The biggest developments for Penn State and its 2017 recruiting class this past week were 4-star linebacker Dylan Rivers flipping his commitment to Virginia Tech and 4-star cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields delaying his decision until National Signing Day on Wednesday.
Losing Rivers to the Hokies nine days before signing day hurts, but the Nittany Lions are still looking for options to fill out the class. James Franklin said during an end-of-season news conference that Penn State could have up to 21 scholarships available, and right now the Nittany Lions sit at 18 commitments.
Castro-Fields, who will choose from Penn State, Maryland and Alabama, is one option, and 79 percent of the experts who have made a prediction with the 247Sports crystal ball think the Nittany Lions will land him.
Franklin and his staff have been visiting with other potential options as well:
- 4-star defensive tackle Elijah Conliffe from Hampton, Va., who will commit Tuesday
— Hampton Crabbers ? (@CrabberSports) January 26, 2017
- 4-star linebacker Ellis Brooks, who is expected on campus for an official visit this weekend
— Michael Clark (@MClarkScout) January 27, 2017
- 4-star wide receiver Mark Webb, who is committed to Georgia but reportedly met with Franklin and staff members, and is expected on campus for an official visit this weekend
- 3-star tight end Peyton Hendershot, an Indiana commit who told the Indianapolis Star he is considering Purdue and Penn State after the Hoosiers made a coaching change … “That’s a school I’d like to get an offer from,” Hendershot said about Penn State
2017 class snapshot
There are some clear strengths in this class. Penn State’s defensive backfield had a very nice 2016 season, and the Nittany Lions could fortify the future with four or five additions, depending on what happens with Castro-Fields on signing day.
Another bright spot is the defensive line, with three 4-star prospects, including the No. 11 defensive tackle in the nation, Fred Hansard. Penn State hasn’t landed a defensive tackle rated that highly in his class since 2001, which was before the 247Sports composite era when rankings became more reliable.
The two areas where the class is lacking are a bit concerning because it is the same two places where the 2016 Nittany Lions were short on depth. There isn’t a tight end in this class right now, though Hendershot is reportedly taking an official visit to State College this weekend. Losing Rivers also leaves only two potential linebackers in the class, though both Brelin Fasion-Walden and Brailyn Franklin will need to bulk up a little to play the position.
Penn State will be slightly deeper at tight end in 2017 with Nick Bowers back from injury and at linebacker with Cam Brown, Manny Bowen, Jake Cooper and Koa Farmer all a year older and more experienced. But the Nittany Lions need reinforcements at both positions for 2018 and beyond.
Where it ranks
Penn State’s class had climbed as high as 12th in the 247Sports composite team rankings, but losing Rivers, and other teams beginning their finishing kicks, has dropped the Nittany Lions to 15th. If the Nittany Lions don’t add at least one more 4-star recruit, they are probably going to keep dropping.
Stanford has moved up to 16th and still only has 12 commitments. UCLA, Oregon, Texas and even Florida, all the way back at 31st, could all land a late flurry of prospects and push for a spot in the top 15.
Who are Penn State’s top 2017 commitments?
- 4-star CB Lamont Wade, Clairton, Pa., No. 46 player in the nation, No. 5 cornerback
- 4-star OG C.J. Thorpe, Pittsburgh, No. 87 in the nation, No. 5 guard
- 4-star QB Sean Clifford, Cincinnati, No. 192 in the nation, No. 8 pro-style quarterback
- 4-star SDE Yetur Matos, Fredericksburg, Va., No. 203 in the nation, No. 5 strong-side defensive end
- 4-star DT Fred Hansard, Princeton, N.J., No. 206 in the nation, No. 11 defensive tackle
Who committed to Penn State this week?
None this week. Journey Brown, a 3-star running back from Meadville, Pa., is Penn State’s most recent addition. He became the second player to commit to Penn State in 2017 on Jan. 12 and the first in this class. Isaiah Humphries, a 4-star safety and legacy in the class of 2018 from Texas, committed at midnight Central time on New Year’s Day.
Brown is a relatively unheralded recruit, but he earned national recognition in 2015 when he ran for 722 yards in a game for Meadville against DuBois. The final score was 107-90, and Brown’s total was believed to be the second-highest ever in an 11-man high school football game.
Who de-commited from Penn State this week?
Rivers was the second player to commit in the 2017 class after Clifford. He unofficially visited the campus seven times, including Junior Day, the Blue-White game and the Lasch Bash, which are the three most important recruiting events before a player’s senior season.
After Rivers flipped to Virginia Tech, he told a local reporter it was because he had a better relationship with Hokies coach Justin Fuente than he did with Franklin. A couple of Penn State recruits didn’t like that answer, and a current player said he did not believe it, offering a different reason why in the process.
Breakdown by position
Geography of Penn State’s 2017 recruiting class
Pennsylvania (5): CB Lamont Wade*, OG C.J. Thorpe, SDE Damion Barber, RB Journey Brown, OT Desmond Holmes
Virginia (3): SDE Yetur Matos, S Donald Sutherland, ATH Brailyn Franklin
New Jersey (2): DT Fred Hansard, OT Robert Martin
Ohio (2): QB Sean Clifford, C Michael Miranda*
Florida (1): WR KJ Hamler*
Georgia (1): CB D.J. Brown
Michigan (1): CB Donovan Johnson
North Carolina (1): OLB Brelin Faison-Walden*
Indiana (1): WR Mac Hippenhammer
Maryland (1): WR Cameron Sullivan-Brown