It’s been over 5 hours now since the final Letter of Intent, from Florida DB Neiko Robinson rolled off the fax machine on what was a rather mundane National Signing Day for Bill O’Brien and Penn State. With the majority of Penn State’s NCAA mandated 15 scholarships spoken for over a month ago, no “soft commitments”, and no Signing Day announcements, the Penn State coaches, and fans, were left to simply wait for the 12 expected players to submit their paperwork to PSU. All American DE Garrett Sickels out of New Jersey wasted no time this morning, becoming the first recruit to fax his Letter in at 7:04, and everyone but Robinson had sent their LOI in by 9:45, including top quarterback recruit Christian Hackenberg, who signed shortly before 9:00.
So the question remains, how did the Lions do? If recruiting service rankings are your thing, “mixed bag” might be the best way to describe it. Both 247Sports and ESPN ranked the PSU class in the top 25, and 4th in the Big 10. Scout and Rivals were a little more stingy, with the former putting the Lions at 45th nationally and 7th in the Big 10, while the latter had them 41st and 5th. There are inherent issues with those ranking systems, however. The more players you sign, the higher you are ranked, teams have different needs, and typically a QB is going to get you more “points” than a defensive tackle.
From a realistic standpoint, it seems pretty hard to find much fault with Penn State’s class. Obviously the sanctions put O’Brien and his staff behind the 8 ball, and there were a number of high profile recruits that likely would have improved those rankings that backed out in the aftermath. There are also several players we know had an interest in PSU, but opted to look elsewhere even before committing after the sanctions were announced. We can only guess about how many other players we don’t know about felt the same way.
But enough negativity. There is so much to look forward to with the 17 young men who have joined the program. Four defensive backs (Kasey Gaines, Jordan Smith, Anthony Smith, Neiko Robinson) address the biggest need on the depth chart. Christian Hackenberg fills a huge need at quarterback. Adam Breneman is exactly the type of tight end you would want to plug into O’Brien’s offense. Gaines, Robinsin, along with Parker Cotrhen represent Penn State’s first significant foray into the talent rich south, something that should continue to pay dividends down the road. Brandon Bell and Zayd Issah are two players PSU targeted early on to fill the holes at linebacker, and they got both. Sickels and Curtis Cothran are intriguing prospects at defensive end, and again, players PSU wanted and got.
One aspect I think can’t be under estimated is how big getting a few high profile players like Hackenberg, Breneman, Sickels, Mahon in this class is. Not only have you brought in 4 key players, but you have 4 guys that already bleed blue and white, and have shown it’s still “OK” for elite players to not only consider, but attend Penn State. Bill O’Brien said as much during his press conference today, saying keeping those kids in the fold was big for not only 2013, but also the class of 2014.
In the coming seasons we’ll see just how good this class of 17 players really is, but as has been said ad nauseum, every player deserves a ton of credit for seeing through the storm clouds and sanctions, and still signing with the Lions. This class will bear a significant brunt of the sanctions, and all should be commended for their commitment to PSU.
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