STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State closed out its 2017 recruiting class Wednesday with two late additions, one that filled a need and one that helped define the group’s greatest strength.
James Franklin and his staff announced the addition of 21 players on National Signing Day. The class is likely to finish 15th in the 247Sports composite team rankings, which would equal the highest for the Nittany Lions since Franklin arrived.
One new addition Wednesday came early in the morning when 3-star defensive tackle Corey Bolds committed. Two reserve defensive tackles have left the program since the end of the 2016 season, so Franklin’s staff was looking for another player to add depth.
The other newcomer was 4-star defensive back Tariq Castro-Fields, who committed in the afternoon and became the 21st member of the class. He also became the fourth 4-star defensive back, an impressive collection of talent at one position for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State 2017 recruiting class after National Signing Day
|4-star CB||Lamont Wade*||No. 5||Clairton, Pa.|
|4-star OG||CJ Thorpe||No. 5||Pittsburgh|
|4-star QB||Sean Clifford||No. 8 pro-style||Cincinnati|
|4-star DE||Yetur Gross-Matos||No. 5 weak-side||Fredericksburg, Va.|
|4-star DT||Fred Hansard||No. 11||Princeton, N.J.|
|4-star LB||Ellis Brooks||No. 13 middle||Richmond, Va.|
|4-star S||Jonathan Sutherland||No. 22||Ottawa, Ont.|
|4-star CB||Tariq Castro-Fields||No. 34||Upper Marlboro, Md.|
|4-star DE||Damion Barber||No. 15||Harrisburg, Pa.|
|4-star WR||KJ Hamler*||No. 46||Pontiac, Mich.|
|4-star CB||Donovan Johnson||No. 36||Detroit|
|3-star LB||Brelin Faison-Walden*||No. 28 outside||Greensboro, N.C.|
|3-star OC||Michael Miranda*||No. 4||Stow, Ohio|
|3-star WR||Cameron Sullivan-Brown||No. 82||Laurel, Md.|
|3-star WR||Mac Hippenhammer||No. 85||Fort Wayne, Ind.|
|3-star OT||Robbie Martin||No. 66||Montvale, N.J.|
|3-star ATH||Brailyn Franklin||No. 60||Haymarket, Va.|
|3-star RB||Journey Brown||No. 54||Meadville, Pa.|
|3-star CB||D.J. Brown||No. 104||Creekside, Ga.|
|3-star DT||Corey Bolds||No. 45||Paterson, N.J.|
Penn State recruiting rankings
Penn State’s 2017 home run signees
Lamont Wade, 4-star defensive back, Clairton, Pa.
Wade is the top prospect in the class and a top-50 player in the nation. He’s a 5-star prospect by one recruiting service, but a 4-star cornerback in the 247Sports composite. He’s an important addition for a few reasons.
One, he’s an elite talent. Two, assistant coach Terry Smith said he expects Wade to have a chance to contribute in the return game and on offense in the future (after likely spending spring practice focusing on learning the defensive system).
Three, he’s the top player in Pittsburgh, and this is the second straight year (including Miles Sanders in 2016) that Penn State has corralled that prospect after not doing so from 2011-15. Lastly, Clairton High School has been one of the top producers of FBS talent in the past eight years, but seven of the previous eight prospects all signed with Pitt. That includes NFL wideout Tyler Boyd and 2016 signee Aaron Matthews, who was committed to Penn State but flipped when the Panthers told him he could play on offense.
Donovan Johnson, 4-star defensive back, Detroit, Mich.
Johnson is another blue-chip cornerback in the class. Penn State landed four 4-star defensive backs, which is a huge haul. Like Wade, Johnson carries extra significance.
Penn State has nearly signed a couple of marquee prospects from the Detroit area since Franklin’s staff arrived. The most famous is Lavert Hill, who was committed to Penn State but changed his mind and joined his brother at Michigan and could be a star for the Wolverines in 2017.
Johnson — and another guy coming on this list — represent a breakthrough in a key area of the Midwest.
Sean Clifford, 4-star quarterback, Cincinnati, Ohio
Clifford is the highest-rated quarterback Penn State has signed since Christian Hackenburg in 2013. He was also the first commitment in this class and became an extra recruiter for the Nittany Lions.
He might have to wait two full years before he gets a shot at the starting job, but Clifford is talented enough to force his way into the No. 2 spot on the depth chart before then.