We kick things off by having three different people offer their opinions on the Nittany Lions' 2011 recruiting class. First up was sportsguypsu, who has a reputation for not being too critical or too positive.
Now we go with the one … the only … MalibuHammy, who is know for being just a TAD on the optimistic side.
Stay tuned for a report from the more skeptical side of the Nittany Nation.
All things considered, the 2011 Penn State recruiting class was a success. If I had to grade the class, I would give it a solid B+. Given the facts that Joe Paterno was ill to start the year off, Pennsylvania was down in overall talent and we had only 15 or 16 scholarships to hand out, the class actually turned out good and finished strong.
The class is full of potential at all positions. Let's start on the offense -- first and foremost, the offensive line.
Outside of Alosi, all were very highly recruited by many top BCS schools. I feel Alosi is underrated because he played tight end at 240 points in high school then went to prep for a year and became a 285-pound offensive tackle. He also happened to play defensive end, so you know he will have good feet and be fairly athletic.
Meanwhile, Mangiro is one of the top offensive guards in the country and bleeds Penn State. He has a great attitude, works hard and will be a force at PSU.
Nowicki is a top-notch right tackle who it seemed the entire Pac-10 was after. So were Michigan, Florida State and others. He is very athletic and can pull better than any OT I have seen on film this year. He also has the ability to play OG.
Lastly, Army All-American selection Smith is a pure left tackle. Great attitude, has ability to play OG or OT, and reminds me of a young Levi Brown. Big-time recruit, athletic, long arms, quick feet -- has all the tools for a great left tackle.
All four of these recruits have the ability to play multiple positions across the line, making them very valuable to this class.
Grade: A- Receiver
Robinson just turned 17, so obviously he is very young and a redshirt might do wonders for his development. But he has a 37-inch vertical jump and catches everything thrown his way. We will see how he develops, but he has a great attitude and wants to show people that he is a player. He also has the ability to play safety if need be, but I expect he will stay at WR. It also does not hurt that he is good friends with Rob Bolden, so you know they will have chemistry from the word "go."
Meanwhile, Zanellato and Belton are both big-time, four-star recruits who complement each other perfectly. Zannelato reminds me of a young Joe Jurevicius, while Belton actually reminds me of Derrick Williams. Zanellato has a big frame like Jurevicius, runs great routes, and catches everything thrown his way. He also enjoys making great catches via the deep ball. He will go up and get it, and makes it look easy. Hard working kid with a great attitude and confidence, he will succeed at PSU; an ideal outside WR.
And then lastly, PSU brought in the do-it-all playmaker in Belton. He is multi-talented, can hurt defenses in the slot WR position, running back or even in the wildcat quarterback formation. He has great wiggle, good speed and just makes electric plays. He can also return kicks.
Grade: A- Tight End
PSU landed Kyle Carter as its first verbal of the 2011 class. A tall kid with long arms and good hands, he has a nice vertical jump, which will help in goal-line situations. He is an athletic TE who will only get better with additional strength and weight training at PSU.
PSU also landed Jordan Kerner, who has the ability to play either defensive end or tight end. He supposedly has great hands, is a good blocker and has a big upside at TE if need be.
Kerner and Carter are two of the most underrated prospects in this class, in my opinion.
PSU targeted Carter early in the year and liked his upside as a tight end. It appears that he needs to improve his blocking, but he will do that in time. Hopefully he takes a redshirt his first year at Penn State and develops even more.
I expect PSU to try to go after one blue-chip tight end in the 2012 class, as well.
Grade: B- Running Back & Quarterback
Neither were positions of need this year, especially in a class with only 15 or 16 members. With Silas Redd, Stephfon Green, Brandon Beachum and Curtis Dukes, PSU should be more than fine at tailback in 2011. Plus we will have a couple fullbacks (Joe Suhey and Michael Zordich) to carry the load in short yardage.
In 2012, running back and quarterback will be priorities.
