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Penn State signees reunite for Blue-White game celebration
National Signing Day finalized Penn State’s 2018 recruiting class more than 10 weeks ago but the 23 athletes who form it weren’t truly able to celebrate together until Saturday. These prospects assembled at Beaver Stadium for Blue-White game festivities, providing Nittany Lions fans with an opportunity to welcome each in person.
Earlier Sunday, I broke down the incoming freshman class one-by-one and included photos from the ceremony. Let’s now turn our attention toward what it meant for these young men to share that field for the first time.
“It was just special because all those visits, all the private conversations we had about our goals, led up to that moment,” defensive tackle Aeneas Hawkins told Land of 10.
Penn State coach James Franklin achieved a program first in February, finishing the 2018 recruiting cycle with a class listed top-5 overall in composite rankings. Plenty of pieces were written, including more than our fair share here at Land of 10, about the immense capabilities this group brings to State College.
Expectations are immense. Fans’ imaginations are running wild about the possibilities. And, suddenly, the clock is ticking down toward the arrival of this class in its entirety.
“It was awesome reuniting with the boys and having one last recruiting trip before it all starts up for real,” tight end Pat Freiermuth said. “I’m enrolling in May with Will [Levis], Judge [Culpepper] and PJ [Mustipher], so we got our classes. It’s all starting to finally feel real.”
It’s been a long time coming for Freiermuth, who was among Penn State’s earliest commitments in the 2018 cycle (Aug. 16, 2016). He’s now only weeks away from completing the journey to collegiate competition, but six of his classmates underwent that transition during the winter.
The Nittany Lions welcomed six signees to campus as early enrollees in January: tight end Zack Kuntz, defensive end Nick Tarburton, safety Isaiah Humphries, cornerback Trent Gordon, and linebackers Jesse Luketa and Micah Parsons.
Those six freshmen, dressed in full Penn State uniforms for their first “game day,” lined up alongside the 17 players who will join them for preseason camp.
Speaking with those involved, it’s clear this was an emotional moment.
“It had been about four months since we had all seen each other, so it was great to catch up and continue to build our relationships,” he said. “It was an extremely special moment when we all got lined up and introduced on the field prior to the game. It’s certainly something I’ll never forget.”
Nittany Lions fans did their best to make a positive initial impression.
“The way the crowd greeted us was amazing,” receiver Daniel George said.
If this class accomplishes the goals it has set out, these players will hear plenty of cheers at Beaver Stadium in the coming years.
“We are hungry,” Hawkins said. “We plan on giving everything we have.”
Nittany Lions continue to attract top New Jersey talent
Penn State’s recent rise to College Football Playoff contender was filled with crucial contributions from former New Jersey high school standouts. Just to name a few, linebacker Jason Cabinda, tight end Mike Gesicki, guard Steven Gonzalez and receiver Juwan Johnson each emerged as top Garden State athletes before heading to Happy Valley.
Nittany Lions coach James Franklin added another to that list Saturday, securing a verbal commitment from coveted offensive lineman Caedan Wallace. The 6-foot-5, 313-pound Hun School (Princeton, N.J.) junior will join former prep teammate Fred Hansard, a redshirt defensive tackle, when he arrives on campus next year.
Wallace, considered New Jersey’s No. 2 overall recruit in 247Sports 2019 composite rankings, claims more than 30 scholarship offers. By the end of Blue-White game action, only one mattered.
“This journey has been amazing,” Wallace tweeted while on campus. “Thank you to every coach who believed in my ability enough to offer me a scholarship to their university. After every journey, you must return home. I know where home is.”
The Nittany Lions landed New Jersey’s two top-ranked 2018 prospects. Franklin signed receiver Justin Shorter and defensive end Jayson Oweh, who weighed in on the addition of Wallace.
“He can bring in just pure bully ball to PSU,” Oweh said. “He’s a bully; [it’s] crazy what he can do.”
Penn State picked up a pledge from top-ranked 2019 New Jersey quarterback Taquan Roberson in October. He hopes the news Saturday continues the momentum of a noticeable trend.
“Always great to have a Jersey guy join the family — even better that he’s going to be protecting me soon,” Roberson said.
Defensive lineman Antonio Alfano tops the list of 2019 Garden State talents. Like Wallace, he spent Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
“My boy Caedan committing there is awesome,” he said. “I know he loves the school and I’m really happy for him.”
And what about Penn State’s chances of plucking the No. 1 and No. 2 prospects away for a second straight cycle? Things appear to be going well with Alfano, who has visited Happy Valley twice in April while also spending time at Alabama and Georgia.
“My family and I had a great time at Penn State [Saturday],” he said. “We had a great talk with Coach Franklin and my mother loved it.
Miss any previous editions of our daily Penn State recruiting notebook? You can find them all here.