The dust has long settled on National Signing Day, as Penn State welcomed the next batch of Nittany Lions hot off the heels of a Big Ten Championship (I never get tired of mentioning that detail). After all the letters were signed, sealed and delivered, Penn State ended up with the 15th class in the nation, filled with plenty of talented players who will soon be making an impact for the Nittany Lions. Today, we discuss which of the incoming offensive players we are most excited to see take the field for Penn State.
Lando: WR Mac Hippenhamer
Hippenhamer will be a long-term solution (and may play in the short-term). Mac's got agility and speed that would be a great addition to the offensive firepower already present on the roster. I'm usually not a fan of freshmen playing right away unless they're at a position of need (which Mac is not), but he has a chance to contend for a returner slot. Penn State hasn't had a dangerous, consistent threat in the return game since Derrick Williams, and I hope Hippenhamer is an answer there in 2018 and beyond.
Chris L: OL C.J. Thorpe
This pick is a long-term pick, since CJ should not see the field in 2017. 2018 and beyond, however, is a different story. CJ has a college-ready build already, and that's before working with the strength and conditioning staff for a couple years. He's got a mean streak in him that you love to see from an interior lineman. Adding C.J. to the mix, along with Ryan Bates, Connor McGovern, Michal Menet, and Steven Gonzalez, has to have Matt Limegrover salivating.
Cari: WR KJ Hamler
With the departure of Chris Godwin to the league, we'll need someone to pick up the slack at wideout. The smart money is on one of th etalented receivers who've already gotten some time in Moorhead's system, but why not a freshman? Hamler's coming off injury this past year, but since he's already on campus, he has a leg up on the freshmen competition. Hamler's smaller than a lot of other receivers on the squad, but reports are that he already has impressive route-running ability, which can be the biggest issue for new guys - and his immediate speed is something to look forward to.
Tim: WR Mac Hippenhammer
While I don't expect to see him when the offense takes the field this year, he has the potential to return kickoffs or punts. Mac was well-known for his dangerous returning ability as a high school prospect, taking several kickoffs and punts to the house over his young career, thus far. This is obviously a stretch given how there's no clear-cut instant impact offensive player in the 2017 class (due to the experienced talent already on hand), but I feel he'll carve out a role for himself even as a true freshman.
Eli: RB Journey Brown
The SEC built its reputation around speed, and this guy has it. He won't supplant any of the established players in the backfield, but he may find a permanent spot as a returner on special teams.
Aaron: Mac Hippenhammer
I'm interested in Hippenhammer's status as a two-sport athlete because it brings me back to my youth when guys like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders were all the rage. These days, most athletes stick to one sport, but Hippenhammer might help the Penn State baseball team as well as the gridiron squad. Although it seems he is a little raw as a pass-catcher, he could help the Lions out right away in the return game while learning the ropes at wide receiver.
Jared: Mike Miranda
I'm somewhat biased because I was able to watch Miranda play in high school, but man did I come away impressed. While Miranda faced off against some poor outmatched defensive linemen that night, it was evident he has all the intangibles of an outstanding lineman. He had several blocks that were straight out of "The Blindside," where he literally drove his man 40-50 yards down the field like he was on roller skates. Talk about playing until the last echo of the whistle. As Penn State's offensive line undergoes a renaissance, Miranda should play a big part as the team focuses on building a national championship-caliber line.
Chris T.: Mac Hippenhammer
It will be interesting to see if his athleticism forces him on the field in the early-going in some facility. It's nice to be in a position, as a program, to be able to consider a player of his caliber as non-essential from day one. There may be enough depth on the team to relegate him to spot duty on offense and special teams, but I think it will be telling if we see Mac and Ham on the field more than just in cameo appearances as a freshman. It may indicate that he has 'it', the elusive quality that isn't measurable but is evident when you see a player on the field with the other 21 players. Another Mac on the team has a Trace of the it factor, and with the return game and offensive power that the team has returning, if Hippy Ham gets reps, it must be due to incredible potential. Plus there are so many possibilities for nicknames with this particular prospect, puns unlimited, once he makes a play the color analyst is going for it, you just know it.