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Penn State Football Officially Welcomes 27 New Players On First Day Of Early Signing Period

It’s safe to say that the 2020 recruiting cycle was anything but straightforward for Penn State football. The cycle featured tough losses of top-rated players and an unusual string of decommitments in the summer — the latter of which elicited strong responses from fans and players.

And as it turns out, the first day of this year’s Early Signing Period was as stress-free as it gets.

“Overall, I’m pleased with the class and how it went,” head coach James Franklin said on Wednesday. “I take a lot of pride in the fact that, over the past nine years, we’ve had very little drama. The older I get, the more I want to avoid drama at all costs. For the most part, the guys that are supposed to sign have signed.”

All 27 recruits who were committed to Penn State at midnight on Wednesday, December 18 had officially signed their national letters of intent and been announced as the newest members of the team by approximately 12:30 p.m. The head coach reported that all of the new players’ paperwork was done “by like 7:45 [Wednesday] morning.” Franklin’s only logistical hiccup between pen meeting paper and Penn State’s official announcements was getting a chance to speak with every player and their families via FaceTime.

The team’s most recent crop of recruits ranks 13th in the nation and third in the Big Ten, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings. Penn State has now put together top-15 recruiting classes in five of the last six cycles — including four consecutive ones ranked 14th or better nationally.

Eleven of the Nittany Lions’ new players are rated as four-star prospects by 247Sports, and the remaining 16 are three-stars. Although this year’s class doesn’t feature anyone listed as a five-star player, Penn State’s current class definitely doesn’t lack blue-chip prospects.

Canadian tight end Theo Johnson Jr. was perhaps James Franklin’s biggest victory on the recruiting trail over the past calendar year. Penn State was long considered a favorite for the blue-chip tight end, but he delayed his big announcement until December 9. Ultimately, he picked Happy Valley and is now poised to carry on the standard of excellence at tight end forged by Mike Gesicki and Pat Freiermuth down the road.

“Theo and his family — I think they handled the process really well,” Franklin said. “They took their time. They made sure that, once they made a decision, they were done. [Tight ends coach] Tyler Bowen did a fantastic job of recruiting him. He was relentless on it. He’s done a great job of converting our tight end position into a position of strength in the program.

“I think, at the end of the day, Theo was comfortable here. I think, on top of that, he saw the success in this offense, guys like Mike Gesicki and now Pat Freiermuth, and I thought [Nick] Bowers had a great year. With Bowers graduating and moving on, there’s some opportunities to come in and compete.”

Elsewhere, four-star linebacker Curtis Jacobs is, on paper, the top-rated recruit in Penn State’s 2020 class. He’ll join a position group headed by highly-touted recruits like Micah Parsons, Brandon Smith, and Lance Dixon. All three of those players are phenomenally talented, but Jacobs has the potential to bring a rarely-seen level of versatility to Happy Valley.

Jacobs was joined by Tyler Elsdon and Zuriah Fisher as the newest members of Linebacker U, and Franklin thinks all three of those players are poised to have big careers in Happy Valley.

“I think Curtis could play all three linebackers. For us, not only in college football, but in the NFL, you want linebackers that can play every down,” Franklin said. “I think having a guy like that is really valuable. Tyler Elsdon, I think, is a throwback. He’s a guy that earned it. He’s a lot more athletic than I think people realize.”

Franklin went on to describe Fisher, a four-star prospect from Alquippa, Pennsylvania, as a “hammer” with a rare combination of size and speed.

Penn State also secured plenty of depth at the wide receiver position in this recruiting cycle. The Nittany Lions brought in four-stars KeAndre Lambert, Parker Washington, and Jaden Dottin along with a pair of three-star players in JuCo transfer Norval Black and Malick Meiga.

The five newest wide receivers to join Penn State bring a diverse set of skill sets. Dottin and Meiga’s size (6’3″ and 6’4″, respectively) could help them become the Nittany Lions’ next great deep-ball threats, and Lambert brings a nice balance of speed and range.

And then there’s Parker Washington.

“Parker Washington — not the biggest guy, but watch his tape,” Franklin said. “He’s like a vacuum. Anything in his area, he’s catching. One-handed catches, crazy catches — you’re going to look at him when he shows up. He looks like a running back. He is physically developed.”

Here’s the full list of Penn State’s 2020 recruiting class, which has been arranged based on each player’s 247Sports composite ranking:

  • Curtis Jacobs, linebacker, McDonogh High School in Owings Mills, MD
  • Theo Johnson, tight end, Holy Names High School in Windsor, Ontario
  • Enzo Jennings, safety, Oak Park High School in Oak Park, MI
  • KeAndre Lambert, wide receiver, Maury High School in Norfolk, VA
  • Caziah Holmes, running back, Cocoa High School in Cocoa, FL
  • Cole Brevard, defensive tackle, Carmel High School in Carmel, IN
  • Coziah Izzard, defensive tackle, DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, MD
  • Keyvone Lee, running back, American Collegiate Academy in Clearwater, FL
  • Parker Washington, wide receiver, Travis High School in Richmond, TX
  • Jaden Dottin, wide receiver, Suffield Academy in Suffield, CT
  • Zuriah Fisher, defensive end, Alquippa High School in Alquippa, PA
  • Jimmy Christ, offensive tackle, Dominion High School in Sterling, VA
  • Joseph Johnson, cornerback, Life Christian Academy in Colonial Heights, VA
  • Olu Fashanu, offensive tackle, Gonzaga High School in Washington, DC
  • Golden Israel-Achumba, DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, MD
  • Micah Bowens, quarterback, Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas
  • Ji’Ayir Brown, safety, Lackawanna County Community College in Scranton, PA
  • Amin Vanover, defensive end, St. Joseph Regional High School in Montvale, NJ
  • Tyler Elsdon, linebacker, North Schuylkill High School in Ashland, PA
  • Brandon Taylor, defensive end, Lima Senior High School in Lima, OH
  • Bryce Mostella, defensive end, East Kentwood High School in Grand Rapids, MI
  • Malick Meiga, wide receiver, Cegep du Vieux in Montreal, QC
  • Norval Black, wide receiver, Lackawanna County Community College in Scranton, PA
  • Tyler Warren, tight end, Atlee High School in Mechanicsville, VA
  • Fatorma Mulbah, defensive tackle, Susquehanna Township High School in Harrisburg, PA
  • Ibrahim Traore, offensive tackle, Frederick Douglass Academy II in New York, NY
  • Nick Dawkins, offensive guard, Parkland High School in Allentown, PA

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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