Penn State Recruiting: Class of 2016 Update

The offseason is only the offseason for the fans. For college football coaches across the country, there is no time for rest due to the fact that recruiting is a never-ending task. This notion especially applies to somebody like James Franklin, who recruits as hard as any coach in the country. Those tireless hours spent visiting with parents, attending games, and sitting down with recruits themselves have paid dividends for Franklin and his staff, as they proudly boast the No. 13 recruiting class in the entire country.

It’s been a while since we last visited the Class of 2016, so let’s take a look at what’s new with Penn State’s top recruits.

QB Jake Zembiec (Aquinas Institute/Rochester, NY)

Four-star quarterback Jake Zembiec, who many believe will succeed Christian Hackenberg under center in Happy Valley once he departs for the NFL, has had quite the offseason. He participated in Nike’s The Opening football camp, turning heads and earning himself an invitation to the Elite 11 semifinals. After continuing his run of good form out west, Zembiec advanced to the finals, something only one other Penn State quarterback has done before him.

Zembiec has all the tools to succeed in the Big Ten with a massive 6-foot-3, 211 pound frame complemented by a cannon-like arm. Another impressive facet of Zembiec’s game is having the ability to move around in the pocket as well as throw on the run. He moves better than your average pocket quarterback, and can really stretch the field and spread defenses apart with his ability to roll out and deliver throws while on the move. His football IQ is off the charts, and under the tutelage of James Franklin, Zembiec could blossom into something special.

Zembiec poses with Cordell Broadus, son of rapper Snoop Dogg, at Deion Sanders' football camp. (Via
Zembiec poses with Cordell Broadus, son of rapper Snoop Dogg, at Deion Sanders’ football camp. (Via Facebook)

Zembiec will be faced with two different scenarios when he arrives depending on how 2015 plays out. If Christian Hackenberg decides to enter the 2016 NFL Draft, Zembiec has a legitimate chance to start as a true freshman — if he beats out fellow signalcallers Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens in camp. However, if Hackenberg decides to stay for his senior year, look for Zembiec to remain sidelined as a redshirt, where he’ll get an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of playing quarterback at Penn State from the veteran Hackenberg.

OT Michael Menet (Exeter Township/Reading, PA) 

James Franklin hit two birds with one stone in his Class of 2016 recruiting campaign, securing his quarterback of the future and the offensive tackle responsible for protecting his blindside. At 6-foot-5, 271 lbs, Michael Menet — designated as a first five-star recruit by — is a man amongst boys. The offensive tackle dominated during his junior season and will only improve as he prepares to make the jump to the Big Ten. What’s most impressive about Menet is that he exhibited such dominant play while playing at a weight better suited for defensive ends. Penn State’s strength and conditioning staff will work with Menet from day one to ensure he adds the necessary bulk required to survive in the Big Ten, just as they did with JUCO transfer Paris Palmer this offseason. If Menet was dominant playing at 271, imagine him in the 300s. Menet is another candidate to receive early playing time given the relative inexperience along Penn State’s offensive line.

Menet will be an instant upgrade and could take a career path similar to the one Donovan Smith took at Penn State if everything plays out positively. He’ll be imperative to the success of Penn State’s offensive line down the road, and serves as the perfect addition to the monster being built by James Franklin.

RB Miles Sanders (Woodland Hills/Pittsburgh, PA) 

Miles Sanders runs through the bags during the Under Armor Five-Star Challenge. (Via
Miles Sanders runs through the bags during the Under Armor Five-Star Challenge. (Via Facebook)

Four-star running back Miles Sanders could be a part of the most talented backfield Penn State has seen in quite some time as he’ll join forces with speedster Saquon Barkley in 2016 to form Penn State’s own “slash and dash” tandem. Sanders gave Penn State fans a scare after rumors of a possible decommittment began to swirl, especially after Pitt ramped up its recruiting push in an effort to pry Sanders from Franklin. At the end of the day, those rumors proved to be just that: rumors. Sanders reaffirmed his loyalty to Penn State via Twitter, allowing fans across the country to breathe a bit easier.

With Sanders on board, Penn State’s backfield looks to be loaded come 2016 with Barkley already locked in for 2015. The two could produce fireworks behind an offensive line that looks to be equally as talented, while giving their offensive coordinator a bevy of options. Sanders could flourish in Happy Valley, and is a player everybody should be keeping tabs on as he approaches his senior year at Woodland Hills. His stock continues to rise after an impressive showing at The Opening in Columbus, but fans can rest assured; he’ll be donning the Blue and White come 2016.

DE Shane Simmons (Dematha Catholic/Hyattsville, MD) 

Shane Simmons looks to terrorize quarterbacks as the focal point of Penn State's future defensive line. (Via
Shane Simmons looks to terrorize quarterbacks as the focal point of Penn State’s future defensive line. (Via Facebook)

At 6-foot-4, 221 pounds, Shane Simmons is everything you want in a pass rusher, and with his unique combination of strength and speed, he could become a terror in the Big Ten. Simmons headlines an impressive defensive class and will be the focal point of Penn State’s defensive line of the future. With Anthony Zettel bound to be playing on Sundays by the time Simmons arrives, the Nittany Lions will need another sack artist, and that’s exactly what they’ll be getting in Simmons. He’ll be employed as a traditional 4-3 defensive end, and with some added bulk, could develop into the consummate all-around defensive end.

C Connor McGovern (Lake Lehman/Lopez, PA) 

The No. 1 center prospect for the Class of 2016 decided to stay close to home and commit to Penn State, giving James Franklin and Co. an instant upgrade to the team’s line in terms of run blocking, as the road-grating center looks to help Penn State become a force to be reckoned with on the ground. McGovern’s presence along Penn State’s line could make this unit one of the best young lines in the country, along with Michael Menet protecting the blindside. It was imperative to Franklin and his staff that they addressed the offensive line when it came to recruiting, and with two top prospects signed on to the program, the task has been a success so far.

Keep an eye on all the top prospects for the Class of 2016 as they prepare for their senior seasons at their respective high schools.

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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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