Signing day has come and gone and it is time to look at the future. Nittany Lions' fans should be happy with where the team is heading as the recruiting class of 2009 is one of the finest Penn State has had in a while.
The offense may have the core of a future offensive attack that will be a threat in the Big Ten. The defense seems to have addressed some areas of concern and the new kicker is among the best in the country!
I originally posted my thoughts earlier so some of this may seem familiar to you, but I have decided to make a slideshow out of my earlier article.
With spring practice underway let's take a moment to check out the Class of 2009 on a position by position basis.
Kevin Newsome is already enrolled at Penn State so his story was already written before signing day. Newsome was recruited by offensive line coach Bill Kenney, swaying him away from Michigan and Virginia Tech.
With the departure of Pat Devlin, the addition of Newsome eased the concerns of many Penn State fans. At 6'3" and 217 pounds, Newsome is in the same mold as Daryll Clark and Michael Robinson. We all have seen the success those players have had running the offense, and Penn State fans are anxious to see how Newsome does in the same offensive scheme.
Newsome presents great arm strength and terrific speed and mobility. Best of all, he has accuracy. Newsome should have some good players surrounding him, and many may come from the same recruiting class.
Curtis Dukes is the lone running back in the Class of 2009. He may have to wait for his turn in the backfield though with Evan Royster, Stephon Green, and Brandon Beachum all returning next year, but Dukes adds great depth at the position. He may get a redshirt year this season, but that will only help him in the long run. Dukes is 6'2" and 225 pounds and runs a 4.4 40.
Dukes is another New York recruit for Penn State. It seems that Penn State is really investing in the Empire State in recruiting, and it has been paying dividends for them so far. Hopefully, Dukes can emerge as a game breaker in a year or two.
The story for Penn State's latest recruitment class was Justin Brown (above). The four-star receiver from Delaware had originally given a verbal commitment to Rutgers but switched things up and gave Penn State a second look.
Yesterday, the question was which school would he pick. Penn State fans rejoiced as Brown announced he would attend Penn State.
Having already signed all of their original commitments—26 in all—Brown became the icing on the cake.
Brown comes in as a player who may make an immediate impact on offense with the departure of Derrick Williams, Deon Butler, and Jordan Norwood. Brown is proof that Penn State is starting to recruit taller wide receivers, something that has been effective against them in Big Ten play in the past.
While Brown is the jewel of the incoming receivers Shawney Kersey, Christian Kuntz, and Brandon Felder should not be overlooked. Kersey is another receiver who switched from Rutgers to Penn State.
Kersey is 6'2" and runs a 4.45 40. Kersey may line up opposite of Brown in a matter of years and helps add some much needed depth at the position.
Brandon Felder is very similar to Kersey. Felder, from Maryland, was recruited by defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr., who owns the state of Maryland when it comes to recruiting. I believe Felder may be a steal in this recruiting season. He missed the entire 2008 football season with a torn ACL and LCL injury. He has dedicated himself to rehab and says he will be ready to make an impact when he arrives at Penn State. Penn State has a history of sticking with high school players through injury, and this is the latest example.
Christian Kuntz may wind up being a player who won't be the flashy guy but the reliable guy. I see him being the guy who comes in on third and five and picks up seven yards when there is heavier coverage on the primary receivers.
Devon Smith may also see some time at wide receiver but his size may limit him on offense. At 5'7" and 145 pounds, Smith may be more of a special teams player. He has great speed—a 4.34 40 time—that could be useful on kick and punt returns, which is why I suspect Penn State recruited him.
Also recruited by Pitt was Penn State's newest tight end, Gary Gilliam. Gilliam is another player who grew up in the shadows of Penn State, playing his high school ball in Hershey. Gilliam was a late bloomer in the recruiting world and schools did not notice him until he attended camps last June. If he can hold onto the ball, he may have a shot at some playing time in a year or two.
The success of all of the previous players will depend on the success of these players. At first glance, those players should be alright.
Offensive tackle was a key position for Penn State this offseason, and the results show that the depth has been handled very well.
Eric Shrive (above) is the focus of the offensive linemen in the Class of 2009. Shrive is a 6'7", 285 pound five-star offensive tackle from Scranton. He benches 350 pounds and squats 450 pounds. The kid has muscles.
Lining up on the opposite side of Shrive in a few years may be Philadelphia's own Mark Arcidiacono from St. Joseph's Prep. One recruiting service lists him as a four-star offensive tackle. One thing to like about Arcidiacono is that he grew up as a Penn State fan.
Also at offensive tackle is Nate Cadogan at 6'6" and 265 pounds. Cadogan is an Ohio native but did not receive an offer from Ohio State. Instead, he was given offers from other in-state schools like Cincinnati, Ohio, and Bowling Green. When Penn State came calling, he jumped at the opportunity.
Offensive tackle Adam Gress turned down offers from Michigan, West Virginia, and Rutgers. Gress is a recruit from western Pennsylvania.
In addition to the offensive tackles in the Class of '09, Penn State is also bringing in a pair of offensive guards and a center.
John Urschel and Frank Figueroa will add some depth to the position of offensive guard but may still be a couple years away from starting.
At center is Ty Howle, who was one of the early recruits for Penn State. Howle will compete with Quin Barham for the center spot with the loss of A.Q. Shipley to the NFL draft.
