Now that Penn State's latest recruiting class is official, it's time for BSD's annual "Which Recruit Are You Most Excited About?" roundtable. Our criteria may differ from one another- some of us based our decision on longterm potential, some on immediate impact, some on area of need and some just by a gut feeling. Regardless of the specifics, we can all agree that we're excited to see what the following players build their own legacy in the blue and white during the next few years.
Devon: Saquon Barkley. Akeel Lynch is the only returning running back of note, and while Nick Scott, Mark Allen and Johnathan Thomas have a year of experience in the program, Barkley comes in with a more impressive pedigree, better tape, and, probably, the greater long-term potential. There's every chance that he'll be Lynch's chief backup, at least by mid-season, and despite the glut of backfield talent, it's not too early to get excited about Barkley as the bell-cow in years to come.
Jared: Paris Palmer There is plenty of new Nittany Lions to be excited about in the upcoming class, but based off the disastrous season by the offensive line in 2014 the obvious choice is Paris Palmer. While Sterling Jenkins, Ryan Bates and Steven Gonzalez will play a major role in the success of the offense in the near future, Palmer will be a major reason why the offense improves immensely in 2015. Palmer is a 6-8, 300 pound behemoth who will likely be protecting Christian Hackenberg's blindside from some nasty Big Ten defensive ends. If Palmer succeeds, Hackenberg will be take his time in the pocket to make the kinds of throws few quarterbacks can achieve, and the offensive failings of 2014 will become a distant memory.
Matt: Saquon Barkley Penn State has had plenty of talented running backs over the years, even in recent memory. However, as I said on the podcast last week, it's a challenge to find a guy that is as complete a back as Barkley is. He has the total package of size, speed, power, and vision...and he's only a high school senior. Akeel Lynch and Johnathan Thomas are the clear cut #1 and #2 going into the spring and fall, but Barkley has all the tools to upset the depth chart quickly.
Tim: Juwan Johnson Contrary to popular belief, he is not the first PSU wide receiver to get the 'Megatron Jr' nickname, (that would belong to Saeed Blacknall). Not only does he possess great hands and a matchup nightmare for opposing corners with his 6'4"-6'5"-ish height, but he also seems speedy for a guy of his stature. Also, I'm calling you a liar if you're telling me that you haven't dropped your pants at the thought of Blacknall and Johnson lining up together in the same formation.
bscaff: Nick Bowers Nick was a long-time Pitt verbal. And when he finally got his mind straight and switched to the Nittany Lions, the Pitt crowd shrugged it off. "He wouldn't have played," they said. "He was buried on the depth chart, isn't very good - we're not gonna miss him at all." That kind of stuff. So, I'm excited for Nick Bowers to shove it right up Pitt's *** in the years to come. Make them cry. Wailing and lamentations.
Cari: Saquon Barkley. He's the highest rated recruit in PSU's class for a reason, and I can't wait to see what he does out of the backfield--after Lynch get his 100 yards a game, naturally. In seriousness, Barkley has the ability to challenge Thomas for the #2 slot almost right away, and he'll be tough for the coaching staff to keep on the bench. Lynch is the clear number one RB on the team right now, and most Penn State fans have been excited to see what he can do for a while--but we're not lacking in running back depth, and that's a great problem to have.
Nick Page: Juwan Johnson. Not often do you see guys with his combination of size and talent. Even more rarely do you see these attributes in a player at Penn State. He's an incredibly rare specimen and he brings a whole new element to the offense that we haven't seen in recent years.
Nick Polak: Saquon Barkley I wanted to pick someone different here just for the sake of variety, but I couldn't do it. Barkley is the most exciting player in this class for me overall, not just on offense. I've praised him ad nauseam on this website, so you probably know about the many reasons I love him by now. It's worth repeating though, that he is the total package at running back. As painful as it might be to hear the name, a great comparison for Barkley is former Penn State running back Silas Redd. Just like Redd, Barkley runs with power, speed and balance, his forward momentum never stops and he understands how to be a running back. He's the most complete option Penn State has had at running back in some time, and I expect him to be getting regular carries by the end of his true freshman season.
Bill: Juwan Johnson If you put a group of scientists and made them put together the perfect wide receiver prospect, you would want someone like Juwan Johnson. He has the size, strength, speed and jumping ability that he should make an impact from the moment he steps on campus. His main issue is his hands, which could use some work, and he needs to go through agility training, but he's so athletic and physical that he could be a star. He is a natural No. 1 wide receiver, and while it may be tough for someone to break through and become a star in Penn State's loaded wide receiving corps, he has the talent to do it.