FightOnState.com Recruiting Analyst
I like the versatility of this class. There are about 10 athletes who can play more than one position during their time in Happy Valley, depending on the needs of the team. I rate the class above average in that it addresses needs at defensive back, offensive line and wide receiver. The addition of a top quarterback in Kevin Newsome is also vital since Penn State had not landed one in the previous two years.
Overall, Penn State pulled in six players I project at wide receiver -- including late addition Justin Brown -- along with five defensive backs and seven offensive linemen. Obviously, with such a big class, the Lions were able to focus on building depth. The added benefit of that is it will lead to great competition, which will let the cream rise to the top.
I also like that four members of this class enrolled early, including three players -- Newsome, kicker Anthony Fera and safety Gerald Hodges -- who will likely be called on to contribute immediately. Newsome is already the No. 2 QB behind Daryll Clark. Fera could replace the departed Kevin Kelly and at the very least will serve as a kickoff specialist. Hodges, meanwhile, appears to be State's best safety prospect in quite some time. His size and speed are intimidating.
With that in mind, I believe Hodges has a chance to be one of the best players in this class. I'm also high on the long-term potential of five-star offensive tackle Eric Shrive, who has great size, a punishing blocking style and a mean streak, and corner Darrell Givens, who combines a physical style and coverage ability much as Alan Zemaitis did earlier this decade.
Going back to the receivers, the staff did a great job of adding speed and athleticism. There is also versatility. With the exception of Brown, none of the new pass-catchers were ranked in the top 10 nationally. But I don't view that as a problem. The athletes who prove to be outstanding pass catchers will stay at wideout. Those who don't will be able to help the team in other areas. I see Brown and Shawney Kersey making the most immediate impact at wideout.
Scout.com North Regional Recruiting Manager
No one seemed to give Joe Paterno and Penn State much of a chance to do anything this year, and all the coaching icon did was lead the team to a Big Ten championship and the Rose Bowl. Paterno and his staff are also closing in on a top-10 recruiting class, despite the fact that JoePa is not out on the road as much as he once was. But Paterno has surrounded himself with great college football coaches who can recruit with the best of them, people like Larry Johnson, Tom Bradley, Mike McQueary and Ron Vanerlinden.
Grabbing a quarterback was paramount for Penn State and the Lions landed the guy who they wanted originally in Kevin Newsome. Wide receiver was another key position and Justin Brown can play from day one. Derrick Thomas, Devon Smith and Curtis Drake will all help, too, and Penn State becomes a lot faster on offense with the additions of Drake and Smith. Shawney Kersey is a big-framed wide receiver with a high ceiling.
I also like what the Lions managed to do along the offensive line, adding a premier offensive tackle like Eric Shrive. I think Shrive can be a potential All-Conference if not All-America type player for Penn State. Mark Arcidiacono and Adam Gress are also guys who could develop into solid college football players. Ty Howle should have a chance to make an early impact as he enrolled at Penn State in January.
The other area where I think Penn State upgraded itself was in the secondary, adding two very good cover corners in Darrell Givens and Stephon Morris along with two big safeties in Gerald Hodges and Malcolm Willis. Hodges is one of the best athletes in the nation.
Heading into the 2008 season, I thought Joe Paterno's uncertain contract status would have a negative impact on Penn State's recruiting. And when a serious hip injury forced him to work from the press box for most of the year, well, one could only wonder what was going through the minds of prospects.
Paterno had the hip replaced in late November and signed a new contract in December, and -- much to my surprise -- all of the questions about his future did not appear to have a significant impact on the recruiting trail. Further, even though Paterno did not make a single recruiting trip this year, the Lions still figure to finish with a top-10 class, having addressed key needs at quarterback, receiver, defensive back and even kicker.
For opponents, at least, it must be frightening to consider what Penn State will be able to do on the recruiting trail if Paterno is ever able to get back on the road again.