Steven Bench and Mrs. Bench, at a celebration in Cairo HS yesterday. (Photo: Courtesy of the Bench family.)
After another exciting Signing Day around the country, though with little fanfare in Happy Valley, there are some new names that Penn State fans will need to commit to memory. So join me as we take a walk through the Class of 2012, including some analysis on what we needed, what we missed out on, and where the class stands overall.
Quarterback. Hailing from Georgia, Steven Bench was the lone signal caller taken in a class that desperately needed a quarterback. The 6'3", 210-pound QB from Cairo High School will be the fourth scholarship quarterback on the roster in 2012, provided each of the other three return, which at this point is a relatively safe bet. Previously a Rice commit, Bench was a three-star prospect, and is hopefully the first of many recruits out of a southern state.
The rest of the newest Nittany Lions after the jump...
Running Back. Like quarterback, taking at least one running back in this class was a priority. With only three scholarship running backs (and two fullbacks), the position was going to be thin, figuratively speaking, heading into 2012. That's why it was a relief to Penn State fans when St. Francis (NY) running back Akeel Lynch chose Penn State. The 6', 205-pound back was a four-star prospect that should see some valuable playing time in 2012.
Wide Receiver. Penn State stocked up here, taking four wideouts, though it wouldn't be a shock to anyone to see one or two of them move to the defensive side of the ball. Headlining the position (and the class) is Pennsylvania's own Eugene Lewis, Wyoming Valley West. A consensus four-star prospect, the 6'2" commit is the one most analysts feel has the highest upside in the class.
Additionally, Jonathan Warner out of Camas (WA) High chose the Nittany Lion. The 6'1" receiver has a familiar name to Nittany Lion fans, as he is the son of Penn State legend Curt Warner.
Finally, two receivers who are the ones most likely to see position changes in the future signed on the dotted line yesterday, opting for Penn State over schools like UConn, Iowa, and West Virginia. Trevor Williams of Calvert Hall (MD) College and Malik Golden of Connecticut's Cheshire Academy were each recruited by other schools as defensive backs, but come to Penn State on the offensive side, for now.
Tight End. Penn State's lone early enrollee of the class was tight end Jesse James, a 6'8" beast from western Pennsylvania. James has been on campus for a few weeks now, and is getting acclimated to college life and a collegiate weight program. Don't be surprised if James slides down the line, given his large frame.
Also out of Maryland, Brent Wilkerson joins Penn State from the high school powerhouse DeMatha Catholic. Like James, Wilkerson could be facing a position change in the future, as he played and was recruited as a defensive linemen by some schools.
Offensive Line. Two offensive linemen were taken in the Class of 2012 as it stands today (again, position switches). The first was also the first verbal commitment for the class. Anthony Stanko from Howland (OH) committed way back in the peaceful time of March, 2011. The consensus three-star linemen comes in at 300 pounds, and is the lone Ohio commitment as well.
Additionally, The Hun School (NJ) lineman Wendy Laurent comes in with the ability to play any of the offensive line positions right away. Standing 6'4", weighing in at 285 pounds, Laurent adds depth to a line that may see some early departures if certain players don't make an impact in 2012.
Defensive Line. Another position of need was the interior of the defensive line, and Larry Johnson, Sr. went to work this year, stockpiling at least four commits who could end up seeing time at defensive tackle. Leading the way is four-star Jamil Pollard from West Deptford (NJ), a two-time commit, as Pollard had his offer rescinded due to grades, but fought his way back into the good graces of the staff.
Next, from Gilman School (MD), Brian Gaia will provide further depth on either side of the line. Recruited mainly as an offensive lineman, Johnson saw someting in Gaia, and that alone should be good enough for Penn State fans.
The remaining two defensive tackles committed on the same day back in June, right after the Penn State junior camp. Both Derek Dowrey, of Handley (VA), and Austin Johnson, of St. Augustine Prep (NJ), will look to come in and compete right away, despite the high level of talent above them on the depth chart.
Finally, Central Dauphin (PA) defensive end Evan Schwan was the last verbal commitment of the Class of 2012, and fills the one end spot, that many speculated was being held for another central PA defensive end. Standing 6'6", the three-star prospect comes in a little light, but at proper weight, could be a real steal in this class.
Linebacker. Only one taken in this class, but that's okay given the depth ahead of Valley View's Nyeem Wartman. A Pennsylvania product, Wartman comes in as a consensus three-star commit, and looks to thrive in Coach Ron Vanderlinden's linebacker factory.
Defensive Back. The position group that was the highest need in this class, Penn State signed three players to the cornerback and safety positions in 2012, though as mentioned, there is a distinct possibility that at least one other commit eventually finds himself in this group. DaQuan Davis was a one-time West Virginia commit, but committed during a feverish two-day period that saw six commitments for the Nittany Lions. Davis is a current teammate of Trevor Williams, and both are former (and now future) teammates of Adrian Amos. Davis projects at cornerback.
At safety, Jordan Lucas comes to Penn State from New Rochelle (NY) Prep, and was the first verbal commitment of the Bill O'Brien era. Standing 6'2", the three-star prospect has the potential to see immediate playing time, with both Nick Sukay and Drew Astorino departed from the 2011 secondary.
The final commitment of the Class of 2012 is also its most vocal. If you follow Jake Kiley on Twitter, you're well aware that his love of Penn State was born a long time ago, and he's quite vocal showing it.