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6 Penn State signees arrive on campus for early enrollment
Penn State will continue to construct its 2018 recruiting class through National Signing Day (Feb. 7), but aspirations for the group are quickly becoming a reality. Nittany Lions coach James Franklin and his staff welcomed six signees to campus this past weekend, officially ending their days as recruits.
These newcomers encounter a fresh set of expectations and more accountability as they embark on the next phase of promising athletic and academic careers. Each is now enrolled at the university as a student, and upcoming spring camp will present an opportunity to impress the coaching staff that invested in them on the recruiting trail.
The remainder of Penn State’s class will arrive this summer, as nearly 20 other freshmen are primed to join them in Happy Valley. A head start could prove key as these athletes aim to claim early roles on a talented Nittany Lions roster.
RELATED: 2018 Penn State recruiting big board
Penn State undoubtedly will miss pivotal program veterans such as Marcus Allen, Saquon Barkley, Jason Cabinda, Mike Gesicki and DaeSean Hamilton, but consistent championship contenders don’t rebuild — they reload.
Here is a rundown of the six newest Nittany Lions.
High School: Manvel (Texas)
Size: 6-foot, 180 pounds
One of two early enrollees from the Lone Star State, Trent Gordon picked Penn State from more than 30 scholarship offers when he committed March 29. His status as a national prospect was solidified in 2016, when Gordon collected 81 tackles, 10 pass deflections and 2 interceptions as a junior, per MaxPreps.
He heads to Happy Valley with ambition for his first collegiate campaign.
“One of my goals is to either start or be in rotation with the other defensive backs when the season starts,” Gordon told Land of 10.
Penn State applied redshirts to the vast majority of 2017 signees but cornerbacks Tariq Castro-Fields and Lamont Wade were rare exceptions.
— TG (@_TRENTG_) January 4, 2018
High School: Sachse (Texas)
Size: 5-11, 190 pounds
Isaiah Humphries follows a family path to Happy Valley. His father, Leonard Humphries, starred in the Penn State defensive backfield before moving on to an NFL career.
The younger Humphries was a standout performer through his high school career in a competitive Texas football district. Humphries totaled 135 tackles and 13 interceptions during the past three seasons, according to MaxPreps.
His senior campaign included career highs across the stat sheet, as he secured 60 tackles, 11 pass deflections and 7 interceptions. The Nittany Lions aim to replace a valuable pair of safeties as Marcus Allen and Troy Apke depart.
First Day, Front Row.. Time to get to work! pic.twitter.com/i11nq5aJUn
— Isaiah Humphries (@TheHumphries23) January 8, 2018
Position: Tight end
High School: Camp Hill (Pa.)
Size: 6-7, 235 pounds
Among the prized prospects in Pennsylvania this cycle, Zack Kuntz was a long-standing Nittany Lions commit dating to November 2016. He is one of the truly rare athletic freaks you’ll find across the country, regardless of position.
His size and athleticism would be enough to warrant plenty of collegiate consideration, but Kuntz was also a consistently productive prep player. He approached 3,000 career receiving yards and capped off his high school career with a 300-yard game.
Kuntz earned a state championship in the 2017 Pennsylvania track and field finals, capturing that title as a 110-meter hurdler. He’ll have a shot to compete for reps at the position with all-conference tight end Mike Gesicki moving on to the NFL.
“Kuntz, I think, is very similar in a lot of ways to Gesicki,” Franklin said Dec. 20 upon Kuntz’s signing. “High school wide receiver — probably a little further along as a tight end than what Mike was — but both big-bodied guys who can really run.”
High School: Mercyhurst Prep (Erie, Pa.)
Size: 6-2, 240 pounds
Jesse Luketa comes to town following an all-state senior season in Pennsylvania, but his roots lie beyond American borders. He emerged as one of Canada’s most compelling young football prospects in middle school and departed for prep school in the United States in an attempt to place himself on the FBS recruiting map.
That plan paid off, as Luketa collected more than 20 scholarships by the end of his junior year. He acted as class leader for the Nittany Lions following his February 2017 commitment, and intends to carry over those qualities into the Penn State locker room.
“I’ve always been an individual who, when surrounded by my peers, I’ve always been considered a leader,” Luketa said. “I’m going to do whatever I can do to continue that and just lead the ones who are around me. Just be a vocal leader, and lead through my actions.”
Officially a collegiate athlete..
— Jesse Luketa 🇨🇦 (@OttawasVeryOwn) January 7, 2018
High School: Harrisburg (Pa.)
Size: 6-3, 235 pounds
No 2018 recruit received more attention from Penn State fans than Micah Parsons. He became the first member of this Nittany Lions class in February 2016, committing as a sophomore, but then backed off that verbal pledge 14 months later on April 23.
Parsons, the American Family Insurance Defensive Player of the Year, spent much of 2017 exploring alternative options such as Alabama, Georgia, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Ohio State. He opted to return to Penn State’s class during the early signing period, providing Franklin with a top-5 overall talent.
Though Parsons did most of his damage at defensive end with Harrisburg, he will begin a highly anticipated college career at middle linebacker. It’s also worth noting Parsons has discussed playing some offense. He rushed for more than 1,200 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior.
The journey starts today #weare
— BLESSEDMVP (@Micah_parsons23) January 7, 2018
High School: Pennridge (Perkasie, Pa.)
Size: 6-3, 250 pounds
Linebacker is an important position group to monitor at Penn State this offseason, and Nick Tarburton is the third incoming player there on this list. He enjoyed a highly productive career at Pennridge, tallying 294 tackles — 47 for loss — and 17 sacks, per MaxPreps.
Considering his size and effectiveness near the trenches, Tarburton is a candidate to someday transition to defensive end. His father, Rick, told Land of 10 in December that’s a move he’s open to if it helps the Nittany Lions.
“He’ll play anywhere Coach Franklin tells him to play. Nick is a football player,” Rick said. “He wants to play linebacker. I think he likes the leadership aspects of linebacker, especially middle linebacker, but when he was younger he played defensive end for years. They moved him to linebacker because teams would run away from him when he was at end. As far as where he’ll play [at Penn State], I think it’s going to depend on what the team needs.”
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