Penn State football players who outperformed their high school recruiting rankings

Some of the best developmental stories for the Penn State football program include Allen Robinson, Olu Fashanu, and Jahan Dotson.
Indiana v Penn State
Indiana v Penn State / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

College football fans will often follow the recruiting of their favorite team. Fans will always salivate when their team is able to pull in a huge five-star prospect to come to their programs while many prospects who are either three stars or less get overlooked. Yet, they may have a worthwhile college career, sometimes even better than that five-star who invigorated the fanbase.

Penn State has certainly had its share of three-star prospects who outplayed their high school recruiting rating. Let's take a look at some of the recent players to develop into future NFL stars.

2020. 491. . . 3-star. Olu Fashanu. player. OT. Olu Fashanu. Olu Fashanu

The most recent example of a developmental success for James Franklin's program is Olu Fashanu. Coming out of high school, Fashanu was a three-star prospect who developed into a two-time All-American, and in 2023 he did now allow a sack in 382 pass-blocking snaps. Fashanu went on to become the 11th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

. Allen Robinson. player. Allen Robinson. . 2011. 3-star. Allen Robinson. WR. 491

A three-star prospect, Allen Robinson burst onto the scene his sophomore season by becoming Penn State's go-to receiver in 2012. That year, he accounted for 1,018 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. In 2013, Robinson followed that up by making history when he set the all-time single-season receiving yards record at Penn State, with 1,432 yards.

2018. 3-star. 491. Jahan Dotson. Jahan Dotson. . . Jahan Dotson. WR. player

Another three-star wide receiver prospect, Jahan Dotson would go on to be one of Sean Clifford's primary targets. In 2021 against Maryland, he set the single-game record for most receiving yards in a game by a Penn State player with 242. Dotson would finish with first-team all-Big Ten honors that year and is 4th on Penn State's all-time list for most career receiving yards.

. . 3-star. KJ Hamler. 491. 2017. player. KJ Hamler. KJ Hamler. WR

Hamler, who was a three-star prospect coming out of high school, was electric throughout his college career. Against Ohio State in 2018, Hamler used his speed to take a short pass 93 yards for a touchdown, the second-longest passing touchdown in Penn State history. In the 2019 campaign, Hamler had over 900 receiving yards, was 2nd team All-Big Ten, and was selected in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

. Journey Brown. Journey Brown. 3-star. 491. . Journey Brown. RB. player. 2017

Journey Brown's career at Penn State was unfortunately cut short due to an underlying heart condition, forcing him to retire from football. Not before however, making a huge impact on the field during the 2019 season. A three-star prospect, Brown rushed for 890 yards that year and had to work for every single one of them. Journey Brown emerged as the premier back as the season progressed, beating out a talented backfield that included Noah Cain and Devyn Ford. Brown went on to set the record for rushing yards in a Cotton Bowl with 202.

Trace McSorley. QB. player. 491. . . Trace McSorley. Trace McSorley. 2014. 3-star

Trace McSorley originally committed to Vanderbilt before switching his commitment to follow James Franklin to Penn State. A three-star prospect, McSorley led Penn State to a Big Ten championship in 2016 and set a then-school record for most wins by a starting quarterback with 31. He also holds the school record for most passing yards in a single season with 3,614.

Next. Penn State football's most important recruiting targets. Penn State football's most important recruiting targets. dark