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Penn State Recruiting: What's Next?

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Some moving parts in the Penn State recruiting world have started..well, moving.

Justin K. Aller

Friday was not the best day for Penn State recruiting. First, there was the news that 2015 QB commit Brandon Wimbush would be visiting Notre Dame. Then, Jordan Whitehead chose to commit to Pitt over Penn State and others. Suffice it to say that more than a few commenters on the website/facebook/twitter were giving off mild to severe doom and gloom vibes. Said vibes led me to feel obligated to put out a Penn State Recruiting State of the Union so to speak.

Do. Not. Panic. Have you checked out Penn State's recruiting board lately? Let me remind you what it currently looks like.

Name Position Star Rating High School Height/Weight
Brandon Wimbush QB (Dual) ★★★★ St. Peter’s Prep (NJ) 6’2"/205
John Reid CB ★★★★ St. Joseph’s (PA) 5’10"/180
Sterling Jenkins OT ★★★★ Baldwin (PA) 6’8"/305
Adam McLean DT ★★★★ Quince Orchard (MD) 6'2"/290
Juwan Johnson WR ★★★★ Glassboro (NJ) 6’4"/200
Ryan Bates OL ★★★★ Archbishop Wood (PA) 6’5"/280
Saquon Barkley RB ★★★★ Whitehall (PA) 5’11"/190
Andre Robinson RB ★★★★ Bishop Mcdevitt (PA) 5’9"/205
Steven Gonzalez OG ★★★★ Union City (NJ) 6’3"/300
Kamonte Carter ATH ★★★★ Gaithersburg (MD) 6'4"/235
Brandon Polk WR ★★★★ Briar Woods (VA) 5'9"/152
Manny Bowen OLB ★★★★ Barnegat (NJ) 6'2"/206
Daiquan Kelly ATH ★★★ Union City (NJ) 6'2"/206
Irvin Charles WR ★★★ Paul VI (NJ) 6'4"/212
Ryan Buchholz DE ★★★ Great Valley (PA) 6’6"/240
Jake Cooper ILB ★★★ Archbishop Wood (PA) 6’1"/220
Jonathan Holland DE ★★★ The Bullis School (MD) 6'4"/240
Ayron Monroe S ★★★ St. John’s College (DC) 6’0"/195
Myles Hartsfield S ★★★ Sayreville War Memorial (NJ) 5’10.5"/175
Jarvis Miller S ★★★ Suffield (CT) 6'2"/188

Clearly James Franklin and the staff have the team positioned quite well. Let's break down the most important pieces and positions for the class at this time.

Quarterback

This is the obvious one. The news of Wimbush heading to check out the Notre Dame-Stanford clash has more than a few Penn State internet followers in a tizzy. Before we go further into this, take a deep breath. Nothing has happened yet. Hundreds of recruits have committed to a school, visited another, and remained committed. Wimbush has even done this once before! So until something concrete happens, don't let rumors and fear drive your minds into chaos.

Wimbush It's very reasonable for Wimbush to want to take a visit up to South Bend for this game. First, Everett Golson might be the quarterback currently playing at the D1 level who most closely resembles Wimbush (although Wimbush is probably already a better passer than Golson is). Secondly, it's a matchup between Notre Dame and Stanford. Finally, he hasn't visited the Irish yet as a recruit. There are plenty of perfectly acceptable reasons for Wimbush to at least make the trip for the game. Despite the Crystal Ball pick for the Irish, don't think something is happening until it actually happens. All we know in this moment in time is that he and his family are going to talk about what decision is best for him and for his future.

Should the worst for Penn State fans happen, and Wimbush decide to flip his commitment to Notre Dame, it won't be the end of the world for the Nittany Lions. While they probably won't find a replacement in the 2015 class that they deem worthy on such short notice, they have three high priority targets in mind for the 2016 class already.

