3 Biggest Questions Penn State Needs to Answer Before 2014 National Signing Day

Troy Weller@@troywellerContributor IIIDecember 18, 2013

Nov 23, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Bill O'Brien prior to the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien has already constructed a solid 2014 recruiting class. Yet with less than two months remaining until National Signing Day, there are still some needs that have to be addressed.

This week has been good for the Nittany Lions. On Monday, linebacker Donte Raymond and tight end Jacob August committed to Penn State—Raymond will accept a scholarship, while August will "run-on"

But the big splash came Tuesday, when O'Brien landed defensive tackle Thomas Holley. Considered a 4-star talent by Scout.com, Holley could play immediately.

Still, there's work to be done. Here's a look at the three biggest questions Penn State needs to answer before February 5. 


Will Penn State add another offensive lineman? 

Penn State needs to replace four contributors on the offensive line from 2013.

John Urschel, Adam Gress, Ty Howle and Garry Gilliam have all graduated. Urschel and Howle started consistently, while Gress and Gilliam rotated at both tackle spots.

With having to replace all those players, the Nittany Lions would ideally like to get someone who can contribute immediately. That someone could be junior college offensive tackle Kareem Are.

At 6'6" and 320 pounds, Are has the size needed to play the tackle position. He's scheduled to announce his choice on Wednesday, according to Tom VanHaaren of ESPN.com.

If Are doesn't pick the Nittany Lions, they'll have to push harder for local product Alex Bookser. A 4-star recruit according to Scout.com, the offensive tackle has already taken official visits to Penn State, Ohio State and Tennessee. He'll visit Pittsburgh in January. 

Bookser might not be a candidate to play right away like Are, but he has the upside to be a multi-year starter wherever he goes. 

Penn State recently offered offensive guard Justin Herron. However, according to NJ.com, the Rutgers verbal commit says the offer "doesn't mean anything"

Right now, Are appears to be Penn State's best shot at adding an additional offensive lineman for 2014. 


Can the Nittany Lions get another defensive player? 

Penn State could possibly add not one, but two defensive players before National Signing Day. 

One of the bigger areas of concern for O'Brien and defensive coordinator John Butler is the secondary. The unit is scarce on both numbers and talent. Penn State already has two cornerbacks and a safety committed to its 2014 class. Safety Shawn Boone could be another addition.

The Florida native is a 3-star recruit as ranked by Scout.com. According to Dieter Kurtenbach of the Sun-Sentinel, Boone is ready to make his college decision next month. Penn State is one of his two finalists.

Boone holds offers from the likes of Florida State, Ohio State and Tennessee. Top schools see potential in him, despite being Scout.com's 119th-ranked safety in the class.

Another player who has Penn State high on his list is linebacker Melvin Keihn. He took an official visit to State College back in November. Per Mike Farrell of Rivals.com, he's inching closer to a decision, and the Nittany Lions are in the mix.

Landing either Boone or Keihn—or both—would add needed depth at two key positions. With the slight increase in scholarships, Penn State has the flexibility to do so. 

Defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi is likely out of the picture at this point. After Holley's commitment on Tuesday, Penn State now has three defensive tackles in its 2014 class.


Can O'Brien afford to redshirt Michael O'Connor? 

A month ago, the answer was yes. However, that was before quarterback Tyler Ferguson announced that he's transferring, as reported by CBSSports.com. Now, the decision on whether or not to redshirt incoming quarterback Michael O'Connor is a difficult one.   

O'Connor committed to Penn State back in June, even though Christian Hackenberg had just arrived on campus. With Hackenberg cemented as the starter, it appeared O'Connor would redshirt in 2014. This would give him two years of playing time once Hackenberg graduated. 

Injuries can happen at any moment, so Penn State needs a suitable replacement to step in if Hackenberg goes down. If O'Connor is redshirted, O'Brien might not have that luxury. 

Last week, Penn State extended an offer to signal-caller John Wolford. He recently flipped his verbal commitment from East Carolina to Wake Forest, according to a report from Florida Times-Union writer Justin Barney, yet will still take an official visit to State College. 

Adding Wolford would give Penn State three scholarship quarterbacks for 2014. This would make the decision to redshirt O'Connor a bit simpler. 

If the Nittany Lions can't add another quarterback, they might have to burn O'Connor's redshirt. If they don't, the backup would either be D.J. Crook or Jack Seymour. Both players were run-ons in 2013. 


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