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Penn State Football Recruiting: Nittany Lions' National Signing Day Wish List

John McGonigalCorrespondent IIJanuary 23, 2013

Penn State Football Recruiting: Nittany Lions' National Signing Day Wish List

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    To anyone who has recently crawled out from under a rock: this 2013 recruiting class will be vital to Penn State football's success heading forward.

    While the Rivals.com rankings suggest the Nittany Lions are having a down recruiting year for a traditional powerhouse, this class has its obvious gems and a few guys with sneaky potential—both of which adds a lot of intrigue.

    Any fan of college football in Pennsylvania had the names "Christian Hackenberg" and "Adam Brenenman" drilled into their heads by now, but this class shows a lot of promise outside the blue-chippers.

    For example, unheralded recruits like cornerback Anthony Smith or defensive back Neiko Robinson are players that will definitely provide depth, but also give the Lions' coaching staff hungry, underrated student-athletes looking to prove their worth.

    Regardless of how much there is to like with these recruits, nothing is official until they put pen to paper and sign that National Letter of Intent.

    With that being said, let's take a look at what Bill O'Brien and Penn State fans everywhere would love to see on National Signing Day (Feb. 6.).

3. Sway Last Minute Targets to Happy Valley

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    While the 17-recruit class looks pretty solid at this point, there are still some high schoolers the Lions are targeting.

    One name to watch on National Signing Day is Philadelphia running back David Williams.

    Yes, this is the same David Williams that decided on South Carolina as his college choice recently.

    It's a long shot at best considering a Lions hat didn't even make it to his table. But, it wouldn't be surprising if Penn State continues to recruit Williams, Pennsylvania's lone 4-star running back, until he signs.

    Realistically, a key name that has been on Penn State's radar is Rod Crayton.

    Crayton, a defensive tackle that stands at 290 pounds, is a 4-star prospect from the state of Alabama strongly considering Auburn, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Penn State.

    Considering they're losing senior Jordan Hill to the draft and graduation, Penn State would love to pull in a capable defensive tackle like Crayton, especially because the Lions have only one other tackle committed.

2. Extend Further into Foreign Territory

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    While he is no longer on the Nittany Lions' coaching staff, Ted Roof will continue to impact the Penn State program recruiting-wise.

    Despite serving as the Lions' defensive coordinator for just one season, Roof was able to open up passageways into the Deep South for recruiting purposes.

    While they were able to retain the majority of the recruits with Southern roots, the Lions should continue their research of states like Alabama, Georgia, etc. for unearthed talent.

    Obviously, states like Texas, Florida and Alabama, that live and breath football, have arguably the best high school talent in the country, making it easy for players to fall through the cracks here and there.

    With the sanctions and other hindrances surrounding the program, it's O'Brien and company's job to find these guys with potential and bring them to Happy Valley.

    Even though guys like Larry Johnson Sr. and Ron Vanderlinden primarily dominate the Tri-state region, Penn State needs to go out of their comfort zone and establish connections outside of traditional pipeline states. 

    That mission should pick up steam as National Signing Day approaches.

1. No Unwanted Surprises

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    When Feb. 6 rolls around, the beloved and heralded high school quarterback, pictured, along with many other crucial recruits are expected to put pen to paper and sign with the Nittany Lions.

    The absolute last thing Bill O'Brien or the Penn State faithful need is surprise defectors.

    Hackenberg and the rest of this recruiting class seems firm and committed to Penn State. There's no question about that.

    As ESPN's Chris Jones points out in his story about Hackenberg, the quarterback isn't going anywhere but Happy Valley.

    Hackenberg, perhaps to quiet the many doubters and second-guessers, has purposely not left himself any outs. Speaking to him for this column, for this very public letter of intent, I can't help asking him if he's sure -- if he wants to hold off, just in case. "No, we're good," he says. "I'm not going anywhere." (His Twitter bio already reads "Nittany Lion for life.") Someone like Nick Saban could make one last push before signing day on Feb. 6, but in Hackenberg's mind, he has no more decisions to make.

    The majority of Penn State fans feel pretty assured about the status of Hackenberg and the rest of the class. The apparent outpouring of love for the school, O'Brien and the program is enough to realize the chances of last minute switches are unlikely.

    In fact, unlikely is probably a huge understatement.

    With all of this considered, a late change in Hackenberg, or another commit's thinking, could be devastating to the 2013 recruiting class.

    But don't bank on it.

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