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What To Expect From Penn State’s 2016 Recruiting Class

Plenty of fresh faces have a chance to make an impact on the field for the Nittany Lions in 2016 — some sooner rather than later. But, as college football recruiting goes, some prospects might need a year or two to fully develop despite the lofty status that might’ve surrounded them during recruitment. Not every player can be like Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers and become a game-changer from day one, which is why we take a look at the headliners of James Franklin’s 2016 recruiting coup, and set a reasonable bar for what should be expected of each player.

RB Miles Sanders

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

The buzz surrounding freshman phenom Miles Sanders is certainly palpable, but would he be hindered playing behind someone like Saquon Barkley? Well, Franklin answered that question at Wednesday media availability. As of now, Sanders currently has a “green” designation from his coach, meaning he won’t be redshirted.

How he factors into the equation still remains somewhat of a mystery given Franklin’s ambiguity on the running back playing order. He said a combination of Mark Allen, Andre Robinson, and Sanders would get touches behind Barkley, meaning the No. 2 could fluctuate week by week. Essentially, Franklin made it sound as though the hot hand would receive the bulk of carries behind Barkley, so Sanders’ playing time is likely dependent on how he performs, and if he can stave off competition.

OL Connor McGovern

(Photo via 247Sports)
(Photo via 247Sports)

The case of Connor McGovern’s playing prospects in 2016 still remain up in the air. Will he be a day-one starter? At this point, it doesn’t seem like Franklin is ready to go that route. However, the highly touted interior lineman bulked up to 315 over the offseason and showed enough progress to make Franklin comfortable enough to designate him with a “green” tag, meaning he’ll evade the dreaded redshirt.

Expectation-wise, if the team feels comfortable enough playing McGovern in the two-deep, there’s a chance he’ll see ample playing time — potentially as a starter a few games into the year depending on how his teammates listed ahead of him perform. The sky’s the limit for McGovern, and there’s a good chance fans might be able to see him get on the field in short order.

P Blake Gillikin

(Photo via
(Photo via

Punters are people too! Especially the first scholarship punter the Lions have had in quite some time. Given the team’s glaring struggles at the position, Gillikin’s presence is a welcomed one. The kid has quite the leg, and although he didn’t say it outright, Franklin hinted that the true freshman had already secured the starting punting job by labeling Gillikin as the third “green” light out of the stable of freshmen. To suggest Gillikin will see time on the field means he’s separated himself — news fans should welcome with open arms.

Much of the team’s struggles was rooted in its inability to consistently pin opposing teams deep in their own territory. Gaining that advantage back could play a significant role in the team’s success, and Gillikin is the player to bring consistency back to the position.

TE Danny Dalton

(Photo via
(Photo via

No decision has been made on the 6-foot-4, 247 pound Dalton, but there’s no reason he shouldn’t sniff the field if he’s prepared to contribute. Upon first glance at the tight end depth, Dalton’s name is one that stands out behind Mike Gesicki and Nick Bowers.

Given his physical makeup, expect Dalton to be used primarily as a pass catcher in certain situations. Depending on the scenario, his services could be utilized as an H-back in certain sets, allowing him to work into space and do what he does best. That is all dependent on the team’s willingness to burn his redshirt or not. Franklin could just as easily pump the brakes and go with a more experienced option at the No. 3 tight end spot, but there’s a good chance we’ll know Dalton’s fate as we inch closer to the regular season.

DE Shane Simmons

(Photo via

Simmons is another player with unlimited potential, but an uncertain 2016. He’s got every tool a coach could want in an edge rusher — size, speed, strength, and tenacity. However, there’s rampant speculation that his freshman season might be better spent adjusting to the physicality of Big Ten football — in the weight room.

He’s listed at 240 on the team’s official website, but if he’s to remain at defensive end, added bulk might do him a favor or two. Besides, there’s no real rush to get him on the field, and even if he’s green-lighted by Franklin, he’d primarily be used as a situational pass-rusher instead of a three-down starter. That said, if he proves to the coaching staff that he’s up to the task of contributing, then there’s no reason to keep him sidelined. My guess is the staff winds up redshirting him in order to beef him up a bit before unleashing him in 2017.

Let us know who you think will make a difference in their rookie season in the comments!

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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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