Penn State National Signing Day: 5 Takeaways from Nittany Lions' Class
According to the team rankings compiled by 247Sports.com, Penn State is poised to sign a top-25 class on Wednesday.
Of the 24 players committed to the class, 10 will likely play on the defensive side of the ball. The rest will play offense, highlighted by an impressive crop of wide receivers.
James Franklin had 19 players committed to the class when he took over. Although three have since decommitted, he was able to add more talent and bring the class back up to speed.
The way Penn State has recruited since the Jerry Sandusky scandal is impressive. The Nittany Lions have navigated around the NCAA-imposed sanctions to usher in impressive groups such as the 2013 class and this year's.
However, nothing is finalized until written in ink. Until then, Franklin and his staff will have to wait out the next few days.
Let's take a look at some of the takeaways from Penn State's 2014 class.
Unless noted otherwise, all recruiting rankings and information are courtesy of 247Sports.com.
Help in the Secondary
The secondary was the target of ire from Penn State fans last season.
According to cfbstats.com, the Nittany Lions' pass defense ranked No. 74 in the nation last year, giving up nearly 240 yards per game. A unit that lacked depth also arguably didn't have much talent either.
Fortunately for Penn State, its 2014 recruiting class features a cluster of defensive backs. Of the 24 commits, five will add depth to the back end of defensive coordinator Bob Shoop's defense.
While the latter three will probably provide depth in their first year, the duo of safeties could both challenge for playing time. The current depth chart has a pair of former walk-ons listed as starters, so the door is open for both Farmer and Allen to challenge for playing time.
They both possess good size, can tackle well and are instinctive players. Keep an eye on the two of them during summer camp.
Penn State could wind up having six defensive backs, depending on what Franklin decides to do with Trace McSorley. Recruited as a dual-threat quarterback, McSorley also played safety in high school.
Offensive Line Depth
A position of great importance after the loss of five contributors, Penn State really needed to do something about its offensive line depth.
Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, they have—and they've done it all within the last month or so.
Heading into the offseason, Noah Beh was the only offensive lineman committed to the class. Even with rumors circulating about a potential jump to the NFL, Bill O'Brien was still able to pick up a pledge. It came in the form of prep product Chasz Wright just days before he left.
However, the Nittany Lions still needed more bodies.
They would get them by way of former Vanderbilt commits Chance Sorrell and Brendan Brosnan. Sorrell switched to Penn State shortly after Franklin's introductory press conference, while Brosnan waited a few days after that to make his decision.
While these four recruits will likely only provide depth this year, they're certainly intriguing prospects for new offensive line coach Herb Hand to work with. They'll all need to put on weight, but each one has the frame to do so—no one is listed under 6'6".
Wright is probably the readiest of the group, considering he played a season of prep football last year. He could find himself as a backup in 2014.
The Quarterback Transition
One success that's eluded Penn State over the years has been a smooth quarterback transition.
Between the Rob Bolden/Matt McGloin race that ineptly lasted nearly two full seasons and turning the keys over to freshman Christian Hackenberg, the transitions between starting quarterbacks haven't been the most comfortable.
Granted, McGloin turned out to have a great 2012 season and Hackenberg excelled as a freshman, but both instances didn't come without initial question marks.
With Michael O'Connor in the mix for the Nittany Lions, they'll have someone ready and waiting for when Hackenberg's tenure is up.
O'Connor's situation is tricky—Franklin would love to redshirt him, but he's probably the second-best quarterback on the roster. Penn State could try to hold him out, but if Hackenberg gets injured, O'Connor would probably get the nod.
If he's able to redshirt, O'Connor would have two seasons to be the starter if Hackenberg stayed until his senior season. If this scenario plays out, Penn State wouldn't have to worry much about a quarterback until 2019.
This is speculation and O'Connor could transfer at any moment, but keep in mind that he committed to Penn State knowing that Hackenberg would be here. He also stayed committed after Hackenberg's impressive freshman season and through a coaching change.
Is O'Connor the real deal? Former Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke thinks so. Weinke, who coached O'Connor at IMG Academy, told Dustin Hockensmith of PennLive.com that O'Connor and Hackenberg are "almost mirror images."
His addition has all the makings of a smooth transition in a few years.
A Stockpile of Receiver Talent
Christian Hackenberg won't have a shortage of weapons over the next few years.
By the looks of it, Penn State will have five new pass-catchers by Wednesday—four wide receivers and a tight end. As if the depth alone weren't enough, all five are impressive prospects.
Of the wide receivers, three are rated as 4-star prospects by 247Sports—Saaed Blacknall, De'Andre Thompkins and Chris Godwin. Troy Apke was only given a 3-star assessment, but he's still an impressive prospect nonetheless.
Blacknall and Godwin are taller receivers, while Apke and Thompkins possess smaller frames. All have good speed, can run routes well and are dangerous after the catch.
The lone tight end in the class is New Jersey's Mike Gesicki. Rated as the nation's top tight end and the No. 58 recruit overall, Gesicki is a big-bodied guy who will join an already impressive crop of tight ends in Happy Valley.
With the loss of Allen Robinson, Penn State will need to find someone to step up and replace his production. While this group may not be the immediate remedy the Nittany Lions are looking for, it certainly has a bright future ahead.
The James Franklin Effect
There's no denying James Franklin's impact on Penn State's 2014 recruiting class.
Eight of Penn State's 24 commits wouldn't be Nittany Lions if it weren't for Franklin coming to Happy Valley. This shift in the class speaks volumes to his influence as a coach, especially since some recruits even committed the day he took the job.
Six of these eight players were former Vanderbilt commits. Of the remaining two, Koa Farmer was heavily targeted by Franklin at Vanderbilt. When Saeed Blacknall decommitted from Rutgers, Franklin extended an offer to the talented wideout.
In just a few weeks, Franklin was able to land three additional 4-star recruits. He also made a run at highly touted offensive tackle Damian Prince before he dropped the Nittany Lions from consideration.
It's safe to say that Franklin hit the ground running when he took the Penn State opportunity. With his newest additions, he was able to add depth along the offensive line and in the secondary—where it was needed the most.
This quick surge from Franklin offered a glimpse of what is still to come. There's no telling what he'll be able to do in recruiting during this first full season.
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