Penn State Recruiting Reset

With Nittany Lion fans gearing up for the season, Greg Pickel updates you on what Bill O'Brien and company have done with the Class of 2014. He also touches on what work remains.

The 2013 college football season is nearly upon us, which means we will be seeing a lot of new faces in the FOS community. With that in mind, we've decided to recap Penn State's recruiting efforts for the Class of 2014 to date and let everyone know what else the Nittany Lions may be up to from now until signing day in February.

WHERE THINGS STAND

As of this writing, Penn State has a dozen verbal commitments to the Class of 2014, though two -- defensive tackle Antoine White and quarterback Michael O'Connor -- intend to enroll early. That means they can count toward the Class of 2013, should the staff choose.

The Lions have added two prospects -- Scranton Prep (Pa.) offensive tackle Noah Beh and Millville (N.J.) defensive tackle White -- this summer. They have helped address the needs most pointed out for this class, yet the work is still not done at those spots.

Abraham Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) defensive tackle Thomas Holley remains as a top target, and may visit University Park after the high school season. JUCO target Joe Keels also remains in the mix, as does Mount Lebanon (Pa.) offensive tackle Alex Bookser. The likelihood of him joining teammate and Class of 2014 Penn State receiver commit Troy Apke remain long, yet remain nonetheless.

At the time of publication, Penn State possessed the 29th best class in the Scout 2014 rankings, aided by four four-star recruits and eight three-stars. Factoring in Rutgers and Maryland due to the pending Big Ten expansion, it is a mark good for fifth in the Big Ten. Not bad considering NCAA sanctions limit the number of available grants for the Class of 2014 to 15 (but remember what we mentioned about the early enrollees).

The classes' top recruit, Wise High (Upper Marlboro, Md.) four-star safety Marcus Allen, is ranked 252 in the most recent Scout 300.


WHO GOT AWAY?

Outside linebacker Jared Wangler was predicted by many as an under-the-radar guy who could only be swayed from his commitment to State by an offer from Michigan, his dad's alma mater.

It came in August, and it only took the De La Salle (Warren, Mich.) three-star prospect six days to de-commit from Penn State and commit to the Wolverines. With it, the Lions lost the recruit expected to fill the role of the now left behind Zayd Issah, whose off the field troubles forced Bill O'Brien to cut ties with him in July.

Red Bank Catholic (N.J.) offensive tackle Quenton Nelson was another highly coveted target, but his commitment to Notre Dame left the Lions outside looking in. The same goes for T.C. Williams (Alexandria, Va.) defensive tackle Jeremiah Clarke, who eliminated PSU when he committed to North Carolina in June.

For the most part, though, the Lions are still in many of the battles they hoped to be in.


NOW WHAT?

With Holley and Keels still being evaluated -- and possibly other defensive tackles -- it's clearly the biggest position of focus for the Lions at this point in the cycle.

That priority need extends to outside linebacker, where Lawrence Central (Indianapolis) four-star prospect Brandon Lee has jumped to the top of the board with an August offer. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder has told Scout his top five consists of California, Louisville, Northwestern, Virginia Tech and Oregon, but has indicated interest in listening to what the Lions have to offer. Syracuse commit and Hunterdon Central (Flemington, N.J.) outside linebacker Jason Cabinda is another name to watch at that position.

As for the battles Penn State is still alive in, they are numerous. Canisius (Buffalo, N.Y.) running back Qadree Ollison is still heavily considering the Lions and may visit this fall, as is Aliquippa (Pa.) four-star cornerback Dravon Henry, who has narrowed his list to Ohio State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Penn State. When his official visits will come is still up in the air, but a postseason decision is still likely.

Gateway High (Monroeville, Pa.) standout DB Montae Nicholson is still listing and mentioning the Lions as a favorite, but with no decision imminent. The same goes for Bookser, who has kept his recruitment close to the vest in recent months. In his last update, the senior-to-be confirmed Penn State was a part of his top eight.

Penn State's mid-season, homecoming clash with Michigan (Oct. 12) is shaping up as a big visit weekend for the Nittany Lions. The Nebraska game (Nov. 23) is likely to draw a recruit-filled crowd, too. As for early-season games, there may be some top prospects here and there. But many of the best players visiting will likely be from the Class of 2015.

How many scholarships does PSU have left? If the early enrollees we know of so far count against this class, it is obviously three. However, that is subject to grow slightly if the staff opts to count any early enrollees against the Class of 2013.

With all of that said, also remember that PSU must be down to 65 scholarships overall by next August.

While there may be a limited number of scholarship spots open (between three and five, in all likelihood), the staff is not taking it easy while recruiting for the Class of 2014. Another big focus between now and February will be luring as many quality run-ons as possible.


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