The familiar names to Penn State fans are Brandon McIlwain and Jake Zembiec. Mcilwain named a top six back on August 12 of South Carolina, Penn State, Florida, Duke, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Auburn (in no order). Zembiec also named a top five recently that included Penn State. The Lions also extended an offer to Dwayne Haskins (The Bullis School, MD) after Franklin saw him light up Avalon in their 34-12 victory on Thursday night. It's too early to tell what kind of interest Haskins has in Penn State, but his twitter feed may lend a few clues. He has been notably disappointed, and even annoyed at times, at the fact that he didn't hold a Penn State offer. These feelings have been especially evident when teammate and commit Jonathan Holland has been taking jabs at him about joining the Nittany Lions, as Haskins would typically answer back quickly and stoutly that he didn't even hold an offer yet. This could either mean Haskins has coveted that offer, or he feels disrespected and will look elsewhere. We'll find out soon.

Cornerback

The longtime Penn State target, Jordan Whitehead, surprised the recruiting world (to an extent) on Friday by choosing Pitt over Penn State and West Virginia (who were considered the favorites) as well as Ohio State. It's disappointing for Penn State fans for sure, but it's hardly the end of the world. Penn State holds a commitment from the top corner in Pennsylvania (as well as one of the top corners in the country) in John Reid. They also have strong commitments from three very athletic and skilled safeties in Jarvis Miller, Myles Hartsfield, and Ayron Monroe.

WhiteheadPicking up Whitehead would have been quite an accomplishment for the Nittany Lions, as they  could have easily filled an entire secondary capably with that squad. However, they  may not be quite done in that regard. First, let's talk about both sides of the  Whitehead commitment.

It appears that the likely reasons Whitehead chose to become a Panther were the proximity to home, the possibilities for early playing time, and the relationships he has with current players on the team. Obviously recruiting kids from Pittsburgh to play places other than Pitt will always be a bit of a challenge for any school. Despite the fact that Pitt has been down for a while, they still provide Pittsburgh natives the chance to play D1 football in front of the people they've been watching the team with for their whole lives. That's a hard proposition to turn down. Then, there's the early playing time. Whitehead made it abundantly clear that early playing time would be a primary concern for him throughout the recruitment process. Of the four schools he had in his final group, Pitt absolutely gives him the best shot at said playing time. Finally, he knows the guys on the team. He grew up playing with a lot of them. That's a big deal for a lot of people. It's also the reason that West Virginia was in this race until the very end, with good friends Rushel Shell and Dravon Henry playing for the Mountaineers.

There is a way to think about this optimistically though, Penn State fan. It involves drinking quite a bit of the Kool Aid, but Nittany Lion fans are usually pretty good at that. As stated above, early playing time is very important to Whitehead. We know that John Reid is already committed, but that still leaves another corner spot available for Whitehead. Or does it? It is not completely impossible that Whitehead was concerned about the possibility of Minkah Fitzpatrick flipping to Penn State. THAT BEING SAID, there is nothing new with regards to Fitzpatrick and Penn State at this time. Minkah will be visiting Florida State this weekend for an official visit, but that's about it. All Penn State fans can do right now is hope that Fitzpatrick will take his official visit to Happy Valley as well. If they don't end up taking another corner though, don't fret. The staff has the team still very well positioned for the future.

Offensive Line

Just a brief update here. In case you missed it at the time, Sterling Jenkins is currently on track to enroll early at Penn State. This is fantastic news on a few fronts. One, it is always infinitely helpful for a recruit's development when they can enroll early. They get extra time to bond with the team, they get to participate in spring practices, and they get to experience the Blue White game before they even step foot in Beaver Stadium for their first season. For Jenkins, this extra experience is of the utmost importance. Jenkins may hold a four star distinction at this point in time, but that rating is nearly all based on potential. Jenkins is already 6'8" and 305 pounds, so there is obviously room to grow into an absolutely dominating presence on the line. However, as things stand right now, he does not play as big as his size. He still has a lot of work to do with his technique, which is why extra time working with Herb Hand will do his wonders. He also still needs to bulk up a bit more, which is where his extra work with Dwight Galt will come in handy. So all in all, this is fantastic news for Penn State.

The Rest of the Way

Although there are still many, many months until now at National Signing Day for this 2015 class of recruits, Penn State's class is nearly complete. That means a few different things.

