Penn State Recruiting Reset

Kick off the New Year with the rundown of top targets — and the biggest needs — for Penn State with less than a month until National Signing Day.

The dead period is almost over, and the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL Draft is fast approaching, too.

What does it mean for Penn State?’s recruiting reset is back with another rundown of the Lions’ recruiting picture with just under a month to go until National Signing Day.

Impact of the Draft

As of this writing, only left tackle Donovan Smith and end Deion Barnes have decided to forego their senior season and enter the NFL Draft. The news can be considered a mixed bag for the Lions.

The good news is that Penn State had plenty of time to prepare for the fact that it would be without two key contributors next season, and can -- and have -- addressed that fact in the Class of 2015. The bad news, of course, is that two key contributors are moving on.

Smith’s loss will likely be felt more than Barnes’ considering the depth picture at each spot. But if newly signed JUCO prospect (and January enrollee) Paris Palmer can quickly acclimate himself and start from Day One, the absence of Smith will not be felt nearly as much.

As for filling Barnes’ shoes? That was done quite often in 2014, as Sean Spencer often rotated his defensive linemen. Granted, losing both starters (C.J. Olaniyan is out of eligibility) hurts, but should not cause prolonged issues.

Recruiting Reset

Five spots remain in Penn State’s Class of 2015. For all intents and purposes, the Lions are done at quarterback (Tommy Stevens), running back (Andre Robinson, Saquon Barkley), and receiver (Irvin Charles, Juwan Johnson, Brandon Polk).

The door remains open along the offensive and defensive lines, and to a lesser extent, at linebacker, in the secondary, and at tight end. It should be stressed, though, that the most likely additions to James Franklin’s second class at Penn State will come in the trenches, with perhaps a spot added elsewhere.

So, who makes up the top targets left? The Big Board returns below.

1. OT Tyler Howell

The Skinny: The JUCO offensive tackle will visit University Park on an official an. 23-25, and it became a much more pertinent trip now that Smith has declared. Howell will not enroll until June, so his impact may not be as great as Palmer’s. He might be further along than Palmer, though, meaning he’d be a big get, especially with Smith gone.

2. DE Shareef Miller

The Skinny: Miller (shown above) and Howell could likely be flipped, especially with Barnes’ decision to head to the NFL Draft. The Philadelphia George Washington three-star has Penn State as his leader according to Scout’s Jacquie Franciulli, with Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Arizona State and Miami (in that order) trailing. Miller will officially visit Arizona State Jan. 16 before coming to Penn State Jan. 23.

3. TE Nick Bowers

The Skinny: The Pittsburgh verbal still has Penn State in play, and is expected to visit both University Park and Pittsburgh on official visits in January. Bowers will undoubtedly want to get to know Pat Narduzzi and his new staff in Pittsburgh, but also may be leery of the Lions due to DE/TE and commit Jon Holland’s desire to play tight end in college. Time will tell on this one.

4. S Johnny Petrishen

The Skinny: Penn State has hung around, just like Pittsburgh and Virginia, in a recruitment that has dragged on with little to offer in the way of updates along the way. The three-star safety is destined to decide on National Signing Day, and where the Pittsburgh Central Catholic safety ends up is anyone’s guess. But, one thing is for sure: the Lions remain firmly in the mix, and will host the safety Jan. 23.

5. DE Howard Houston

The Skinny: The California JUCO prospect recently popped onto the radar, but has not been offered. He told FOS Sunday that he spoke with Penn State after its Pinstripe Bowl win, and talks to line coach Spencer frequently. That said, only South Dakota and Georgia State have offered, so this one might not go anywhere before more film is seen. Houston added that Arkansas, Texas A&M, UMass and Southern Mississippi join Penn State in showing interest.

6. DT Kamaal Seymour/DE Austrian Robinson

The Skinny: This duo anchor the final spot together because, while both have Penn State offers, there has been little movement for the Lions on either front. Seymour, a Rutgers pledge, seems destined to stick there. Robinson, on the other hand, remains uncommitted but seems destined to end up at Maryland, or anywhere that is not Penn State, really.


DT Christian Wilkins

The Skinny: A four-star tackle and Connecticut native, Wilkins had a huge week at the recently complete Under Armour All-American game. He routinely beat up opposing linemen in practice, and recorded a sack and blocked extra point return in the game, which his team won handily. He was the highest priority target left for the Lions, but after that performance, he quickly committed to Clemson.


• The recruiting dead period ends Jan. 15, the day after the AFCA convention.

• Jan. 15 is also the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2015 NFL Draft.

• Signing Day this year is Feb. 4. As always, it lands on the first Wednesday of February.

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