Penn State Football: Grading the 2023 recruiting class

Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin celebrates the victory against the Utah Utes at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin celebrates the victory against the Utah Utes at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /
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Sep 10, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Manny Diaz (center) Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 10, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Manny Diaz (center) Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports /

Defense

Defensive Tackle

Penn State’s defensive tackle haul is tough to gauge because it could have just one member in 3-star Tyriq Blanding, or it could have three or four if 4-stars Jameial Lyons, Mathias Barnwell and Joseph Mupoyi eventually move to defensive tackle. For now, it seems safe to believe that Blanding is the only one who will start at defensive tackle, with the chance someone like Barnwell eventually joins him.

James Franklin talked about the needed to get bigger at defensive tackle and Penn State may eventually accomplish that with this group. Blanding is listed at 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds while Barnwell would be an intriguing option at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds. They have the frames, it’s all about adding the weight. The one thing this group does lack is that space eater that is already 300+ pounds coming out of high school.

Grade: B-

Defensive End

The 2023 team is filled with edge rushers, but there’s a chance that at least two impact rushers move on after the season. Reloading here was key and the Nittany Lions did a solid job of that in terms of depth. 4-star Philadelphia product Jameial Lyons highlights the group. He is joined by raw talent and fellow 4-star Joseph Mupoyi and Northwestern flip Mason Robinson.

The group lacks that premiere plug and play type guy. It had that guy in top 50 recruit Tomarrion Parker, but he decommitted over the summer and eventually ended up with Clemson. If Parker had stayed committed, this group would be one of the best in the class.

Grade: B

Linebacker

LinebackerU lived up to its name in the 2023 recruiting class. Penn State added three 4-stars to the group through this recruiting class. They were high 4-star Tony Rojas from Virgnia, 4-star Ta’Mere Robinson from Pittsburgh and 4-star and North Carolina flip Kaveion Keys from Virginia.

These three bring athleticism and versatility to a group that already has a freak athlete roaming the field in Abdul Carter. While Robinson is still coming back from an ACL injury, Rojas and Keys will have an opportunity to be on the two deep when the 2023 season starts. Robinson could eventually join them at some point in the season. This was as good as a Penn State fan could’ve hoped for from this haul.

Grade: A

Defensive Back

Thanks to the play of recent stars like safeties Jaquan Brisker and Ji’Ayir Brown and cornerback Joey Porter Jr., defensive back recruiting has gotten easier for the Nittany Lions. Penn State Football ended the 2023 cycle with five defensive backs, four of them being 4-stars.

The group is highlighted by 4-star Elliot Washington, who flipped from Alabama, under the radar 4-star Zion Tracy and 4-star King Mack at cornerback/nickel. At safety, there’s 4-star Dakaari Nelson, who saw a huge ratings bump towards the end of the cycle, and 3-star Lamont Payne, who is an in-state recruit. This group is athletic and versatile and will be counted on with Penn State likely losing four key contributors in the secondary after 2023.

The only regret with this group is that 4-star safety Conrad Hussey flipped his commitment to Florida State back in December.

Grade: A

Overall Defensive Grade: A-