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Oh, What Could’ve Been: A Look at Penn State’s Class of 2016 Decommitments

While the 2017 recruiting class didn’t feature decommitments that truly hurt Penn State, the Nittany Lions coaching staff could probably use a few from the 2016 recruiting cycle.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In the first part of our series looking back at decommitments from past recruiting classes, we took a look at the 2017 recruiting class. The class featured two decomitments from two players who have gone onto be early impact players at their respective universities. Today, we take it back to the 2016 recruiting class that saw seven recruits decommit from Penn State.

How the Class Finished:

Before delving into the decommitments from the 2016 recruiting class, let’s take a look back quickly to how the class ended. At the time, the class was James Franklin’s third and second best at Penn State as it finished 20th in the country and fourth in the Big Ten according to 247Sports.

The class was headlined by two of the country’s top 30-players in current junior running back Miles Sanders, the country’s top ranked running back, and redshirt sophomore Michael Menet, the country’s top ranked offensive guard. Other notable recruits from the class are DE Shane Simmons (#48), OC Connor McGovern (#255), DE Shaka Toney (#838), and P Blake Gillikin (#861) just to name a few.

The Decommitments:

Now that we recapped how the class ended up on National Signing Day, it’s time to take a look at the seven decommitments from the recruiting class. The seven decommitments, which came on the heels of back-to-back seven-win seasons, were the most of James Franklin’s era.

DB Lavert Hill - Michigan:

A native of Detroit, it always seemed that the Nittany Lions were going to have a hard time in keeping Hill. The four-star recruit was one of the top corners in the country and the Nittany Lions were going to do whatever it took to keep Hill in Happy Valley.

Hill originally committed to the program at the end of January in 2015 and the coaching staff did a great job at keeping Hill aboard the first 10 months following his commitment. However once November rolled around, there was a sense that Hill may be wavering on his commitment. On November 29th, Hill decommitted from the program and reopened his recruitment.

After his deccomitment, Hill took visits to Michigan, Tennessee, and Penn State. His Penn State visit was unique as Hill had already signed financial aid papers with the university which allowed the program to use his name, according to the NCAA’s rules. Because of this, Franklin took Hill (and other recruits) to a hockey game where they announced Hill in front of the crowd. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough to get Hill to come back to the place he originally was planning on calling home as he would end up committing to Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines.

Over his first two seasons at Michigan, Hill has appeared in 11 games and has shown the skillset that made him such a highly touted recruit and wanted by programs across the country. That being said, when the Wolverines and Hill came to Happy Valley last season, it was anything but pleasant. Hill had one of his rougher games against the Nittany Lions, and the 42-13 beat down the Lions put on the Wolverines left Hill frustrated to say the least.

While Hill hasn’t reached elite status at Michigan yet, he has shown a ton of potential, and even made second-team all-conference according to the coaches. If he had stayed committed to the Nittany Lions, Hill would most likely be looking at some serious playing time this season, if not an outright starter next to John Reid.

DT Karamo Dioubate - Temple:

A four-star defensive tackle from Temple, Dioubate was at one point a huge get for the Nittany Lions. A top-200 player with offers from the likes of Ohio State and Alabama, Dioubate was expected to help rejuvenate a Penn State defensive line that was looking for big time play makers.

However, the biggest threat to the Nittany Lions for Dioubate’s services ended up being his home town school: Temple. Dioubate decommitted from Penn State on January 7th, 2016, and took visits to Michigan State, South Carolina, and Temple before committing to the Owls on National Signing Day 2016.

Since enrolling at Temple, Dioubate has played in just eight games over his first two seasons, totaling eight tackles including one and half tackles for a loss, and one forced fumble. Outside of that, Dioubate has made very little impact for the Owls defensively which has to be a disappointment for the Owls so far. He’s also not a projected starter in 2018 either.

So far, Dioubate’s collegiete career has not lived up to the hype of a four-star recruit. With struggling to make an impact on Temple’s defense, it’s hard to see any way he wouldn’t be in a similar situation with the Lions who have much deeper depth across the defensive line. That being said, it’s hard to say how different his development would’ve been with a different coaching staff. For now, we can chalk this decommitment up as one that has been a blessing in disguise for the program in terms of production.

S Andrew Pryts - Stanford:

A four-star safety coming out of Hermitage, PA, Pryts was a signing day flip for Stanford which ended a commitment from Penn State that he had since August. The flip wasn’t a huge surprise as his recruitment was a three-team battle between Ohio State, Penn State, and Stanford. Ultimately, Pryts couldn’t pass up the education and chance to play football at Stanford.

Sine enrolling at Stanford, Pryts has made the move to inside linebacker and has appeared in just three games over his first two seasons. According to limited reports, it appears that the move could be beneficial for Pryts and it will allow the Pennsylvania native to see more playing time this upcoming fall for the Cardinal.

