With National Signing Day a month away, Penn State still has some unsettled business in regards to its 2016 class. Today, we're going to take a quick look at the burning questions that remain, as James Franklin and company attempt to finalize their second full recruiting class since taking over in Happy Valley.
1. Is Quinn Nordin sticking around?
Lots of Penn State fans have been asking this question, as Nordin's interest in Michigan has definitely increased due to the Wolverines' success in 2015. The four-star, No. 1 in the country kicker has visited both Ann Arbor and Happy Valley many times, and has received in-home visits from both coaching staffs. It's not entirely clear if Michigan has a spot in its class for him, or if he would gray-shirt or be a preferred walk-on (who would likely receive a scholarship when one opens up), but there is definitely still some serious interest there.
It would would certainly be a blow to Penn State's class to lose the highly-touted kicker, because despite what the 2015 Big Ten-leading field goal percentage by the Nittany Lions suggests, this was a team that passed up numerous long field goals in favor of punts. Fellow commit Blake Gillikin is coming to Happy Valley as a punter, but he is no slouch as a kicker, either. Still, there's no question the staff would be more comfortable taking both guys in the 2016 class.
2. Will Penn State take a true linebacker?
The Lions currently have several guys committed who could end up playing an outside linebacker role in Shane Simmons, Shaka Toney, and Cameron Brown, but they do not currently hold a commitment from a "true linebacker. Two of such players do remain on the board in Brendan Ferns and Aaron Hansford.
We've spoken about Ferns at length previously, so we won't continue to do that here. His finalists remain Penn State and West Virginia, and a decision will come on National Signing Day. Don't try to get a read on the Ohio native, as there are reasons to believe he is leaning in either direction.
Hansford is a much bigger question mark. His recruitment has been tricky to follow, seemingly leaning towards all of Ohio State, Penn State, Maryland, and Notre Dame at various points. Due to the length of his recruitment, some teams have dropped out of the race, which could put a school like Maryland in a great position come National Signing Day. Penn State seems primed to take one or the other when it comes to these two, and while Ferns fits the mold of the traditional inside linebacker who has a nose for the football, Hansford is an athletic freak who has turned heads with his speed everywhere he's gone. Either one would be a solid addition to the class.
3. Where is Tre Nixon?
It seems that Tre Nixon has been on "commitment-watch" for about four months now. Mercifully, for those trying to follow his recruitment, he will have to make a decision here soon. Penn State has been and still is the school recruiting him the hardest. His Crystal Ball still favors the Nittany Lions, but Florida has been coming on strong recently. Should Penn State not land Nixon, it will likely not take a receiver in the 2016 class.
As I've mentioned before, Nixon was someone who Penn State discovered at one of its satellite camps in Georgia, making him one of the first real success stories to come out of said camps. His relationship with Penn State has been in-tact longer than nearly everyone else, so this will be a major selling point for the PSU staff in the future as they venture below the Mason-Dixon line.
4. How important is it to beat out Pitt for Damar Hamlin and/or Khaleke Hudson?
This is an interesting question. It would be great for Penn State continue to reach into the WPIAL to grab big-time talent as it did with Sterling Jenkins and as it is set to do with Miles Sanders and others. It also helps that Hamlin is a fantastic player and one who would help offset the loss of Lavert Hill. Hudson is a great player as well, albeit tougher to project in college due to his lack of a true position at this point. Either one would be a great addition to Penn State's 2016 class and would surely help it continue to work its way into some of the top WPIAL talent.
That being said, is it imperative to get these two guys to be able to keep recruiting well in Pittsburgh? Probably not. Penn State has enough pull and enough of a fan base in the area already that no one recruit will ever be a make-or-break guy in terms of being able to pull in future recruits. It would be nice to keep playmakers like Hamlin and Hudson away from the Panthers, though, especially after how well Jordan Whitehead worked out for them in just his freshman season.
5. Where will Penn State's 2016 recruiting class be ranked?
This year's class will likely fall within the 8-15 range. It really depends on other schools at this point. If Penn State were to pull off a dream finish to the class and pull in Damar Hamlin, Brendan Ferns, Tre Nixon, and Jordan Fuller, that class would have finished 14th in last year's rankings, according to 247Sports. Obviously every year is different, but a similar score will likely lead to a similar placement (Penn State finished exactly 14th in 2015).
A more conservative finish, let's say Hudson, Nixon, Ferns and JuCo Kyzir White would also place Penn State in the 14/15 range in the 2015 rankings. It's safe to say that the Nittany Lions will likely end National Signing Day with a class rated somewhere in the 12-14 range.
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Look for a post soon detailing all the great coverage you can expect this year for National Signing Day. And be sure to check back to the site as we attempt to answer these questions before February 3rd.