An Overview Of Penn State Football’s 2015 Recruiting Class

With National Signing Day now upon us, the 2015 recruiting season has officially concluded. James Franklin helped assemble a highly-ranked class, one that is absolutely loaded with talent. With that in mind, let us now take a glimpse at Penn State’s stellar Class of 2015.

Quarterback

Tommy Stevens — 6-foot-4, 193 pounds, three-star prospect

Stevens is a fantastic addition for Coach Franklin, especially considering the departures of backup quarterbacks Tyler Ferguson, Austin Whipple, Michael O’Connor, and D.J. Crook over the past two seasons. Obviously, the position is set for at least two more seasons with Christian Hackenberg manning the helm, but outside of Hack, the team’s best option is former two-star recruit Trace McSorely, a talented dual-threat option, but a player who has yet to see any live action. Stevens will most likely spend 2015 on the sidelines, learning the ropes behind a potential first-round pick. Stevens will most likely compete with 2016 prospect Jake Zembiec for the starting job once Hackenberg heads to the NFL.

Running Back

Saquon Barkley — 6-foot, 208 pounds, four-star prospect

Andre Robinson  5-foot-10, 205 pounds, four-star prospect

Penn State gets a dynamic duo at running back. Together, Barkley and Robinson could form a two-headed monster in the backfield, a pairing that could prove to be unstoppable. Barkley’s style is more like former USC great Reggie Bush — flashy, impossible to bring down, can stop on a dime, and jukes defenders out of their cleats. Barkley’s acceleration is second to none, allowing him to kick into another gear when he hits the second level. He’s even more dangerous when returning kicks and punts, sometimes stretching the play to the opposite corner of the field en route to the end zone.

Robinson, on the other hand, as quick as he may be, runs with a full head of steam, barreling over anybody in his path. He mirrors some of Barkley’s traits, but isn’t afraid of contact and is tough to take down once he reaches top speed. Like Barkley, Robinson can contribute on special teams as a return man, increasing his value as a ballcarrier.

These two will undoubtedly make their impact felt in Happy Valley and by opposing front sevens in the Big Ten.

Wide Receiver

Juwan Johnson  6-foot-5, 212 pounds, four-star prospect

Brandon Polk — 5-foot-9, 155 pounds, three-star prospect

Irvin Charles — 6-foot-4, 208 pounds, three-star prospect

The star of this group is undoubtedly Juwan Johnson, a physical freak at 6-foot-5, with a catch radius as good as anybody. He’s the type of player coaches love to employ on the goal line, the sort that gives opposing defensive coordinators nightmares. Don’t be fooled; with all that size, Johnson can still get up to speed. He’s not the type who will break defenders’ ankles, excelling rather as a straight line runner. With soft hands to boot, Johnson could develop into a star deep threat receiver in Happy Valley.

Brandon Polk comes in at the opposite end of the spectrum. Where Johnson is a hulking beast, Polk is a smaller-framed speedster who can absolutely fly. Polk is a dangerous return man, but brings more to the table than mere speed. He’s a solid route runner with great hands and incredible awareness on the field. Polk projects as a slot man in Happy Valley — a role where he could flourish.

Charles is similar to Johnson, both in size and style of play. Johnson is a better route runner, but Charles possesses the ability to snag near anything thrown his way. He isn’t afraid to bowl over would-be tacklers and becomes especially tough to bring down once he hits his top gear.

Tight End/H-Back

Nick Bowers — 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, three-star prospect

Bowers won’t burn you with his speed, but the gritty tight end/H-back isn’t afraid to get down and dirty, embracing contact as more of a straight line runner. That said, he can flash sneaky agility in screen situations, and reminds me of Adam Breneman as a pass catcher. Bowers may have to wait his turn, sitting behind Kyle Carter, Breneman, Mike Gesicki, and Brent Wilkerson, but could see time in the near future as a package player — much like how Gesicki was used in 2014.

Offensive Line

(OT) Sterling Jenkins — 6-fo0t-8, 300-pounds, four-star prospect

(OL) Ryan Bates — 6-foot-5, 271 pounds, four-star prospect

(OT) Paris Palmer — 6-foot-8, 300 pounds, four-star prospect

(OG) Steven Gonzalez — 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, four-star prospect

This is easily the most talented group of the 2015 recruiting class. Forget the fact that all four players are four-star prospects; these guys are beasts. Jenkins and Palmer are behemoths, coming in at a monstrous 6-foot-8, and could both wind up starting on Penn State’s inexperienced offensive line come opening weekend. Bates is another player who could see the field early depending on if he beats out his fellow classmates for a spot. He excels against the run, exhibiting nimble athleticism when moving to the second level, and even more when pulling on toss and counter plays. Gonzalez is another fantastic addition to Penn State’s young offensive line, and he could develop into a steady contributor in due time.

