The Penn State Nittany Lions just wrapped up the first full season of recruiting under head coach Bill O'Brien. The class includes quarterback Christian Hackenberg, one of the most sought-after quarterbacks in the country. Aside from the star signal-caller, the class also includes several players who should set a good foundation for years to come.
Despite NCAA sanctions, which included a four-year bowl ban, the Nittany Lions finished with the 24th-best class for 2013, according to ESPN. While the class is highlighted by Hackenberg and a few other 4-star recruits, it's made primarily up of 3-star guys who will bring needed depth to the roster.
O'Brien did a great job of adding solid guys who can fill holes in the roster. This class will help set a strong foundation for Penn State teams in the years to come. While most of the freshmen likely won't see much playing time in 2013, there are several key components of the class who can be built around for the future.
Nothing solidifies a football team like a talented quarterback that a team can build around. That's exactly what Penn State now has in freshman Christian Hackenberg. The 5-star recruit from Virginia is the top pocket-passer of the 2013 class, according to ESPN, and he has all the makings of a potential elite quarterback
In his senior season at Fork Union Military, Hackenberg threw for 2,144 yards with 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Though not considered a runner, he did add three rushing touchdowns on the year.
Hackenberg is a pro-style quarterback who should be a perfect fit for the NFL-style passing attack that Bill O'Brien runs at Penn State. It's a system that saw former walk-on Matt McGloin transform into one of the top passers in the Big Ten. In his senior season under O'Brien, McGloin threw for 3,266 yards with 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
It's likely that Hackenberg will redshirt for the 2013 season. That will give him an extra year to learn the system, as well as an extra year to play in a bowl game when the NIttany Lions go off of probation after the 2015 season.
Whenever he is finally under center for the Nittany Lions, it's safe to assume that he will be the cornerstone of the team and one to build around for the future.
Garrett Sickels is a defensive end from New Jersey who earned a 4-star rating from Rivals.com. With time to develop, he will be a constant on the Penn State defensive line for years to come.
Locking down a good talent on the outside is important for any defense, and that's what Sickels' signing does for the NIttany Lions.
At 6'4", 245 pounds, he already has great size that will make him a force to deal with on the outside.
During his senior year in high school, Sickels recorded nine sacks, showing that he has an ability to get to the quarterback.
His ESPN scouting report states that he "displays the tools to be able to develop into a productive starter."
Sickels will look to follow in the footsteps of last year's Big Ten Freshman of the Year, defensive end Deion Barnes, and turn into an important part of Penn State's success on defense for the next few years.
Brendan Mahon is another 4-star recruit who will be an important member of the Nittany Lions for years to come. According to the 247sports.com composite ranking, he's the 12th-ranked guard. Mahon could also move over to offensive tackle if needed.
While the skill positions get all the publicity on offense, everything starts with great protection up front. That's what Mahon will be able to provide. He already possesses the size to be a standout at the collegiate level.
According to his ESPN Recruiting Nation scouting report, "Mahon is a tough, dominant run blocker who uses his playing strength to consistently knock defenders off the ball."
Mahon is definitely someone that the program can build around. He will be a solid anchor on the Penn State offensive line for years to come.
Coming from New England, it was no secret that O'Brien loved to use the tight end in the passing attack. During the 2012 season, three Penn State tight ends finished in the top five on the team in receiving yards.
Breneman presents a tall target for his quarterback and has shown good hands throughout his high school career. In 2011, when he was a junior, he finished with 1,120 yards and 12 touchdowns.
According to his Recruiting Nation scouting report:
He possesses good speed for the tight end position and is capable of being an active part of an offense's passing attack. He has good hands and displays the ability to extend and catch the ball away from his body. Breneman is a good football player who displays the tools to contribute quickly as a receiving target and develop into a well-rounded, versatile and very good college tight end.
Heading into the 2013 season, it's not yet clear if Breneman will be on the active roster, as the Nittany Lions are deep at tight end. He may redshirt, especially considering he's coming off a major knee injury that occurred during his senior year of high school.
Regardless of when Breneman gets on the field, look for him to make an instant impact and be a key component to Penn State's success.