Let's start with the elephant in the room. Brandon Wimbush has flipped his commitment from Penn State to Notre Dame. There's no denying that this is a hit to Penn State's 2015 recruiting class, because any time you lose a player of Wimbush's caliber, you're losing something big. That being said, is it the end for Penn State recruiting as we know it? Absolutely not.
Wimbush has a great career ahead of him, and while we here at BSD wish him all the best in his future, it's time to look forward. As I mentioned earlier this week, if Penn State is to pick up a quarterback to replace Wimbush in the 2015 class, it will likely not be one who is highly ranked. However, that doesn't mean that possibilities for the 2015 class aren't out there. In this article, we will move through many of the potential targets to watch for in the 2015 cycle, as well as talk about our big three in the 2016 cycle. Also be sure to check out 247Sports' version of where Penn State will look next.
Rating (Composite): ★★★
High School: Boylan Central Catholic (IL)
Offers: Currently committed to Minnesota (6/30/14), Akron, Buffalo, Colgate, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Northern Illinois
Outlook: While the offer sheet is not what you would expect a Penn State target's to look like, don't underestimate Croft. According to Lions247, so far in his junior season, Croft has thrown for 1,879 yards with a 16/4 TD/INT ratio, along with 685 yards on the ground to go with 12 more touchdowns. Croft is someone who is still learning how to truly play quarterback, and could have an incredibly high ceiling with the right coaching. His running ability appears to fit what Franklin and the staff would like from thee quarterback position.
From Matt: "The Illinois native committed to Minnesota back in June, but PSU's staff has some familiarity with him. His athleticism is every bit as good as most other dual threat QB's, but he is much more raw than those with higher rankings. The upside is huge, however."
For more information on Croft, check out what Lions247 has to say about him and his potential interest in Penn State.
Rating (Composite): ★★★
High School: Decatur Central (IN)
Offers: Committed to Indiana (6/4/14), Boston College, Cincinnati, Iowa, Miami (OH), Michigan State, Minnesota, NC State, Nebraska, Purdue, Toledo, West Virginia, Western Michigan
Outlook: Another quarterback currently committed elsewhere in the Big Ten, Stevens is currently slated to become a Hoosier. Stevens is another example of a guy with nice upside, but isn't as polished as other 2015 QB's. Unlike Croft, Stevens has had contact with the Nittany Lions staff before, most recently visiting in May. It's hard to say at this moment whether or not Stevens would consider Penn State, but he was documented as visiting Notre Dame this past weekend, so read into that what you will about his commitment to Indiana. Granted, he seems like a nice fit for the current Hoosier offense, so it will probably take a good bit of recruiting magic to coerce him to flip to another B1G team. According to Indiana Insider, someone from Penn State reached out to Stevens after Wimbush's decommitment.
From Matt: "Tommy committed to Indiana back in early June, but Wimbush's ND commitment may have opened the door. He visited PSU back in May. At this point, it's hard to say if there is a mutual interest. As a dual threat, he seems to be in the mold of the QB style Franklin as pursued since arriving."
The Rest of 2015
After these two, it's anyone's guess as to who is being targeted for the 2015 QB spot (if they do decide to take one). There are guys like Alex Malzone, who is currently committed to Michigan, among many other lesser-known names. Sean Fitz does a great job of outlining many of those under-the-radar names right here.
There is also the possibility that the staff looks at the recruiting classes where more than one highly ranked QB currently resides, such as Florida State and Arizona State. Let's check out their QB commits.
De'Andre Johnson (★★★)--Dual Threat--First Coast (FL)--6'0"/175
Deondre Francois (★★★★)--Pro Style--IMG Academy (FL)--6'1"/195
Kai Locksley (★★★★)--Dual Threat--Gilman (MD)--6'3"/188
Brady White (★★★★)--Pro Style--Hart (CA)--6'2"/190
Bryce Perkins (★★★)--Dual Threat--Chandler (AZ)--6'2"/200
The familiar name in there is Brady White. However, while White was absolutely a Penn State target at one point in time, he appears to be a very solid Sun Devil commit. The other familiar point of reference for PSU fans on this list is Deondre Francois' high school, as Michael O'Connor is also from IMG Academy. However, Francois, like White, is Florida State's highest rated recruit, so a flip would appear unlikely. Just because these guys find themselves in crowded situations, doesn't mean they are guaranteed to look elsewhere, so don't get your hopes up too much.
Year: 2016 (Will enroll early)
Rating (Composite): ★★★★
High School: Council Rock North (PA)
Offers: Arizona, Auburn, Boston College, Cal, Clemson, Duke, Florida, Maryland, Miami, Michigan State, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Carolina, Temple, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Outlook: If you read BSD regularly, you know McIlwain's name well by now. Having been on Penn State's radar since last year, McIlwain is one who has become a regular feature in our recruiting updates. Brandon currently holds a top six of Penn State, South Carolina, Duke, Florida, Virginia Tech, and Auburn (in no order). He has been a frequent visitor of Happy Valley since last season (the proximity to his home helps in that regard) and is a very nice fit for what Penn State seems to want. He is a very smart kid who values his academics, and has a good head on his shoulders. I spoke with Brandon for an interview a while back, and even since then his interest in the Nittany Lions has not seemed to wane. He still highly values the chance at early playing time, which could come quickly at Penn State should Christian Hackenberg decide to forgo his senior season. I'm currently trying tot get in touch with McIlwain to get an update on his recruitment, but in the meantime check out what he talked about with Sean Fitz.