It is no secret that Penn State's secondary has had some problems, and they were under a big microscope in the Rose Bowl against USC. The cornerback position needed a big haul with the departure of seniors Tony Davis and Lydell Sargeant.
The big name at the position coming in will be Darrell Givens (No. 4 above). At 6'1" Givens is the tallest cornerback coming in and that size will come in handy against some of the top receivers in the Big Ten.
Givens was heavily recruited by Steve Spurrier of South Carolina but defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr., who practically owns the state of Maryland when it comes to recruiting—Jelani Jenkins aside, convinced Givens to come to Penn State.
Givens will anchor the cornerback position as early as this year with little competition at the position. A.J. Wallace will be the senior at the position, but Givens will have to compete with D'Anton Lynn for the other cornerback spot in most formations.
Joining Givens will be Derrick Thomas (#28 above), also from Maryland, who turned down offers from Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Illinois, and Maryland.
Thomas played wide receiver in high school as well and could see some time at the position at Penn State if called upon. But his focus will be cornerback, providing another tall cornerback that could be on the opposite side of Givens in a couple years.
Thomas' high school teammate Stephon Morris will join him in the recruiting class. Morris is a little undersized for the position but has great reaction speed and outstanding awareness coming in that could make up for it. He will not win any lobs against most wide receivers but he will limit the damage done on yards after catch.
Curtis Drake is an interesting name. Out of Philadelphia, Drake comes to Penn State as an athlete who may see more time at cornerback.
Drake was not recruited heavily by anybody, but Penn State took note of his 6' 170 pound frame and pursued him for the defensive position. He has decent speed and passed for 1,350 yards and 20 touchdowns as a high school junior, in addition to adding 600 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. Drake could also be a player used in some gadget plays down the line but we will see.
Rounding up the cornerback recruits is Michael Wallace, from Maryland. The speculation is that Wallace was offered a spot as part of a scheme to convince Jelani Jenkins to commit to Penn State. That part of the plan may have backfired, but Wallace adds depth to the position regardless.
He will have some work to do as he is both slightly undersized for cornerback and lacks the speed required to cover the top receivers from the opposition. Ared shirt year will help Wallace improve those skills.
While neither of these recruits will see significant time in 2009, they are quality recruits that add depth.
The safety position was exposed greatly in the Rose Bowl so both Stephen Obeng-Agyapong (above), from New York, and Malcolm Willis, from Maryland, will have a big test ahead of them.
Obeng-Agyapong is another recruit out of the Bronx, New York. Penn State has been recruiting in the Bronx more often lately, and it has been a smart move. Obeng-Agyapong was not heavily recruited by any school, receiving offers from Connecticut, Buffalo, Iowa, and Maryland in addition to Penn State.
Malcolm Willis was Givens' teammate in high school, so I like the fact that a few of these recruits already will have a special relationship with each other heading in. Penn State was the only offer Willis received, but he did verbally commit to the Nittany Lions last April.
Reports say that Willis has great blitzing and tackling ability but he needs to work on his coverage and recovery ability. Honestly, the negatives are what I focus on more than his blitzing and tackling. I want the safety position to be able to limit the damage that cornerbacks may let slip by.
Penn State has historically been referred to as "Linebacker U", which is why many thought that Jenkins would be a great fit for the Nittany Lions. While Jenkins is heading to Florida, fans should not lament who Penn State is bringing in at linebacker.
Glenn Carson is a highly touted linebacker himself. Recruited out of New Jersey Carson is a 6'3" and 220 pound linebacker that is being brought in most likely to fill the middle linebacker spot in the future, so keep an eye on his name in the future. Those middle linebackers at Penn State have some good history. His speed is not the fastest, but his tackling and awareness make up for it. Not that his speed is all that slow for the position though at 4.6 in the 40.
His future running mate, slated to play a weak side linebacker perhaps, will be Gerald Hodges (above), also out of New Jersey. For Hodges the decision came down to Penn State or Rutgers. Again, Penn State won. Hodges is roughly the same size as Carson, although a little lighter. He also brings slightly more speed, which will be key on the outside of the box.
Rounding up the defensive recruiting is a pair of defensive tackles. Sean Stanley (above), a 6'1" and 247 pound defensive tackle comes out of Baltimore. This was another Larry Johnson Sr. recruit, and you have to think that Johnson knows what he likes when it comes to the defensive line. I have high hopes for Stanley in the future on the defensive line who put together a good number of sacks in high school.
Also coming in is Jordan Hill from Harrisburg. Hill finished up his senior season at Steelton Highspire with 80 tackles and 7 sacks en route to a PIAA Class A state title. Hill is 6'3" and 290 pounds and figures to do well at clogging the running lanes when his time comes on the defensive line.
I would expect one or both of these players to receive red shirts in 2009, allowing them to develop a little more before seeing action in 2010. The defensive tackle position is actually pretty well manned heading into 2009.
With the loss of record breaking kicker Kevin Kelly, Penn State is bringing in one of the best kickers in the country. Anthony Ferra was recruited by Michigan, Ohio State, and Kansas State but ultimately chose Penn State. Ferra originally committed to Michigan but decommitted back in October.
Having one of the best legs in the country will be a benefit to Penn State with both field goals and kickoffs. Special teams look to be in good shape for Penn State with some of the new recruits possibly being set up for special teams coverage and returning.