1. WHAT IS YOUR OVERALL TAKE ON THIS CLASS?
Given everything that had gone down in the months leading up to LOI day, Penn State did about as well as it could do. The class lost a lot of its star power to de-commits, but overall it did a good job of meeting needs and creating depth for the future. I don't see many instant-impact players in this group, though.
2. WHAT LETTER GRADE DO YOU GIVE IT AND WHY?
B-. Ordinarily, I would not give a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten group this high of a grade. However, I think a curve is in order here. More on this later.
3. DO YOU EXPECT ANY SURPRISES FOR PENN STATE -- POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE -- BETWEEN NOW AND THE END OF LOI DAY?
No. My take is that Penn State is pretty much set with the 19 commits it has (or had at the time of this writing).
4. DID THE SANDUSKY SCANDAL AND COACHING CHANGE HAVE MORE OR LESS OF AN IMPACT ON THIS CLASS THAN YOU ORIGINALLY THOUGHT IT MIGHT?
Less. In early November, I really wondered if Penn State would be able to keep more than a handful of its commits. Of course, it would be naïve to underplay the loss of the six de-commits -- especially the four with four-star or higher ratings. And losing five-star defensive end Noah Spence (who once appeared to be a lock for PSU) to Ohio State really hurt. But when all is said and done, Penn State will have a class that ranks in the top 50 nationally and right in the middle of the Big Ten. Not a bad rally after one of the worst scandals in sports history, the firing of an iconic coach and an oh-so-long search for a replacement. It says something that Penn State endured what it endured and yet still came away with a class that is on par with those at Pitt and Rutgers.
5. HOW DID BILL O'BRIEN AND HIS STAFF DO IN THE LIMITED TIME THEY HAD TO WORK ON THIS CLASS?
They did well. The one real negative is that they were not able to convince Armani Reeves and Camren Williams to stay on board. Beyond that, they talked a couple of de-commits (Malik Golden and Nyeem Wartman) off the ledge, landed a commit from undervalued three-star running back Akeel Lynch and brought in some more-than-capable athletes at positions of need (especially in the secondary). And don't underestimate the importance of landing Georgia QB Steven Bench, who had previously committed to Rice. Bench may only be a two-star prospect. But O'Brien and his staff have serious ties in Georgia, so Bench may well be the first trickle of a steady flow of prospects from the talent-rich state to PSU.
6. WHERE DID PENN STATE MEET NEEDS WITH THIS CLASS?
The staff built depth in the secondary, added more beef in the middle of the defensive line and bolstered the receiving corps.
7. WHERE DID PENN STATE FAIL TO MEET NEEDS WITH THIS CLASS?
As crazy as the QB situation has been, it would have served Penn State well to land two passers in this class. Getting another tight end would have helped, too. I like Brent Wilkerson but wonder if Jesse James is going to outgrow the position. Another tailback would have been helpful, too. I'm not as hung up on the fact that PSU landed only one D-end (Evan Schwan). There is enough young talent on the roster there now. That's not to underplay the loss of Spence, though.
8. WHO IS THE BEST GET IN THIS CLASS?
I can see athletic wideout Eugene Lewis making an immediate impact.
9. WHO IS A SLEEPER IN THIS CLASS?
Jamil Pollard helped make up for the de-commit of Tommy Schutt at defensive tackle. How many of these three-star DT prospects has Larry Johnson molded into multiple-year contributors and even NFL players?
10. WHICH LOST COMMIT HURT THE MOST?
Reeves is the sort of smart, athletic defensive back who could have contributed early at Penn State.
11. WHICH LOST PROSPECT (NON-COMMIT) HURT THE MOST?
Spence, obviously. Penn State will be fine at defensive end. But it has to stop letting top Pennsylvania prospects leave the state, especially for a destination like Ohio State.
12. HOW DOES PENN STATE STACK UP AGAINST THE REST OF THE BIG TEN?
Ohio State and Michigan dominated the conference recruiting battles this year, and nobody benefitted more from Penn State's issues than Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. The Lions lost four commits and Spence to OSU. Michigan State is a solid third in the conference, getting a late boost from a player some once thought would land at Penn State -- Keystone State DB Demetrious Cox. Beyond that, though, it is a jumble, with the Lions right in that No. 4 to No. 6 area. All in all, not bad. In fairness, though, it must be noted that Wisconsin and Nebraska both have limited scholarship availability this year.