National Signing Day Recap: PSU Sets a Foundation

Yesterday, college football coaching staffs from around the country huddled in their offices as fax machines became relevant again, if only for a day. The 2012 edition of National Signing Day had arrived as thousands of high-school football players decided where to begin the next chapter of their lives. Inside the Lasch Building at Penn State, the scene was slightly different from other schools without the head coach present.

Bill O’Brien spoke on a conference call later in the afternoon from Indianapolis, where he is preparing for the Super Bowl. O’Brien showed no hesitation in dismissing the hype that often surrounds National Signing Day, emphasizing development over recruiting. “I’m not even sure who does the [recruiting] rankings. All I care about is our staff and players. That, to me, is the most important.” O’Brien also made sure to give credit to his assistant coaches, especially Larry Johnson Sr. and Ron Vanderlinden for keeping some of the previous commitments on board.

Overall, the Penn State Class of 2012 is comprised of nineteen commitments. Let’s take a quick look at each of them:

Jesse James   Position: Tight End

James is the one member of this class who is already enrolled at Penn State. The three-star recruit has good size with a 6-7 frame, and could eventually fill the need for a position that has recently been a weak spot for the Nittany Lions.

Trevor Williams  Position: Wide Receiver 

Williams was a late commitment who had originally opted for West Virginia before switching his decision to Penn State last week.

DaQuan David  Position: Cornerback 

This three-star cornerback is a high school teammate of Williams. Both attended Calvert Hall College High School in Towson, Maryland, along with current Penn State defensive back Adrian Amos.

Malik Golden  Position: Cornerback/Wide Receiver

Golden committed to Penn State last summer, and while there was some doubt for a while, he ultimately decided to stick it out and be a Nittany Lion. Golden is a great athlete who played some receiver in high school, but his future at Penn State may be in the secondary.

Nyeem Wartman  Position: Linebacker

Wartman had offers from several programs, including Florida, Northwestern, and Pittsburgh, but the Pennsylvania native ultimately chose the Nittany Lions. Penn State went light on linebackers this year with a talented group already on the roster, but Wartman was a nice pickup.

Brent Wilkerson  Position: Tight End/Defensive End

The three star defensive end from the state of Maryland has been verbally committed to Penn State for almost a year now, turning down offers from several Big Ten and ACC schools. The staff has told Wilkerson that they plan to use him as a tight end at the collegiate level.

Anthony Stanko  Position: Offensive Linemen

Stanko one of only two offensive linemen in this class after a big haul last year. He turned down offers from Stanford, West Virginia, and Northwestern for Penn State.

Wendy Laurent: Position: Offensive Linemen

Laurent is the other offensive linemen. Not heavily recruited, he is a bit of an unknown, and it will be interesting to see how he develops under new offensive line coach Mac McWhorter.

Jake Kiley  Position: Defensive Back

The New Hampshire native may have flown a bit under the radar, receiving no other offers from Division 1 schools. Kiley has been a huge vocal supporter of the program and might be a lucky find for a position of need.

Steven Bench  Position: Quarterback  

Penn State stepped outside of their normal recruiting area and went deep into Georgia to pluck a quarterback formerly committed to Rice. Bench was not a heavily sought prospect, but it can be very difficult to predict the success of quarterbacks. As a Penn State example, Rob Bolden and Kevin Newsome were both much more highly regarded coming out of high school than Daryll Clark. Clark went on to set records at Penn State while Bolden has struggled in his first two years, and Newsome’s Penn State career pretty much ended before it began. O’Brien spoke highly of Bench’s leadership skills, and his development could be one of the bigger stories to emerge from this class.

Akeel Lynch  Position: Running Back

Lynch was a big steal by Penn State. He was on the radar for a while but seemed bound for Boston College until about a week ago. Depth just became less of an issue for the running back position. O’Brien explained that, “With the pounding that the running back position takes in the Big Ten, we wanted to make sure we secured a good running back.”

Eugene Lewis  Position: Wide Receiver

The Pennsylvania native and four start receiver looks to be one of the more impressive recruits from this year’s class. Listed at 6-1, 180 pounds, Lewis could see time in some packages immediately with the departure of Derek Moye.

Jonathan Warner  Position: Wide Receiver

The son of former Penn State All-American running back Curt Warner accepted an offer from Penn State a little over a week ago. Listed at 6-1, 200 pounds, he will come to Happy Valley all the way from Washington.

Jamil Pollard  Position: Defensive Line

Pollard is a four-star recruit (according to Rivals). He went back and forth regarding his commitment a few times but ultimately decided on Penn State. He could easily be a force along the defensive line in the future.

Jordan Lucas  Position: Defensive back

Lucas was the first in this class to commit after the Bill O’Brien hiring. He was bound for Temple at first, but now he’ll have a chance to fill a need in the secondary for Penn State.

Brian Gaia  Position: Defensive Line

Gaia had a successful high school career in the state of Maryland and is ranked as a three-star recruit with good size at 6-3, 290 pounds.

Austin Johnson  Position: Defensive Line

This three-star defensive tackle also had offers from Syracuse, Rutgers, and Boston College, but ultimately chose Penn State.

Derek Dowrey: Position Defensive Line

Dowrey is a two-star recruit who had offers from Marshall, Richmond, East Carolina, and West Virginia.

Evan Schwan  Position: Defensive End

This Harrisburg native committed to Penn State just last Saturday. He turned down offers from Connecticut and Iowa and was a nice final get for Penn State.

Sports Illustrated writer Andy Staples may have said it best the other day when he contended that Bill O’Brien was recruiting “bricks, not stars.” This class is light on top tier recruits, and it hurts knowing that rival Ohio State finished with a top five class in part due to four Penn State verbals switching over to the Buckeyes within the last few months; however, the importance of these nineteen players should not be underestimated.

They elected to come aboard when many others jumped ship. Even to those Penn State fans who do not closely follow recruiting, I would suggest writing down these nineteen names. Whether it will be good or bad is unknown, but this Class of 2012 will leave a significant legacy.

A recruiting class can typically begin to stand up to judgment after two seasons. Time will tell what condition these bricks are in when many of these new faces are upperclassmen in a few short years.


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About the Author

Drew Balis

Drew is a senior marketing major. This fall, he will be covering Penn State Football for Onward State. He is a huge Philadelphia sports fan and loves THON and Domonic Brown.

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