Penn State recruiting: What you need to know about the Nittany Lions' Early Signing class
Note: All star ratings and all rankings are based on 247Sports and its composite rankings as of Monday morning, Dec. 13, unless otherwise indicated.
Penn State fans have been waiting to exhale over this 2022 recruiting class since before this season started.
As long as most of the commitment papers get inked, this will be James Franklin’s best group of incoming players since 2018, and a sorely needed one with the program coming off consecutive 5-loss seasons.
At No. 6 in the nation and No. 2 in the B1G, this class can’t get to State College soon enough for a program set to lose most of the remaining stars from the stellar group from 4 years ago. For a while in the summer, this class ranked No. 1 in the country. Up until a few weeks ago, it still held the top B1G spot ahead of Ohio State. And as of right now, it still includes highly-touted Drew Allar, the best QB prospect in the country according to at least a couple ratings services.
As Penn State lost game after game in the latter part of the season and then lost DC Brent Pry to Virginia Tech, fans fretted. Rumors swirling about Ohio State tempting Allar back to his home state didn’t help.
But those fears seem unfounded with the Early Signing Period set to begin Wednesday, as Penn State so far hasn’t suffered any significant losses from a class that will go roughly 25 deep and includes 16 members ranked as 4-stars or better.
By the numbers
Overall rank: 6th
B1G rank: 2nd
Did they find a future QB?
They certainly think so. Allar will instantly become OC Mike Yurcich’s prized pupil, even as Sean Clifford returns for a final season to lead the offense and serve as a mentor to his heir apparent. At nearly 6-5 and 230 pounds, Allar has a college-ready body coming off an incredible high school career in Medina, Ohio.
After 247Sports’ latest update to its composite rankings, he’s a 5-star recruit and the 4th-best QB in the class. He’s been getting 5-star buzz all along because 247’s own rankings had him rated as such months ago and tab him as the best QB prospect in the country. As the most-hyped QB recruit in Franklin’s 9 classes at Penn State, he seems destined to be the coach’s next multi-year starter, following in the footsteps of Trace McSorley and Clifford.
Who is the best offensive player?
We’re not going to split hairs here. There are 2 top offensive recruits who slot in directly behind Allar, a running back and a receiver who could form a triplets group with their future QB. The RB is Nicholas Singleton (6-0, 210) out of Reading, Pa., ranked the 49th best player in the country and 4th best at his position. The WR is Kaden Saunders (5-10, 172) from Ohio, ranked 52nd overall and 6th at his position.
Given that Penn State will be losing WR Jahan Dotson of the 2018 class to the NFL and the struggles of this year’s running backs, these youngsters could be in the mix quickly.
Who is the best defensive player?
Dani Dennis-Sutton ranks as the best player coming out of Maryland and the 55th best in the country. The 6-5, 250-pound defensive lineman is touted for his athleticism and closing speed.
For now, he seems more suited to working off the edge than playing inside, and eventually could be a bigger version of this year’s team sacks leader, Arnold Ebiketie. And he could be a multiple-year starter rather than a 1-season flash from the transfer portal.
What position did they recruit the best?
Defensive line. In addition to Dennis-Sutton, the Lions landed 2 other 4-star defensive line prospects in edge rusher Ken Talley (6-3, 230) and DL Zane Durant (6-1, 251). The class also includes 3-star Kaleb Artis (6-4, 290).
Some of these guys could see action at DE in their first couple years. It’ll be interested to see which ones can add enough beef to play inside, where Dvon Ellies, Coziah Izzard and other fairly young Nittany Lions are holding down the DT spots.
What position do they still need to recruit?
Linebacker. This class adds only 2 players listed as LBs to the Penn State roster, 4-star Abdul Carter (6-4, 235) and 3-star Keon Wylie (6-2, 210), both from Pennsylvania.
Penn State’s top 2 tacklers this season, LBs Ellis Brooks and Brandon Smith, are eligible to return in 2022 but also eligible to enter the NFL Draft early if they choose. LB-DE Jesse Luketa seems to have made his decision, having accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl. Penn State has some players on the roster ready to step up, but probably not enough of them as it now stands. If Carter opts to decommit and follow Pry to Virginia Tech, this position could get really thin in a hurry.
Did they keep the best players home?
Yes. Penn State pulled in 4 of the top 6 players in Pennsylvania and 6 of the best 10, including the state’s best RB, OT and WR. Meanwhile, only 1 of the top 25 went to another PA program, with Pitt signing the No. 22 player in the state. Among B1G foes, Rutgers did the best poaching by getting 2 of the top 11 players, and Minnesota inked the last of the state’s 12 4-star players.
The 3 PA 4-star prospects who didn’t choose a B1G school went to the SEC, including top-ranked Enai White, a 6-5, 230-pound edge rusher out of Philadelphia who accepted an offer from Texas A&M. The others went to South Carolina and Kentucky.
Overall, how you should feel about this class …
This is great class. On paper, it’s just a smidge below Ohio State’s No. 4 class and way better than anyone else in the Big Ten is bringing in. Penn State is set to welcome 16 players rated 4-star or better, the same number as the Buckeyes, 8 more than Michigan and 11 more than any other conference team.
Five of the top 6 players in the class play offense, including 6-5, 290-pound OT Drew Shelton out of Downingtown. Yurcich’s group could be a whole lot more fun to watch in a couple years. I’m not bullish on 2022, but the years thereafter look bright.
Given a little time to develop, this group should produce household names just like the 2018 one — Franklin’s only other top-10 class — did. Names like Parsons, Slade, Walker, Oweh, Mustipher, Dotson, Freiermuth and Luketa. Of course, some will leave (Shorter, Levis), some will top out as role players (Scruggs, Tarburton, George, Effner) and some won’t leave much of a mark at all. But that’s the point of bringing in 25 hungry players fresh out of high school. The odds are in Penn State’s favor with this group.