Your Future Playmakers

In case you didn’t hear, yesterday was National Signing Day, where college football recruits either follow through on their verbal commitments, or break the hearts of recruiters and fans by signing with another school at the last moment. Every now and then, something completely insane happens – you get players that make you hold your breath, or scratch your head.

Luckily, Penn State didn’t have any Terrelle Pryor-style nonsense this year. There were only two high-profile recruits that were up in the air, and only linebacker Jelani Jenkins spurned Nittany Nation.

In fact, Penn State had a great year. Scout.com ranked our recruiting class as #10 nationally, and ESPN had us at #16.

The Collegian has a nice visual representation of the 27 recruits that signed Letters of Intent to play for and attend Penn State, along with scant notes about each player. Though a lot can change between Signing Day and Opening Day (remember, Antonio Logan-El and Anthony Morelli were both high-profile recruits),  my top 10 impact recruits are after the jump.

1. Eric Shrive – Offensive Tackleeric-shrive

Height: 6’7″
Weight: 300 lbs.
Hometown: Scranton, PA

Games are won in the trenches – and it’s Eric Shrive that the Penn State faithful will have to give credit to for game-winning plays. The only five-star recruit out of the 2009 class, Shrive was a two-way player in high school and is a physically imposing presence. With Gerald Cadogan, Rich Ohrnberger, and A.Q. Shipley graduated, Shrive’s arrival is paramount. He has the potential to be an anchor for the line.

As of last April, he had an incredible 30 Scholarship offers, but the nation’s second-highest rated Tackle committed to Penn State in his Junior Year.

What do you get when you combine his size, motor, and the energy of a Beaver Stadium crowd? I can’t wait to watch and learn.

2. Kevin Newsome – Quarterbackkevin-newsome

Height: 6’3″
Weight: 213 lbs.
Homewtown: Portsmouth, VA

I’ve already said my piece on Newsome, who is – in all likelihood – the future of the Penn State Nittany Lions. He’s the highest-profile on here, and for good reason. We stole him away from Michigan to fill the void Pat Devlin left, and he’s already enrolled here. Here’s a short piece on YouTube about Newsome on and off the field to give you a first impression – or you could just go by this personal (and barely intelligible) comment on the video:

omg i knw this guy!! lol. we went to western branch together. awesome guy to know!! haha. he’s a pretty awesome person to hang around and befriend :)

Thanks…br33amonst3r. It also helps that he’s an incredibly talented all-around athlete who makes as many plays with his feet as he does with his cannon arm. So there’s a chance he’ll win Old State a few Big Ten titles while being an ‘awesome guy to know.’

3. Darrell Givens – Cornerbackdarrell-givens

Height: 6’1″
Weight: 178 lbs.
Hometown: Indian Head, MD

If you don’t love him already for spurning the sweater vest, his ballhawking abilities will surely win you over (3 INTs, 4 Fumble Recoveries in 2007). ESPN is already in love, if their scouting report is any indication:

Shows consistently excellent positioning between the ball and his man. Turns into a receiver when the ball is in the air. Can high-point the ball. Flashes great timing, leaping ability and ball skills. Displays good range and closing speed in zone schemes when breaking on balls thrown underneath. Has the burst to get under the deep throw.

I can already see this 4-star recruit turning into a guy that swings momentum in the Lions’ favor. The secondary, in addition to being exposed in the Rose Bowl, isn’t a deep aspect of the current roster, so Givens has an opportunity make some noise early.

4. Justin Brown – Wide Receiverjustin-brown

Height: 6’3″
Weight: 210 lbs.
Hometown: Wilmington, DE

Newsome to Brown could be a dynamic combination. The big receiver – who’s decision to play for Penn State rather than Rutgers was the most exciting development of Signing Day – is an all-around talent that could use the rare of combination of great size and solid hands to appear as a worthy successor to the outgoing trio of wideouts.

We’re in better shape at WR than most think – Graham Zug, Brett Bracket, Chaz Powell, and a few others are biting at the bit to emerge from ‘The Smurfs'” collective shadow – but Brown’s decision to come to Happy Valley is peace of mind nonetheless.

5. Anthony Fera – Kickeranthony-fera

Height: 6′ 2″
Weight: 230 lbs.
Hometown: Houston, TX

I know what you’re thinking. “A KICKER?!” But let’s not discount the importance of Special Teams – even Kevin Kelly circa 2007 (with a fractured hip) versus Kevin Kelly last season was a world of difference in games. Now that Kelly has graduated, Fera is poised to bail out the offense when they don’t punch it in for six.

