Penn State Football Recruiting: 5 2013 Commits Who Will Start Their First Year

John McGonigal@@jmcgonigal9Correspondent IIFebruary 7, 2013

Penn State Football Recruiting: 5 2013 Commits Who Will Start Their First Year

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    With no surprises good or bad, the Penn State football 2013 recruiting class was officially announced on Wednesday. 

    And with 17 letters of intent signed (12 on Wednesday and five early enrollees), there comes a batch of players with high profiles along with those who flew under the radar.

    Regardless if recruiting services drooled over a player or not, they'll all be in the same position when they strap on that white helmet—gunning for a starting job and playing time.

    While many programs may like to ease the majority of freshmen into the mix, the Nittany Lions will be looking for a handful of first-year guys to step up and potentially start during the 2013 campaign.

    With that being said, let's take a look at five members of the 2013 class with a solid chance of starting come the fall.

    All photos via

Tyler Ferguson, QB

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    After the Nittany Lions lost out on JUCO quarterback Jake Waters to Kansas State, it seemed as though Penn State had an issue of depth under center with only Steven Bench returning from last year and highly-touted Christian Hackenberg entering the fold. 

    Only two quarterbacks on the roster? Bill O'Brien wasn't having any of that. 

    Not only did the Lions coaching staff go out and snag three preferred walk-on gunslingers, they also almost immediately picked another sought-after JUCO quarterback, Tyler Ferguson

    A California kid, Ferguson played at the College of Sequoias before deciding on Penn State, and he should have a great shot at starting next year. 

    Wait, what about Hackenberg? As previously mentioned, the best plan for Hackenberg would be to redshirt next season. 

    The reasons? Another year to compete for a bow and a year to get acclimated O'Brien's offensive scheme.

    Ferguson, who already possesses reliable pocket awareness and consistency, is an early enrollee so he'll have the entire spring to duke it out with Bench for the starting job—a competition Ferguson is very capable of winning.  

Adam Breneman, TE

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    At the moment, Penn State is pretty stacked at tight end. 

    Thriving in O'Brien's offensive scheme, rising sophomore Kyle Carter was a First-Team Freshman All-American this past season and fellow youngster Jesse James emerged as a down-the-field threat. 

    With both of them coming back along with Matt Lehman, common knowledge would suggest it'd be tough for Adam Breneman to earn playing time as a freshman.

    But with the nation's top tight end recruit saying he wants to play his first year coming off an ACL tear, it'll be expected that Breneman will see a lot of time in 2013.

    While Carter is probably the Big Ten's best tight end and one of the country's most versatile at the position, the beauty of O'Brien's offense is the implementation of more than one tight end.

    Even with Carter in there, Breneman can line up on the field next to him or across the field, it doesn't really matter.

    And considering Carter is more of a "F" tight end, he can run more down-the-field routes while Breneman—a "Y" tight end—can use his size and reliable hands in the intermediate passing game.  

Garrett Sickels, DE

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    With the fan infatuation with Hackenberg and Breneman, one guy who falls under the radar is defensive end Garrett Sickels.

    Standing at 6'4'', Sickels is hard to miss and schools took notice of this beast. Before committing to the Nittany Lions back in March, the New Jersey native had offers from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Notre Dame and Ohio State among others. 

    The fourth best defensive end in the 2013 recruiting class bursts off the edge and can create havoc in the backfield quickly, helped by his 4.68 40-yard dash time. 

    Not only is Sickels a monster talent, but the pieces are in place for him to start in 2013. 

    With the graduation and departure of ends Sean Stanley and Pete Massaro, the Lions are left with rising sophomore Deion Barnes as the only other end who tallied valuable experience last year. 

    Barnes, who earned First-Team Freshman All-American honors, broke out for a stellar freshman campaign with the help of masterful defensive line coach Larry Johnson, Sr. 

    Johnson—the mentor of former Lions greats such as Tamba Hali, Aaron Maybin and Cameron Wake—did a phenomenal job turning Barnes into a success his first year seeing time and can do the same with Sickels. 

Zayd Issah, LB

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    As the memorable class of 2012 departs the Penn State football team, so does Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, both of which have the talent to play on Sundays. 

    Glenn Carson is the only starting linebacker from 2012 returning to the Lions next season, and Mike Hull —basically a fourth starter last year—will likely fill one of the spots left by Mauti and Hodges. 

    With that being said, who will step up and earn the role as the other outside backer?

    Considering his sheer athleticism and hard-hitting nature, 2013 commit Zayd Issah is a good bet. 

    Issah, who verbaled to Penn State then re-opened his commitment after the sanctions, decided (again) that Happy Valley would be his college destination.

    The 4-star linebacker is a quick, instinctive player who also succeeded as a running back and kick returner in high school.

    Not only did he drag defenders with him as a runner, but Issah came flying off the edge as a pass-rusher.

    Also, Issah's natural athleticism would allow him to stick with receivers in coverage, making him a Swiss Army knife of an outside linebacker. 

Anthony Smith, DB

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    Perhaps no area on the field will be hurt more than the secondary with the graduation of the 2012 senior class, which included starters cornerback Stephon Morris and safety Jacob Fagnano. 

    And to think that current defensive coordinator John Butler said last year as secondary coach that the depth was insufficient for a nickel defense.

    With the addition of four scholarship members of the 2013 recruiting class along with numerous walk-ons, Butler should have that depth this year, but who will he start?

    It would appear as though Adrian Amos and DaQuan Davis would hold down the corners and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong and Malcolm Willis would start at safety.

    However, one player to watch out for anywhere across the secondary is 2013 commit Anthony Smith.

    Smith, who spent a post-graduate year at Valley Forge Military Academy, received no other FBS offers, but certainly has the versatility and talent to play at a high level.

    According to a story by Lions 247, Smith was barely thrown at when facing Christian Hackenberg and Fork Union Military Academy last year.

    While he's won't be the fastest guy on the field, Smith closes in quickly to make tackles and is reactive when in coverage.  

    Smith is also one of five commits who enrolled early, allowing him to get acclimated quickly and make an early impression on the coaching staff.