Penn State welcomed four new Nittany Lions to campus last weekend for the start of the spring semester.
Let’s take a closer look at what to expect from Lamont Wade, KJ Hamler, Brelin Faison-Walden, and Mike Miranda as they begin their collegiate careers.
Lamont Wade | Defensive back | Clairton, Pa.
Wade instantly became the crown jewel of Penn State’s 2017 recruiting class upon giving his verbal commitment to James Franklin on Dec. 17. The four-star cornerback lettered four times at Western Pennsylvania power Clairton High School, earning Gatorade State Player of the Year honors following his senior season. Wade is the type of freak athlete who could easily prove too good to keep off the field his freshman year, much like running back Miles Sanders.
Though he’ll likely start his Penn State career at corner or nickel, Wade may grow into a safety at some point in his career. He’s an electrifying presence in the return game as well, and could line up deep for the Nittany Lions on kickoffs this coming fall. Despite the deep stable of defensive backs on the roster, Wade should make an immediate splash thanks to his speed and fluid cover skills.
KJ Hamler | Wide receiver | Commerce, Mich.
Hamler played his high school ball for Orchard Lake St. Mary’s outside Detroit — the alma mater of Allen Robinson and Rob Bolden — before transferring to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for his senior year. He went down with a torn ACL during a preseason scrimmage against Carol City, so it certainly wouldn’t be out of the question for The Opening alum to take a redshirt in 2017. Wade also balled out at Nike’s world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., last summer, though both were obviously uncommitted at the time.
When he’s back at full strength, Hamler will show Penn State fans exactly why the coaching staff was so high on him from the start. The 5-foot-9, 165-pound speedster has all the tools you look for in a slot receiver and, like Wade, could also make an impact as a returner. When fellow incoming freshmen Mac Hippenhammer and Cameron Sullivan-Brown join Hamler in the receivers room this summer, they’ll give Josh Gattis a wealth of options over the middle.
Brelin Faison-Walden | Linebacker | Greensboro, N.C.
Faison-Walden picked the Nittany Lions back in mid-July and held firm to his commitment despite alluring offers from the likes of Michigan, Georgia, and Virginia Tech. He’s the cousin of San Diego Chargers receiver Keenan Allen, who was also being recruited by Penn State in 2010 before heading out West to play for Cal. Faison-Walden played plenty of safety for Grimsley High School, but projects as a perfect fit for defensive coordinator Brent Pry’s hybrid linebacker role.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder enters the program with a frame and skillset comparable to rising junior linebacker Manny Bowen, who also shined at multiple positions on the high school level before bulking up a bit his freshman summer. Faison-Walden already has a headstart on the process, and given Penn State’s depth situation at linebacker, he could be asked to contribute on special teams and perhaps even defense right away.
Mike Miranda | Offensive guard | Stow, Ohio
Miranda’s bruising highlight tape showcases exactly why Matt Limegrover pinpointed him during the recruiting process. He plays with a nasty downhill motor in the trenches, making him a prime candidate to steamroll opposing interior linemen from one of the guard spots. Miranda chose Penn State over Big Ten foe and offensive line factory Nebraska, as well as offers from Pitt and Rutgers, among others.
Having the chance to go through spring ball with his new position coach will prove extremely beneficial in Miranda’s development, as offensive line is without a doubt the position group that requires the most seasoning. Though the standout performance we saw from true freshman Connor McGovern this past fall is an outlier in every sense of the word, Miranda could certainly make a move up the depth chart with a strong spring. He and the rest of the early enrollees will get their first taste of running out the Beaver Stadium tunnel on April 22 in the Blue-White Game.