McIlwain has been lighting the scoreboard up so far this season. According to MaxPreps, he has already accounted for 1,063 yards through the air this year with 11 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, as well as 694 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. He has tons of potential if he is used in the right offense at the D1 level, even with his slightly smaller size.
From Matt: "Brandon has been on campus several times, but it's hard to get a good read on where the Lions stand. He's taken several visits to a number of schools (South Carolina, Auburn, Arizona, Stanford) but other than a Crystal Ball trending towards the Gamecocks, there is most just speculating/guessing. Similar to Zembiec's ahtleticism being downplayed, I think Brandon's passing skills are much better than most realize."
Rating (Composite): ★★★★
High School: Aquinas Institute (NY)
Offers: Boston College, Iowa, Michigan State, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Syracuse, UCF
Outlook: Zembiec burst onto the scene for Penn State once he was officially offered, with many thinking he wouldn't leave his first visit without committing. Obviously that hasn't happened yet, but Zembiec remains very high on Penn State. In speaking with him yesterday, he told me that is in contact with Coach Rahne and Coach Hand regularly. He was on campus two weeks ago for homecoming, and although the result of the game wasn't to be desired, he still took a lot away from the visit. He was very impressed with the fans despite the deficit and poor play for the entire game. He spoke fondly of the entire experience, from seeing the team walk from the busses to the entrance, to seeing them walk off the field. For more from my talk with Jake, check out the full interview.
Zembiec has good size for the quarterback spot, and a great arm. While he is very much a pro style quarterback, he has the same type of sneaky athleticism that Penn State fans currently get to see in Hackenberg. He has the potential to step in and run the same type of offense that the team is running now (or at least what the team is supposed to be running when the blocking holds up).
While Penn State is still very much atop Zembiec's list, another team may be joining them near the list's summit. In speaking with him, Zembiec seemed very excited about the idea of playing with the Spartans. He will need to visit East Lansing before more conclusions can be drawn, but it would seem that they are a very real opponent to the Nittany Lions here.
From Matt: "I don't think it's much of a secret that PSU seems to lead by a pretty significant margin for Jake. He's been on campus twice on unofficial visits since being offered at a PSU camp in June. While he's considered a pro style QB, he's a better athlete than he gets credit for."
Rating (Composite): ★★★★
School: The Bullis School (MD)
Offers: Arizona State, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Kentucky, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers, SMU, Temple, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Utah, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Outlook: The newest offer the Nittany Lions have sent out to a quarterback belongs to Mr. Dwayne Haskins. Haskins is the highest ranked of the three marquee quarterback targets for the 2016 class, sitting as the number five pro-style quarterback in the country. He has a fantastic arm and shows a great feel for hitting his receivers in stride, something that high school quarterbacks often struggle with because they can get away with being a little off target against high school level competition. He possess great accuracy and an ability to complete passes of varying depths. He has enough athleticism to make plays with his feet, whether that be keeping a play alive or picking up some yards on the ground when the defense is giving them up. Plain and simple, Haskins is an elite-level talent. Penn State is throwing their hat in the ring for one of the most sought-after quarterback recruits in the 2016 cycle.
Haskins' high school probably sounded familiar to those who follow Penn State recruiting, because is the same school as 2015 DE commit Jonathan Holland. Holland has been very visibly in Haskins' ear about Penn State through twitter and social media, so one can only imagine how much they talk in real life (kids still do that, right?). He is currently heavily favored to end up at Ohio State according to his Crystal Ball, although Penn State has been rising quickly.
If you're into trying to read signals from recruits on social media, Haskins is a fascinating case. Before he held his Penn State offer, Haskins would often be tweeted at by Holland, saying something along the lines of Haskins joining Holland at PSU eventually. Haskins would often answer quickly and in a seemingly-annoyed manner, pointing out that he didn't even hold an offer from Penn State yet. Now that he does have the offer, whenever Holland tweets at him in the same manner, Haskins is either dismissive of it as he is here, or ignores it. This could be either a good sign or a bad sign, depending on how optimistic of a person you are. Personally, I think it's just a twitter account, and it means nothing. But it is interesting to me nonetheless, so maybe it is to you, also.
From Matt: "The newest member of the 2016 QB offer list. Dwayne is close with a number of PSU commits, and targets, in the DMV area, and seemed to be at least a little miffed he hadn't received a PSU offer, which came just last week. He did visit PSU back in May, but has yet to return. Until he's back on campus, it's tough to give PSU a significant chance. He's definitely the best overall prospect among the three 2016 targets."
So there you have it. Now you know a lot of what you need to know about the quarterback targets for 2015 and 2016 (for now)! Be sure to check out the full transcript of my talk with Jake Zembiec as well, he gave a great interview.