Defensive Line

(DT) Robert Windsor — 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, three-star prospect

(DE) Kamonte Carter — 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, three-star prospect

(DE) Shareef Miller — 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, three-star prospect

(DE) Ryan Buchholz — 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, three-star prospect

(DE) Jonathan Holland — 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, four-star prospect

(DE) Kevin Givens — 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, three-star prospect

This unit brings another impressive showing for Franklin as there are a few gems. Jonathan Holland will be surrounded by plenty of hype, coming in as Penn State’s highest-rated defensive lineman recruiting-wise. Robert Windsor is a guy who, with proper coaching, could develop into a stud along the interior. There will be plenty of competition in the wake of C.J. Olaniyan and Deion Barnes moving on to the next level. Keep in mind, there’s plenty of young talent already waiting in the wings for the Nittany Lions — namely Garrett Sickels — but the position’s depth has been bolstered immensely with the additions of five noteworthy prospects.

Kevin Givens, a recent flip from Pitt, is a defensive end that can provide admirable pressure off the edge against the pass. With 4.6 speed in the 40, he could develop into a force to be reckoned with on the outside.

Linebacker

(OLB) Manny Bowen — 6-foot-3, 206 pounds, four-star prospect

(ILB) Jake Cooper — 6-foot-1, 234 pounds, three-star prospect

(OLB) Daiquan Kelly — 6-foot-4, 210-pounds, three-star prospect

Manny Bowen, who spurned offers from Alabama and Clemson, is the highest-rated recruit of a trio that is set to join Linebacker U. A two-way star in high school, Bowen takes his receiver skills to the defensive side of the ball, where he excels in coverage. Look for him to be used to combat mismatches — lining up against much bigger receivers, hulking tight ends, etc. Bowen could benefit by adding some weight in the offseason, but possesses freak athleticism.

Jake Cooper is the consummate inside linebacker — a player who displays coverage instincts along with relentless pursuit against the run. He is a skilled player, with solid overall athleticism, and can cover sideline to sideline.

Daiquan Kelly comes in as one of the most versatile recruits in the Class of 2015. Upon his arrival, Kelly will transition to linebacker, switching from the receiver/safety role he played in high school. Kelly can cover like a defensive back, but packs enough muscle to serve as a solid contributor against the run. Kelly has plenty of room to add weight to his already sturdy 6’4″, 210 pound frame, making him an intriguing prospect to watch as he develops. With 4.6 speed, Kelly can provide support along the edge as a speed rusher, and could develop into a dangerous coverage linebacker. There is plenty to be excited about regarding Kelly as he joins the ranks of Linebacker U.

Secondary 

(CB) John Reid — 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, four-star prospect

(CB) Garrett Taylor — 6-foot-1, 187 pounds, four-star prospect

(S) Ayron Monroe — 6-foot-2, 197 pounds, three-star prospect

(S) Jarvis Miller — 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, three-star prospect

(S) John Petrishen — 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, three-star prospect

This is a very talented group, headlined by a cornerback duo that could develop into a force to be reckoned with for years to come. The aforementioned duo — John Reid and Garrett Taylor — are both fantastic in coverage, shutting down their respective side of the field. Taylor measures in three inches taller than Reid, but where Reid lacks in height, he makes up for with ridiculous athleticism and receiver-like hands. Reid and Taylor will likely join Christian Campbell in the cornerback rotation — especially after Trevor Williams departs in 2015 — to form a talented trio in the secondary.

Monroe and Miller are both fantastic athletes and rangy safeties. Miller is a speedster, while Monroe can jump out of the stadium. Both will find roles on special teams in due time, and could develop into solid members of Penn State’s incredibly young secondary. Petrishen is the heaviest member of Franklin’s secondary recruits, and plays like it too. He has a knack for the ball, but isn’t afraid to lay the lumber in run support. With proper coaching, Petrishen could develop into a playmaker in what could project as a crowded secondary within a few years.

Photo: SBNation

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About the Author

David Abruzzese

David is a senior from Rochester, NY, nestled right in beautiful Western New York. He is majoring in Broadcast Journalism, and as an avid sports fan, he passionately supports the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres. He is the first Penn Stater from his family, and couldn’t be prouder to represent Penn State University. In his free time, he likes to alpine ski, and play golf. You can follow him on Twitter @abruz11, and can contact him via email at [email protected]

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