pull out of his Penn State commitment and sign with Florida instead.
Bench is a dual-threat quarterback out of Georgia, which signals a change in recruiting philosophy at Penn State under a new staff that is focusing on athletes out of the South. Bench is a mid-range rated prospect, but O'Brien seems to really like him. Though Bench may not be a program-changer, there could be some good untapped abilities ready to blossom in O'Brien's system.
But Bench could be a short-term solution with a few quarterbacks still with eligibility remaining and Penn State likely to target a higher caliber quarterback in the Class of 2013, with a full year to work their recruiting angles.
CB Da'Quan Davis
Da'Quan Davis is reported to be a decent man-on-man cornerback, which is always good in the Big Ten, but there are plenty of question marks about him.
A low-graded prospect, Davis was plucked out of Maryland by Larry Johnson. If there is one constant in Penn State's recruiting efforts, it is that Johnson tends to pick some good players out of the state on the other side of the Mason-Dixon Line, so perhaps there is something to see here in time.
DT Derek Dowrey
There may not be a whole lot here at first, and it may be some time before he fully develops, but with the coaching of Larry Johnson on the defensive line we'll give Penn State and Dowrey some time before being too critical.
Dowrey, a low-rated prospect, was not highly recruited by the BCS conferences, and he could benefit from bulking up a little bit. Dowrey picked Penn State over West Virginia as well as Conference USA members Marshall and East Carolina.
DT Brian Gaia
The addition of Brian Gaia is a solid move for Penn State. Gaia picked the Nittany Lions over Big Ten rival Iowa and traditional recruiting rivals Maryland, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Boston College, among others.
Penn State is always in need of offensive linemen, and at 6'5" and 285 pounds it appears that Gaia will be a nice fit in the trenches for Penn State.
WR Malik Golden
Penn State is in need of athletic receivers but may be more in need of receivers with height. Malik Golden measures 6'1", which is not too bad. He may not have outstanding speed, but Golden looks as though he could be a nice possession receiver with dependable hands.
TE Jesse James
Jesse James already enrolled at Penn State, so there was not much drama to follow this recruitment. Being able to keep him on track for getting enrolled early is a credit though, given the unfortunate sequence of events that took place in the last couple of months.
James is a mid-rated tight end, and under Bill O'Brien's offensive system he should get some looks in a decent amount of time without a standout player at the position.
DT Austin Johnson
Austin Johnson should be a decent fit for Penn State on the defensive line and will have room to grow and learn under Larry Johnson. If Larry Johnson can get Austin to fill out his frame a little bit, Austin could be a nice underrated defensive tackle.
CB Jake Kiley
New Hampshire cornerback Jake Kiley was a late addition to the Class of 2012 at Penn State. Despite being a low-rated player by the scouting services, Kiley brings a certain feel to the team, as though he could end up being a very key player when he gets some playing time. He is an athletic player and should be used at a safety position with his size and skills.
OL Wendy Laurent
Wendy Laurent brings decent size to the offensive line, and many expect he will be worked at the center position moving forward. Penn State has plenty of room to improve on the offensive line, and under new offensive line coach Mack McWhorter, Laurent could be a surprise addition.
WR Eugene Lewis
The addition of Eugene Lewis looks to be the best pickup of the Class of 2012 for Penn State. Lewis is a quality wide receiver and that is a position Penn State needed to add some quality depth.
Picking up one of the top wide receivers in the state, and keeping him from straying to another school while some other top recruits did just that, should be considered a significant victory for the Nittany Lions.
SAF Jordan Lucas
Penn State's secondary was hit hard by graduation, so it is not a surprise Penn State focused on the defensive backfield this recruiting season.
Picking up a mid-range prospect like Jordan Lucas is generally a solid move, but considering Penn State lost out on some other key players, it appears Lucas could be the best pick-up for the safety position. Some think he may be a top sleeper pick in the class, but only time will tell for sure.
RB Akeel Lynch
Akeel Lynch is one of the top players out of New York, and his skills added to the depth chart behind Silas Redd could make him one of the top members of Penn State's Class of 2012. He could move up the depth chart quickly and be a nice backup for Redd in 2012.
DT Jamil Pollard
Jamil Pollard is Penn State's top defensive player in the Class of 2012. He is rated a four-star recruit and brings plenty of skill to the defensive line. He should develop well under Larry Johnson and follow in the foot steps of players like Jordan Hill, Devon Still and more.
DE Evan Schwan
Evan Schwan is considered a nice pick-up from in-state recruiting and could bring some nice pass rushing abilities to the defensive end position. But he comes to Penn State not highly regarded as a prospect, so he will have some things to prove along the way.
OL Anthony Stanko
Anthony Stanko is a mid-rated offensive lineman out of Ohio, and he brings some flexibility to the offensive line as well. Scouting reports suggest he can play at the guard and tackle positions, which gives offensive line coach Mack McWhorter some options to play with.
WR Jonathan Warner
Jonathan Warner is the son of former Nittany Lion running back Curt Warner, which may have played a role in his recruitment. The younger Warner may not have been a highly touted recruit, but if he has half of his father's skill then Penn State may be getting a nice sleeper pick.
It may be a few years before he gets in to the mix on offense, but he is certainly a player to keep an eye on moving forward.
LB Nyeem Wartman
Penn State hopes that Nyeem Wartman can make up for the loss of another potential recruit at the signature linebacker position on defense. Wartman is a more natural outside linebacker but has the flexibility to play middle linebacker too if needed, giving Penn State options in the middle of their defense in a few years.
TE Brent Wilkerson
The more quality tight ends Bill O'Brien can have on his roster, the better. Brent Wilkerson is a mid-rated prospect at the tight end position and should bring a solid pass-blocking ability to the offense. With a lack of great quality depth at the position, Wilkerson could find himself some playing time early on, perhaps even in 2012 as the season progresses.
WR Trevor Williams
Trevor Williams is athletic and brings some good depth to the receiving game in the Class of 2012. Williams could be best used in a screen-pass scheme, and once he gets his hands on the football and has some open field to work with, he could become a dependable offensive weapon.