The reality is that Fera is the #2 ranked kicker in the nation and decommitted from Michigan at just the right time. And if it counts for anything, the guy dwarfs Kelly in physical size- he’s got a linebacker’s build in addition a hell of a leg. Could he be in line for some Daniel Sepulveda-caliber heroics? I know I’d enjoy it.

6. Glenn Carson – Linebackerglenn-carson

Height: 6’3″
Weight: 220 lbs.
Hometown: Manahawkin, NJ

It just wouldn’t feel like Linebacker U if we didn’t get a blue-chip guy to make plays in the middle. No offense to Jelani Jenkins, but I think with Carson, and the bountiful talent of last year’s LB-heavy crew (Matui, Yancich, Zordich), we’ll be just fine without his services.

In addition to an archetypal skill set of an inside linebacker, Carson also has an impressive football lineage, according to Scout.com:

Carson’s uncle Tom Higgins played for North Carolina State in the 70’s and went onto the NFL to play with the Giants and Bills. His other uncle Dan Higgins also played for them in the 80’s. His grandfather played at North Carolina and then for the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Cardinals in the NFL.

He’s got a pedigree alright. It will be fun to see if he develops into the next Dan Connor.

7. Mark Arcidiacono – Offensive Tacklemark-arcidiacono

Height: 6’5″
Weight: 285 lbs.
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Another welcome addition to our suddenly-depleted offensive line, Arcidiacono should make up for how hard it is to spell his name correctly by possibly shoring up the blind side of the unit. ESPN’s scouting said it all in declaring he “has a chance to be a very special offensive linemen at the next level.” And the way the game is played, you can’t have special skills guys without the big dudes blocking for them.

He also gets extra points for reportedly favoring Penn State as a child.

8. Curtis Dukes – Running Backcurtis-dukes

Height: 6’2″
Weight: 235 lbs.
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Duke’s highlight tape on YouTube made my jaw drop. The only reason why this bruising tailback isn’t higher on this list is that Penn State has an already stacked stable of ballcarriers. But this player is a physical specimen – he ran a 4.5 40 despite weighing 235 pounds. To give you a point of reference, he’s 45 pounds heavier than current lead dog Evan Royster, who clock a 4.45 during recruiting.

ESPN speculates that he may get converted to fullback, but if his raw skills can be refined, we may have a player that can be remarkable simply as a change-of-pace battering ram. Think the ‘Smash’ to Stefphon Green’s ‘Dash’ after Royster is drafted in the first round.

9. Gerald Hodges – Safetygerald-hodges

Height: 6’3″
Weight: 210 lbs.
Hometown:  Paulsboro, NJ

Derrick Williams on defense, anyone? Hodges earns a spot in the top 10 because at safety, he’s a necessary addition to a shallow secondary (although I’m excited to see what Drew “best athlete on the team” Astorino can do in a starting role). But the fact that he’s the gridiron equivalent to a Swiss army knife is icing on the cake:

Hodges is a player that is multi-dimensional and could play several positions at the next level but can probably excel on defense. He has all the physical tools to be a great one.

D-Will took over games with the occasional kick return for a touchdown. Could Hodges do the same? Expect your questions to be answered earlier than normal – he’s an early enrollee that the Collegian thinks could see time as a true freshman.

10. Ty Howle – Centerty-howle

Height: 6’2″
Weight: 290 lbs.
Hometown: Bunn, NC

Scout.com may have only given him a 3-star rating, but as mentioned earlier, the O-line is not a point of depth for the Nittany Lions. ESPN ranked him the #5 Center, and it’s scouting report should be music to Penn Stater’s ears:

Howle plays like a John Deere tilling a field, only with defensive linemen instead of a plow…He isn’t satisfied until the defender is driven well out of the play or knocked on his back.

Throw in his leadership skills and that the guy seems to be the definition of a student athlete – he can bench 400 pounds and maintained a 3.9 G.P.A. in high school  – and you’re looking at the heir apparent to A.Q. Shipley.

Going on what I could find, those are the guys. But that’s not to say that I – or any other sources for that matter – know anything. Remember, the all-time receptions leader was given a measly 1-star rating by Scout.com. I look forward to the recruiting class of ’09 making names for themselves in Beaver Stadium and beyond.

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About the Author

Mark

Mark McColey is a Senior majoring in Advertising and Labor-Employment relations. Among his loves are Penn State Football, The Steelers, The Penguins, The Simpsons, Tina Fey, and Arrested Development.

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