Penn State Recruiting: Highlighting The Class Of 2015’s Standouts
James Franklin has always had a knack for being a savvy recruiter, and his roundup for the Class of 2015 shows that he won’t be stopping anytime soon. With a grand total of 19 commits, including 10 four-star prospects and nine three-star prospects, the class addresses needs all across the board. Let’s take a look at some of the marquee names you need to know about Penn State’s Class of 2015.
OT Sterling Jenkins, Baldwin High School (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Coming in at 6-foot-8 and 305 pounds, the commitment of Sterling Jenkins to Penn State should give fans a glimmer of hope, as it appears help is on the way for Penn State’s offensive line. The massive offensive tackle is a versatile athlete, and comes in with experience at both offensive tackle positions.
Jenkins plays the position with aggressiveness and energy, and will bring a much needed boost to Penn State’s offensive front. While he appears to be a bit top heavy, his mauler style of play allows him to overpower just about anybody that matches up with him. He has the straight line speed to get downfield on run plays, and excels at getting to the second level to blow up would-be tacklers.
He seems a bit susceptible to quicker defensive ends in pass protection, but makes up for it with brute strength. Jenkins has the potential to become Penn State’s next anchor at the left tackle position, and more importantly, gets the chance to sit and learn behind incumbent left tackle Donovan Smith next season.
OT Ryan Bates, Archbishop Wood (Warminster, Pa.)
With two linemen prospects headlining the Class of 2015, it’s clear that James Franklin put an emphasis on recruiting help along the offensive line, and it seems as though his efforts are paying off. At 6’5″, 271 pounds, Ryan Bates comes in a bit smaller than Jenkins, but is much more nimble on his feet. To say that he plays aggressively is a complete understatement; the kid is flat out nasty.
Bates is an excellent run blocker, and possesses incredible lower body strength, which allows him to bulldoze defenders and beat them off the line of scrimmage. Like Jenkins, he has the ability to get to the second level with ease and pave the way for his running back. Bates moves very fluidly, and is simply ferocious when engaged with his assignment.
There is no doubt that a tenacious run blocker such as Bates will provide a significant boost to Penn State’s struggling rushing attack within a season or two. Once Bates and Jenkins become enriched in the program, the sky is the limit for what they will be able to accomplish up front donning the blue and white.
CB John Reid, St. Joseph’s Prep (Philadelphia, Pa.)
John Reid became a hot commodity thanks to his explosive play at Philadelphia powerhouse St. Joe’s Prep, and despite fielding offers from the likes of Alabama and Arizona, decided to stay in state to play under the guiding hand of Bob Shoop in Penn State’s young secondary.
Reid displayed two-way athleticism throughout his high school career, being utilized as a deep threat on offense, while shutting down opposing receivers as a cornerback. His natural burst and high motor sets him apart, and coupled with his knack for the football, Reid brings along the full package. He won’t blow you away with his size — he’s only 5’10”, 190 pounds — but with the hands of a wide receiver and the heart of a lion, size shouldn’t be too big of an issue.
For being on the smaller side, Reid is a tenacious run stopper, and provides help in the second level as a safety valve to prevent any big runs. In coverage, Reid is the real deal. He is insanely quick, and is hard to beat deep. What surprised me most about his game film was his awareness, especially on one play in particular. The offense ran a flea flicker, with the quarterback tossing the ball to the running back, who then tossed it right back and heaved the ball downfield. Most cornerbacks would be tricked into thinking the play was designed as a run, but not only was Reid still with his man, but he was at least two steps ahead of him. Reid didn’t just bat the ball down, either; he capped off the play with a one-handed interception. If that doesn’t excite fans, then I’m not too sure what will.
Reid joins a young group of cornerbacks led by Christian Campbell and Grant Haley, and could potentially be Penn State’s next prominent shut down corner.
WR Juwan Johnson, Glassboro High (Glassboro, Nj.)
With a 6’5″, 212 pound frame, Juwan Johnson already has a Big Ten body. He joins a loaded young group of wide receivers in Happy Valley, but depending on how Johnson performs in the offseason, he could definitely vouch for early playing time.
The element of Johnson’s game that pops off the page is his leaping ability. He already has the look of a big time redzone threat, as his built frame and ridiculous hops make him nearly impossible to cover, especially in one-on-one situations. Johnson also brings some breakaway speed into the mix, allowing him to create separation from opposing corners. I fully expect Johnson to make his name scoring on jump ball situations, while also posing as a viable deep threat along the sideline.
His wingspan allows him to snag balls that would otherwise be defended, making him a reliable target almost anywhere on the field. Johnson’s addition to Penn State’s wide receiving corps gives the Nittany Lions a massive target, and a player that could potentially be a big difference in the near future.
RB Saquon Barkley, Whitehall High School (Whitehall, Pa.)
Ladies and gentlemen, Penn State’s feature back of the future has arrived. At 6’0″, 208 pounds, Barkley brings it all to the table: Vision, acceleration, agility, strength, speed — he has it all. Barkley hits the hole hard, and uses his arsenal of moves to juke would be tacklers out of their cleats.
Barkley is not solely a speed back, as he refuses to go down once first contact has been initiated. He can power through defenders when going north-south, but can also make tacklers slide off of him, as if he were covered in oil. He runs with a purpose, always hard-charging and never backing down from contact. Once he finds daylight, good luck trying to stop him. Barkley’s breakaway speed allows him to blow past opposing defensive backs, leaving entire defenses in his tracks.
Oh, and he wears number 21. Only the greats wear number 21.
As you can tell, the Class of 2015 is full of promise and potential. These players will be an integral part of Penn State’s success down the road, thanks to the relentless recruiting efforts of James Franklin.