It's never too early to take a look at the upcoming 2013 high school recruiting class, since fans and scouts are always looking at the next big star to enter the college ranks.
It goes without saying that Penn State is in a tough recruiting position, as coach Bill O'Brien has to sell recruits on being on a team that will prepare them for the NFL over getting them to a bowl game for the next few years.
It's a tough task, without a doubt, and surely several would-be Nittany Lions have already crossed off Happy Valley during the recruiting process.
But Penn State's still Penn State and looks to have a solid recruiting class coming in for the 2013 season, all things considered. If they can hold on to their verbal commitments, of which they currently have 11, they could very easily see some impact players emerge in the next few years.
Here's a breakdown of the Top Five recruits in the Penn State 2013 class, including several Rivals.com and ESPN four-star recruits.
According to scouts, Hackenberg has the look of a future starting quarterback at the next level.
He's a pocket passer, who plays in a spread offense. So he'll have to learn how to take snaps under center but coach Bill O'Brien can certainly work with a spread QB (he basically turned Tom Brady into one).
A few people have concerns about his arm delivery (3/4) and that he doesn't always display his arm strength. But that shouldn't be a problem with his ability to read defenses and make the right throws. (Note: currently there are no available game stats.)
He's listed at 6'4" and 212 pounds, so he has the look of a quarterback and can certainly put on more bulk and strength in a college conditioning program.
It'll be interesting to see what O'Brien can do with his first true recruiting class passer, so expect to see this kid starting a few years from now (if he stays committed to PSU).
The four-star recruit is known more for his run-blocking abilities, having the capabilities of blocking first- and second-level defenders effectively with a solid base and good agility.
He's played a little defensive tackle in high school as well, which should only help him.
If he stays committed, he'll help out a Penn State squad that's aging a little at the position with four current juniors and only three freshmen. It should provide him an opportunity to take a year and learn the college game before stepping in as, at the least, a backup in his second year.
Breneman has been very productive thus far in his high school career. According to Rivals.com he grabbed 72 balls for 1,120 yards and 12 scores in his junior season.
He comes in at 6'4" and 228 pounds, so he'll need to add more size when he gets to college. He has the hands and enough athleticism and speed to make plays at the next level, although you probably aren't going to see a physical specimen along the lines of Rob Gronkowski. He's solid in all departments.
His biggest weakness is probably going to be blocking, simply because of his size. But once he hits a college weight room that could change. Expect Penn State to move him around if he cracks the starting lineup to get him favorable matchups.
He also has the potential to see time as an H-back or fullback, depending on how he develops.
Bell is a dual-position athlete (spending time at running back, tallying 429 yards and five touchdowns last season), who scouts seem to believe will best fit as a linebacker.
Can't be a bad thing to make the move full-time to OLB at "Linebacker U" can it?
He's a little bit on the small side, at only 6'1" and 222 pounds but he sure knows how to make plays, with 117 tackles and six sacks in 2011.
ESPN believes he'll be a good tackler at the next level and needs to add more bulk. If he doesn't redshirt in his first year he could see time as a special teams player. He's got good pursuit skills across the field but isn't the fastest guy at his position.
His biggest weakness may be his pass protection but he has the athleticism to improve and play good man-to-man coverage.
Sickels serves multiple roles at Red Bank, including linebacker and tight end, but scouts see him as an edge rusher in Happy Valley.
He's 6'4", but just 225 pounds according to ESPN, so he's going to have to add some weight to be effective against far bigger and stronger blockers in college. The scouts see him as an "effort guy" more than a physical specimen, but Penn State loves football players, not just talent.
He's an all-around good defender with no glaring weaknesses but plenty of room to improve. His biggest challenge will be breaking through at a position with a lot of youth. Of the 11 defensive ends on the Nittany Lions roster, seven of them are freshmen and only two are seniors.
Coach O'Brien seems to be stacking a lot of depth at this position.