Grade: NA Secondary
Penn State has received the most criticism from fans and posters over its defensive back recruiting. But I feel that PSU actually landed two very good DB prospects.
We landed one true cornerback in Shyquawn Pullium, who is going to be special at PSU. He is very fast and has great coverage skills. Iowa wanted this kid badly in 2010. But he chose the Lions over Iowa before having to prep for a year. He would have had more offers for sure if he did not have to prep.
And it's funny how things work out sometimes in the end. This class really needed a true safety. And we landed Adrian Amos at the final bell. To me, Amos is the best DB we offered in 2011, except for Albert Louis-Jean and Dorian Grant. But at the same time, Grant was always a long shot for PSU and is a true corner, and Louis-Jean is sort of a tweener who can play CB or safety.
I like this kid Amos. His film is electric and he has a great attitude. Larry Johnson keeps the Maryland pipeline going and PSU landed a true hard-hitting safety with solid speed and agile feet who can go up and get the ball.
I would have liked a third DB in this class, but the two we got in Pullium and Amos are very good.
I expect PSU to take an additional four defensive backs in the 2012 class.
Grade: B- Linebacker
This was not a huge priority in the 2011 class. PSU landed one true 'backer in Ben Kline. And he is the real deal. He fits the Sean Lee mold very nicely. A true Penn State LB. We missed out on Connor Crowell, who went to OSU, but I feel that Kline is a better prospect anyway, to be frank. Like running back and quarterback on offense, linebacker will be a big priority in the 2012 class, as I expect Penn State to take up to three linebackers next year.
Grade: B Defensive Line
As usual, this was a very nice haul. We landed stud defensive ends in Shawn Oakman, Deion Barnes and Kerner. Oakman and Barnes are a bit raw and will need Larry Johnson's guidance on technique. But once they learn and put on good weight/strength, the sky is the limit for this tandem. We did miss out on Ishaq Williams and that hurt, for sure.
At defensive tackle, we landed one of the top prospects in the nation in Anthony Zettel. He is the size of a defensive end right now, but he should grow perfectly into a tackle once he is in the program for a year or so. This kid is a big-time player.
Penn State was looking to take a second tackle in this class initially with Darian Cooper. But that never transpired. I don't think that is a huge loss at all. I like Cooper as a player, but I like Zettel's future as a DT better.
PSU looks to be in great shape with a couple tackle prospects in the 2012 class. I expect DT to also be a big priority in the 2012 class, especially with a larger class. We should be bringing in two blue-chip tackles in 2012.
Grade: B+ Special Teams
PSU picked up an excellent kicker in Sam Ficken. He is supposed to be very accurate. And he has a chance to even start for Penn State in 2011, depending on the accuracy of Anthony Fera. Given those circumstances, the kid was well worth the offer. He already had an Akron offer, and Michigan and Ohio State wanted him to come in for a visit. PSU offered and landed him before he was able to take additional visits.
I'm going to go with a conditional grade here. It'll be an A if Ficken emerges as the starting kicker this season and a C if he does not.
All in all, a very good class. You have to remember, PSU only had 16 scholarships for this class, max. And at one point earlier in the year, it was looking like 12 or 13 may have been the max. So Penn State was being selective. Joe Paterno was ill in the beginning of the year, so it was not as easy to get out offers as it usually would be. Pennsylvania talent was also down this year compared to other years.
That said, the Lions got off to a slow start but really came on and finished very strong the final couple of months.
True, it would have been nice to land Koyack, Williams, and Albert Louis-Jean, but we also landed many unexpected top notch-recruits such as Nowicki (from Arizona), Zettel (from Michigan), Belton (switch from Pitt), Kline (switch from Pitt) and Amos (switch from UConn).
This 2011 recruiting year was full of ups and downs. But overall, given the circumstances mentioned above, the class is a success. If we landed guys like Koyack, Williams, Huggins and Louis-Jean, the class would have been an A in my mind. But because we missed out on the three or four recruits, the class gets a not exceptional but a very good overall grade of a B+.