Penn State Class of 2008: Analysis

Now that all of the letters of intent have been signed, Cory James takes a look at the Nittany Lions' most recent recruiting effort.

It would not be letter-of-intent day at Penn State without a few dramatic twists and turns. And this year was no different for the Nittany Lions.

PSU went into signing day with 15 verbal commitments, and Joe Paterno and his staff were hoping to add two more members to the class. Instead, the Nittany Lions lost one prospect.

But it wasn't all bad news. Here is an overview of what went down on LOI day:

Late Tuesday night, word came down that Penn State had an outside shot at landing Virginia receiver Deion Walker (a Notre Dame commit) and Pennsylvania star quarterback Terrelle Pryor (undecided).

But on Wednesday morning, Walker sent his letter of intent to the Fighting Irish.

Meanwhile, Pryor held a press conference at Jeannette High at noon and stated that he would not be committing Wednesday. He talked about having a school in his mind for a decision Tuesday night, but that his father had a different choice and they decided to push the commitment back.

Pryor stated that his father really likes Penn State and defensive coordinator Tom Bradley and he did not believe that Terrelle had given Penn State a fair shot. Pryor decided that he should take an official visit to Penn State and possibly Oregon, since he had not been able to do so prior to signing day. He stated that he has been talking with PSU head coach Joe Paterno and quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno a lot recently and he liked what they had to say about the Penn State offense. Pryor has no timetable for making his commitment, so it seems the Class of 2008 will have to remain open just in case.

Ohio State and Michigan are also in the mix for his services.

As for those 15 verbal commitments, Penn State was able to reel in letters of intent from 14 of them.

However, one commitment — Ohio running back Michael Shaw — had a last-minute change of heart and instead announced for Michigan.

As a whole, Penn State's recruiting class will be considered good but not great. Since the Lions had less than 20 scholarships to give, there was little chance they would crack the national top 25.

PSU checked in at No. 40 nationally in the ranking as of Wednesday afternoon. But the average star rating for the class — 3.43 — was the 12th best in the nation.

The Lions brought in three outstanding linebackers in Mike Mauti, Michael Zordich and Mike Yancich. Those three will be the prized possessions of the class unless Penn State can land Pryor. Penn State also got some much-needed help at defensive back with the addition of D'Anton Lynn, who has the versatility to play safety or cornerback. Lynn adds a hard-hitting, aggressive defensive back to the PSU stable.

The Lions also added a few more commitments from players who fall into the "freak athlete" category. Tight end Mark Wedderburn and defensive end Jack Crawford are both big bodies who are deceptively fast and strong, and will add tremendous depth to their respective positions.

The weaknesses of the class would have to be wide receiver and quarterback.

Penn State signed one wide receiver in A.J. Price, who is a very good prospect. However, the Lions will be losing their three top receivers after the 2008 season and getting a few playmakers in to learn the system would have been ideal.

And while waiting to see what Pryor does, the Lions also face the prospect of failing to sign a quarterback for the second straight year. That leaves Penn State with only Darryl Clark and Pat Devlin at quarterback after 2008. Both of those positions will be key for next year's class.

With the loss of Shaw, Penn State came up a bit short on running backs for this class. The Lions have two good, young backs in Evan Royster and Stephfon Green. But in case they falter they will get help from incoming bruiser Brandon Beachum, who is already enrolled at Penn State for the spring semester. Penn State will probably look to bring in at least one running back for next year's class to make up for the loss of Shaw.

Overall, Penn State added quality depth for next year's team and stockpiled for the future. The class may be looked at as average by some with very few, if any, projected impact freshmen. However, Lynn could easily see some playing time in 2008 and there are always a few surprises in fall practice. Either way, it will be fun to see how this class progresses.

Looking ahead to next year, the Lions figure to have a full complement of 25 scholarships to award. Besides quarterbacks (two) and receivers, expect them to focus on multidimensional athletes who can help at a variety of positions.

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