James Franklin and the Penn State coaching staff have brought in plenty of talented players over their five recruiting classes but they also had some players get away- including two talented prospects in the 2017 class that could’ve been making impacts this upcoming season.
LB Dylan Rivers - Virginia Tech:
Originally the first commitment of the 2017 recruiting class, the former four-star linebacker decommitted from Penn State just two weeks before National Signing day. The reasoning that Rivers provided for decommiting from Penn State was he “didn’t have a relationship with the staff” while others often point out that he followed his girlfriend to Blacksburg. No matter the reason, Rivers never ended up in Happy Valley and is now a Hokie.
Rivers played sparingly in his first season with Tech but is expected to take a bigger role in 2018. This upcoming season he is expected to replace first-round pick Tremaine Edwards in the Hokies defense that always has high expectations under defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
At the time, Rivers decommitment was a big loss for the Nittany Lions and it made some believe that the program was truly cursed at linebacker recruiting. Ultimately, the Lions would pick up Virginia linebacker Ellis Brooks to replace him and it’s way too early to say which will be the better linebacker.
If Rivers would have stayed committed to the program, he could’ve been in a similar situation this season. While he may not have seen playing time last season, Rivers would’ve been in a prime situation to make an impact this upcoming season with Penn State’s linebackers have plenty of questions to answer this summer and upcoming fall. But obviously it’s way too early to tell if Rivers decommitment ended up not being such a big deal or he could’ve been much needed piece to their defense.
S Derrek Pitts - West Virginia:
A three-star athlete coming of West Virginia in the 2017 recruiting class, Pitts was originally a member of what could end up being a great secondary class for Penn State. He originally committed to the Nittany Lions in late July but by October he had already changed his mind and ended up staying at home.
Pitts last season played in 10 games for the Mountaineers and finished his freshman season with nine tackles. This season, Pitts is making the move from safety to corner for the Mountaineers and could be one of their starting cornerbacks come this fall. Many believe Pitts has the talent to be a high impact player at West Virginia and will have the opportunity to show that he can this season.
When Pitts decommitted from the class, it defintely hurt but at the same time, fans knew that the program was in a good position for Lamont Wade. Not to mention current safety, Jonathan Sutherland was already committed to the program at the time as well.
If Pitts would’ve ended up in State College rather than Morgantown, there’s a good chance he’d be in a similar situation as he is this year. The Lions have question marks in the secondary and moved former five-star recruit Lamont Wade to safety this offseason. If Pitts stayed with the program, he could’ve potentially seen playing time last season and could’ve been challenging for the starting safety job this spring and summer. Ultimately, the loss of Pitts in the 2017 recruiting class may not end up being too big of an issue. The Lions have three highly talented secondary members in Lamont Wade, Tariq Castro-Fields, and Jonathan Sutherland. Both Wade and Castro-Fields saw playing time as true freshman and have high expectations following them this upcoming season. Sutherland on the other hand redshirted last season but will see playing time this season and could even work his self into a starting safety role.
Overall, it’s way too early to tell if either Rivers or Pitts decommitments ended up being major losses. Both players are just starting to scratch the surface of their collegiate careers and their potential. While they both have high expectations entering their sophomore seasons, the jury is still out on the overall long-term impact of their decommitments.