The Penn State Nittany Lions are still dealing with NCAA sanctions that include scholarship reductions and a bowl ban. However, that didn’t prevent new head coach James Franklin from bringing top talent to Happy Valley and landing the No. 23 recruiting class in the nation. The class is unique in the fact that it’s a mix of the old regime, led by Bill O’Brien, and the new coaching staff, led by Franklin.
The class is made up of 25 recruits, five of which have already been in school since January. There is good balance, with 11 recruits listed on defense and 14 on offense. The Nittany Lions did a great job of stocking up on needed positions. One of the biggest holes on the roster last season was in the secondary. At least six players in the new class could find a spot there.
One of those players is 4-star recruit Koa Farmer. The talented athlete was once committed to California but flipped after Franklin took over at Penn State. He is a hybrid player who can also play linebacker.
If there’s one position that stands out among the rest, it’s wide receiver. Penn State has lost its two starters from last year, with Allen Robinson declaring for the draft and the graduation of Brandon Felder. Luckily, the Nittany Lions were able to secure some of the top wide receivers available. The class consists of four wide receivers; De’Andre Thompkins, Saeed Blacknall, Chris Godwin and Troy Apke. Thompkins, Blacknall and Godwin are all rated as 4-star recruits while Apke is a 3-star recruit.
According to Rivals, the Nittany Lions group of new wide receivers ranks third among all classes in the country.
The new wide receivers should provide solid weapons for second-year quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Aside from just the receivers, the Nittany Lions were also able to bring in Mike Gesicki, one of the top tight end recruits in the nation.
If there’s one thing missing in Penn State’s 2014 class, it’s a stud lineman. guys like Noah Beh, Chance Sorrell and Brendan Brosnan will play an important role in providing depth on the offensive line, but none are rated particularly high. On the defensive line, the Nittany Lions had a stud recruit in defensive tackle Thomas Holley, but lost him after O’Brien left for the NFL.
Though there are not any real big names on either lines, Penn State did an excellent job of collecting guys who could fill in where needed nicely. The last pickup of the class was athlete Torrence Brown. He didn’t have Penn State on his radar until late in the process, but chose to become a Nittany Lion on signing day. Though Brown has played running back, receiver, tight end and linebacker in high school, Franklin has already stated that he will fit in at defensive end.
Even without that star recruit that turns heads, this class is very solid. It fills a lot of needs and is made up of several guys who have the potential to develop into stars. This was the highest-rated class the Nittany Lions have had since 2010. With a full year to recruit for 2015, expect Franklin to do an even better job next season.CLASS GRADE: B+
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*See below for links to all 25 recruits*
- Tarow Barney – DT — Senatobia, MS (Northwest Mississippi CC)
- Michael O’Connor – QB — Bradenton, FL (IMG Academy)
- De’Andre Thompkins – WR — Swansboro, NC (Swansboro HS)
- Chasz Wright – OL — New Berlin, NY (Milford Academy)
- Antoine White – DL — Millville, NJ (Millville HS)
- Troy Reeder – LB — Wilmington, DE (Salesianum HS)
- Noah Beh — OT — Scranton, PA (Scranton Prep)
- Amani Oruwariye – DB — Tampa, FL (Gaither HS)
- Chance Sorrell – OL — Middletown, OH (Middletown HS)
- Jason Cabinda – LB — Flemington, NJ (Hunterdon High School)
- Troy Apke – WR — Pittsburgh, PA (Mt. Lebanon HS)
- Trace McSorley – QB/ATH — Ashburn, VA (Briar Woods HS)
- Nick Scott – RB/ATH — Fairfax, VA (Fairfax HS)
- Mike Gesicki – TE — Manahawkin, NJ (Southern Regional HS)
- Mark Allen – RB — Hyattsville, MD (DeMatha Catholic)
- Grant Haley — DB — Atlanta, GA (Lovett School)
- Saeed Blacknall – WR — Englishtown, NJ (Manalapan HS)
- Daquan Worley – DB — Coatesville, PA (Coatesville Area High School)
- Chris Godwin – WR — Middletown, DE (Middletown HS)
- Brendan Brosnan – OL — Park Ridge, IL (Maine South HS)
- Koa Farmer – ATH — Riverside, CA (Notre Dame HS)
- Jonathan Thomas – RB — Danvers, MA (St. John’s Prep)
- Christian Campbell – DB — Phenix, AL (Central High School)
- Torrence Brown – ATH — Tuscaloosa, AL (Tuscaloosa Academy)