Penn State signed an uber-talented recruiting class last winter, and it will now see the fruits of its labor as a handful of those signees will make their debuts this fall. In the past, it was much easier to categorize freshmen into three tiers:
- Green: likely to play
- Yellow: on the fence
- Red: unlikely to play
But with the NCAA’s decision last year to allow freshmen to play four games before burning their redshirt, it’s made the lines between those tiers a bit blurry. Still, we’ll give it our best shot and project what is in store for Penn State’s 2019 recruiting class this fall in Happy Valley.
DT Joseph Darkwa, CB Daequan Hardy, DE Smith Vilbert, WR TJ Jones, QB Michael Johnson, QB Taquan Roberson, TE Brenton Strange, DB Joey Porter Jr, DT Hakeem Beamon, OG Saleem Wormley, and DT D’Von Ellies
I’m sure a player or two here will see some time during a blowout, but by and large, I’d be pretty surprised if any of these guys weren’t redshirted.
CB Marquis Wilson, S Tyler Rudolph, LB Lance Dixon, WR John Dunmore, DE Adisa Isaac, OT Caedan Wallace, OT Anthony Whigan, and RB Devyn Ford
I would categorize these guys as the “Nick Taburton Group” — players who will likely get a couple games to show what they got before a decision is made moving forward. Some really intriguing players on this list, but Lance Dixon and Adisa Isaac are probably the two that stick out to me the most.
Dixon is an absurd athlete, but might just be a bit undersized to be ready year one. He’s a perfect fit at the Sam, though. Meanwhile, Isaac could work himself into a 3rd-and-long pass rush specialist type role. I didn’t think he was nearly as raw as some thought as a recruit, and being that he enrolled early, he had an extra six months to add some much needed mass (now weighing in at 241 pounds).
S Jaquan Brisker, LB Brandon Smith, RB Noah Cain, and CB Keaton Ellis
Beyond Brisker, I wouldn’t say any of these guys are locks to play, but I feel pretty confident about the three freshmen. First and foremost, they all enrolled early, and have the size of veteran players — Smith at 6-foot-3, 240, Ellis at 5-foot-11, 190, and Cain at 5-foot-10, 206. For true froshes wanting to play right away, that’s a good starting point.
Beyond that though, there’s also the need for them to play. Fortunately, none of them will be expected to be starting right away, but running back, cornerback, and linebacker could all use another depth piece or two. Plus, in Smith’s and Ellis’ case, they could help out on special teams like Jesse Luketa did last year.