Despite not making a huge impact over his first two seasons with Stanford, Pryts is a player who definitely could be useful for Penn State entering 2018. The versatility that he could provide playing both safety and now linebacker, a move that probably would’ve been made by Penn State’s coaching staff, would be highly beneficial this season. The Lions are limited at linebacker entering this season and also have some inexperience at safety so no matter where Pryts could play, he’d be a useful addition to the program.

ATH Aaron Mathews - Pitt:

Originally a late commitment to the 2016 recruiting class, Mathews committed to Penn State on January 2nd just days after receiving an offer from the program. However, less than a month later, Mathews ultimately changed his mind and would end up signing with Pittsburgh as a wide receiver.

Since getting to Pittsburgh, Mathews has played in 14 games over his first two seasons but hasn’t made a huge impact. In his 14 games, Mathews has made 22 receptions for 240-yards.

In terms of what his impact for the Nittany Lions would’ve been, you’d have to consider that there’s a quality chance he would be playing linebacker instead of wide receiver. As a wide receiver, he would likely not crack the Lions rotation, but with the lack of depth at linebacker, Mathews would’ve had a chance to make at least some impact this upcoming season. Honestly, looking at Dae’lun Darien’s career so far probably would have mirrored what Mathews would have contributed.

K Quinn Nordin - Michigan:

Perhaps, the most interesting recruitment of the 2016 recruiting class and one of the most interesting of the James Franklin era, Nordin’s recruitment from start to finish should be classified as “unique.” While it wasn’t as crazy as the Micah Parsons saga, it will be one remembered for a long time.

First, let’s remember how the nation’s top kicker at the time committed to the Nittany Lions.

Commitment videos at the time were still getting big, and Nordin’s usage of a plane was one that was pretty unique and in it’s own way, bold.

Nordin committed to the program in July 2015 and ended up decommiting from Penn State in January 2016 after the program received a commitment from Alex Barbir, as it was a well-known secret that Nordin would be flipping to Michigan.

We say “well-known secret” because Nordin had a 52-year-old man by the name of Jim Harbaugh sleep in his room just a week prior to his decommitment. Once a grown man sleeps in your room, the writing is on the wall.

Nordin became Michigan’s starting place kicker in 2017 and got off to a great start as he hit a 55-yarder in the Wolverines’ season opener against Florida. He was actually perfect on extra points to...until the Penn State game. Nordin ran onto the Beaver Stadium field to a chorus of boos from fans who remembered his recruitment. Then, for the first time in his career (albeit a short one at the time), Nordin missed. A moment that left every Penn State fan smiling for more reasons than one.

With all that being said, Nordin might be the most missed decommitment from the 2016 class. Entering fall camp, the Lions don’t have a starting kicker, and may have to rely on true freshman Jake Pinegar or punter Blake Gillkin. If Nordin was around, he would be the easy choice for starting kicker entering 2018.

DT Christian Colon - Colorado State:

A rare commitment out of North Carolina, the Penn State staff was excited about Colon despite being one of the lower ranked players in the class. Long story short though, Colon and Penn State decided to part ways from each other during Colon’s senior season.

Colon went onto look at Eastern Michigan, Miami (OH), and Colorado State where he ultimately ended up signing. Colon spent two seasons with the Rams, but left the program during this past season. He’s now enrolled at Arizona Western College, a JUCO program in Yuma, Arizona.

Obviously, at this point, Colon’s decommitment ended up not being a huge deal as the Lions were able to pick up strong defensive tackles in later classes. As said above, depth is always great to have but for Colon it may have been hard to crack the rotation at Penn State.

(Editor’s Note: 5b forever)

DT Michael Dwumfour:

First of all, if you’ve made it all the way down here, hats off to you as we take a look at the last decommitment from the 2016 recruiting class, defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour.

If you can’t tell by now, the Nittany Lions coaching staff had a tough time keeping defensive tackles committed to the program in 2016. Dwumfour was the third and final defensive tackle to decommit as he did so just days before National Signing Day. A native of Wayne, New Jersey, the Nittany Lions lost out on the three-star recruit to Michigan, which obviously wasn’t an uncommon sight at the end of the cycle. The Wolverines have done great in New Jersey recently, especially after hiring highly regarded North Jersey head coach Chris Partridge who proved to play a big role in Dwumfour’s recruitment.

Over his first two seasons in Ann Arbor, Dwumfour has played in 10 games and has recorded six tackles, two tackles for a loss, and half a sack. In 2018, Dwumfour is expected to take on a slightly bigger role, but with one of the best defensive lines in the country, having a huge impact will be hard for the New Jersey native.

At Penn State, Dwumfour could’ve been in a similar situation to the one he’s currently in at Michigan. While his development obviously would’ve been different if he was at Penn State, he still may have a tough time at getting consistent playing time. While the Lions are not as deep as Michigan, the program still presents one of the better defensive lines across the board in the country, one that is expected to take a huge step forward in 2018.