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. Last week, we discussed which of the incoming offensive players we are most excited to see take the field for Penn State. Today, we take a closer look at the defense.
Chris T.: Lamont Wade.
Is he Justin King revisited? Wade has a chance to be a very special player. He comes with great expectations, but if he starts as a true freshman it won't be as pronounced of a potential liability, in terms of his on-field learning curve affecting the outcome of the game as some of our recent freshmen have been at times. He is not being pressed into duty due to lack of numbers or better options. He will be out there because of his talent, as compared to a pretty healthy complement of defensive backs. Unlike past seasons, Wade will be one of the very few true-freshmen that see the field next year. His supporting cast will be players that have some decent game experience. It should make his job easier and allow him to worry about his own responsibilities, to have stable players around him.
Aaron: Ellis Brooks
Linebackers aren't as important to defenses as they used to be when stopping the run was the most important thing you can do. Still, I love the idea of having a guy like Brooks in the middle of Penn State's defense. The scouting reports say he is a sound tackler with sideline-to-sideline athleticism, and an offer sheet that includes Northwestern and Duke means that Brooks is probably more than smart enough to handle the intangible responsibilities of defensive captain.
Jared: Fred Hansard
Whenever I watch Hansard's film, I can't stop thinking that he's another version of Austin Johnson. He moves extremely well for a big guy, and should be an adept run-stuffer who can also get into the backfield to make plays from the tackle position. Hansard also has a strong Twitter game- you can tell he's just itching to run out of the Beaver Stadium tunnel. He has the makings of a future fan-favorite and team leader. Coming in at 300-plus lbs., he could become part of the rotation as a true freshman. If not, you better believe he'll be more than ready to make an impact in 2018.
Tim: Ellis Brooks
Given how badly this team needs linebacker depth, landing Brooks shortly after Dylan Rivers' decommitment was YUGE. The 6'2" 233-pound Brooks brings size and athleticism that you like to see in a middle linebacker, as his highlight reel shows him stuffing running back after running back before they even have a chance to do something. Thankfully, he will have the tutelage of Jason Cabinda to rely on this year before he likely takes his starting spot in 2018.
Eli: Lamont Wade
This may sound like a broken record, but he's the player with the best chance to make an impact on defense from day one. The departures in the secondary, coupled with his early enrollment, could be the difference in how much time he sees on the field.
Cari: Yetur Matos
The easy guess for me for here, given my penchant for linebackers and the lack of depth at that position, would be late commit Ellis Brooks. But year in and year out, our best defensive position has been the line - and Sean Spencer has been great at getting depth and rotation for the front four. I'm excited to see what Matos does, and I think he could make an impact almost immediately on the line. He's got evasiveness and speed and can get to the quarterback - and that's, simply, awesome.
Lando: Tariq Castro-Fields
I'm always a fan of taller, more physical DBs (which is why I was initially bummed when Gerald Hodges was moved from safety when he came here), and TCF fits that build. His athleticism is crucial in the back end, and seems to have solid ball skills as well. Similar to Hippenhamer, I would prefer to have TCF sit out the 2017 season, and given the DB depth, that will probably be in the case (seeing as Lamont Wade is already on campus and getting significant work).
Chris L.: Lamont Wade
This pick is a short-term AND long-term pick. Lamont will play in 2017, probably beginning with special teams and nickel/dime packages. He may get some time at safety as well, since the second safety position is up for grabs currently. And with the departures of Grant Haley and Christian Campbell after 2017 - not to mention John Reid, who could declare for the Draft - Lamont will find himself in the mix to start at CB in 2018 and beyond. Wade also brings swagger to his game, which can really only be said about Marcus Allen currently. DBs that like to talk but can actually back it up with excellent play are few and far between.