First of all, the staff is going to be spending the majority of their time over the next four months actively recruiting all of the current commits to stay on board. When you start mixing it up with the big boys in the recruiting world as James Franklin is doing, protecting what you've already acquired is very important. Should Penn State continue to play like they did against Northwestern and lose more winnable games, the proverbial sharks in the water will continue to get closer and closer to the Nittany Lion boat. Or more situations like Brandon Wimbush's could arise. With kids that are this highly sought-after, they will have coaches hounding them all day, every day no matter where they're committed. It can be hard for a 17 year old to not at least wonder what another school is like. It's the staff's job to make sure they see past those visits and help them remember why they committed to Penn State in the first place.

The other effect that an almost complete class has, is that the staff gets to truly focus in and give all of their attention to the handful of guys they want for the final 5 or 6 spots (could be 6 thanks to Sterling Jenkins enrolling early). As a refresher, here are the recruits that Penn State is still currently (publicly) targeting.

Name Position Star Rating High School Height/Weight
Minkah Fitzpatrick CB ★★★★★ St. Peter’s Prep (NJ) 6’1"/198
Christian Wilkins DT ★★★★ Suffield Academy (CT) 6’4"/290
Ricky DeBerry OLB/DE ★★★★ Atlee (VA) 6’2.5"/240
Tim Settle DT ★★★★ Stonewall Jackson (VA) 6’2"/350
Matthew Burrell OT ★★★★ C.D. Hylton (VA) 6’5"/302
Emanuel McGirt OT ★★★★ Hillside (NC) 6’6"/275
Micah Abernathy CB ★★★ Greater Atlanta Christian School (GA) 6'1"/187
Ugo Amadi CB ★★★ Overton (TN) 5’10"/182
Shareef Miller DE ★★★ Frankford High School (PA) 6'5"/230
Nick Bowers TE ★★★ Kittanning Senior High School (PA) 6'4"/225

As you can see, Penn State is still chasing some very highly thought-of recruits. Of those on the the list, there are three currently committed. Fitzpatrick is still committed to Nick Saban and Alabama, and Ugo Amadi is currently committed to the team that just defeated the Crimson Tide, Ole Miss. Then there's Nick Bowers, who is currently committed to the school that just pulled off a minor coup in collecting a commitment from CB Jordan Whitehead. All three absolutely have Penn State interest (Amadi not as strong as the others, it would seem), but nothing will happen with any of them unless they get on campus and are blown away.

As far as timelines with these remaining targets, not many have them at the moment. Fitzpatrick just began his process of taking official visits by heading down to see Florida State win handily and retake their spot at #1. DeBerry was off at Tennessee this weekend. Wilkins took a visit to Stanford, Settle was at Oklahoma State this weekend, Burrell joined DeBerry watching the Volunteers play. Aside from that, not much is known about these guys. Tim Settle has set his decision date for December 20, and currently holds Virginia Tech as his leader (Penn State is not very far behind, though). Whether or not Settle qualifies for D1 academically is yet to be seen, but he is working hard to achieve that goal. We'll have plenty more to say about Settle in the coming months. Nick Bowers has made it clear that he will hold off on his recruitment until after his season, and that's about it.

The start of football season means that a lot of these kids put recruiting on the back burner while they try to improve their profiles on the field. This makes for a very difficult time to predict unless decision dates are given. That being said, someone on twitter asked me predict who I thought would fill out the rest of this class, so I'll share that here as well. My best guess at this moment in time is Christian Wilkins, Tim Settle (if he qualifies), Nick Bowers, Shareef Miller, and a player who has not yet been offered.

I feel very confident in Wilkins, optimistically confident in Bowers, and relatively confident in Miller and Settle. That being said, if the staff completely blows away any of Fitzpatrick, Burrell, DeBerry, McGirt, or anyone else on the list, I can easily see them joining the class as well. Most of that action would likely occur after high school seasons have come to a close.

So there you have it. I kind of like this recruiting class matrix we have going on in this post, so I'm going to keep it active on the recruiting page for those who want to go back and check from time to time (I'll also include it in my signature on comments). If you have any other questions, leave them in the comments or tweet them at me. And yes, I know I completely forgot to do the recruiting mailbag I promised. I'll post a new fanshot to gather more questions and answer all of the older ones that are still relevant sometime this week (hopefully).

Photo Credit: Both images in this article are courtesy of Student Sports.