Penn State is approaching the finish line of a 2018 recruiting cycle that has proven to be one of the program’s finest. The Nittany Lions spent a substantial portion of time on top of composite class rankings, and reach National Signing Day on Wednesday with a top-five talent collection.
James Franklin, preparing to wrap up his fifth recruiting class in Happy Valley, has assembled an impressive group. Penn State signed 22 high school seniors in December, welcoming six to campus last month as early enrollees.
Led by three 5-star standouts, this class includes 11 players who are considered top-10 prospects at their respective positions. The Nittany Lions can increase that total Wednesday.
Here is how we predict Penn State’s class will look when the dust settles on Signing Day.
Quarterback (1): 3-star Will Levis (Middletown, Conn.)
Penn State landed 5-star quarterback Justin Fields in December 2016. However, he opted to reopen a widespread recruitment in June and will instead stay in his home state with the Georgia Bulldogs.
The Nittany Lions spent a few weeks searching for replacement options and identified Will Levis. He enjoyed a rapid rise on the recruiting scene last spring and secured a Penn State offer on July 14 following his attendance at a team-run camp.
Levis announced his commitment July 15. The 6-foot-4, 222-pound Xavier High School star produced 2,771 yards and 33 total touchdowns as a senior.
Running back (1): 5-star Ricky Slade (Woodbridge, Va.)
Ricky Slade, the 2017 Gatorade Player of the Year in Virginia, pledged to Penn State last February and never wavered in his commitment despite the departure in December of running backs coach Charles Huff.
This scintillating 5-9, 185-pound prospect is among the nation’s most dynamic playmakers. Slade, contributing as a rusher, receiver and kick returner, collected 2,700 all-purpose yards and accounted for 40 touchdowns in 2017.
— Hudl (@Hudl) December 11, 2017
Receiver (5): 3-star Shaquon Anderson-Butts (Harrisburg, Pa.), 4-star Jahan Dotson (Nazareth, Pa.) 4-star Solomon Enis (Phoenix), 4-star Daniel George (Oxon Hill, Md.), 5-star Justin Shorter (Monmouth Junction, N.J.)
Penn State saw receivers coach and longtime Franklin assistant Josh Gattis leave for a role with the Alabama Crimson Tide in January. New position coach David Corley takes over a talented group that welcomes a significant influx of talent in 2018.
Justin Shorter has created considerable conversation regarding his case as America’s premier receiver prospect. He pledged to Penn State prior to his junior season at South Brunswick High School, ending up as the program’s longest-standing 2018 commit.
Jahan Dotson flipped his commitment from UCLA on Dec. 20, providing Penn State with Pennsylvania’s top-ranked receiver. Fellow in-state standout Shaquon Anderson-Butts, one of two Nittany Lions signees from Harrisburg, didn’t sign in December but told Land of 10 he intends to do so on the traditional Signing Day.
Daniel George is a two-way difference maker who also excels as a state champion in track and field. Solomon Enis, the son of former Nittany Lions running back Curtis Enis, will announce his decision Wednesday with Utah seemingly presenting Penn State’s most significant competition. His addition is the one I’m least confident in regarding anticipate Signing Day decisions.
Update (6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 6) – Anderson-Butts isn’t expected to sign with Penn State on Wednesday due to academic qualification, according to Ryan Snyder of Blue White Illustrated. The report also states he used an official visit at Marshall last weekend, so that may develop as a Plan B option.
Update (10 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 6) – Penn State may end up staying put with its three early signees at receiver. Based on information gathered this week, the anticipation is Enis will attend college in Pac-12 territory.
Tight end (2): 4-star Pat Freiermuth (North Andover, Mass.), 4-star Zack Kuntz (Camp Hill, Pa.)
Penn State must replace an All-America tight end Mike Gesicki, and its 2018 signees could immediately help. Pat Freiermuth and Zack Kuntz are viewed as top-10 talents at the position, and they proved their prowess again in 2017.
Freiermuth scored 13 touchdowns in 2017, including 10 from at least 20 yards out, according to Mac Cerullo of the Newbury Port News. He is well developed physically and shows the traits of a consistent run blocker.
Kuntz, who stands 6-7 and enrolled early, surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career. His final prep performances featured 300 yards, and he finished high school with 26 touchdown catches.
— Pat Freiermuth (@pat_fry5) December 10, 2017
Offensive line (4): 4-star Nana Asiedu (Stafford, Va.), 3-star Bryce Effner (Aurora, Ill.), 4-star Fredrick Scruggs (Erie, Pa.), 4-star Rasheed Walker (Waldorf, Md.)
There was some changeover in this group during the course of a year. Chris Bleich, the initial offensive line commit of Franklin’s 2018 efforts, de-committed last April and signed with Florida. Antwan Reed spent nearly eight months pledged to Penn State prior to a change of plans in December that led him to Western Michigan.
Penn State can bag an elite tandem of bookends by adding Rasheed Walker on Signing Day. The 6-6, 300-pound U.S. Army All-American will decide between Ohio State, Penn State and Virginia Tech, and we’re still leaning toward the Nittany Lions.
Nana Asiedu, like Walker, is an All-America tackle viewed as one of this cycle’s best. Bryce Effner has the ability to outperform his 3-star status, while Fredrick Scruggs is Pennsylvania’s top-ranked offensive lineman and projected to flourish in an interior role.
PennState was Turnt🔵⚪️🔵⚪️ pic.twitter.com/CzeViEeCjz
— Rasheed Walker (@Cin5oTre3) December 11, 2017
Defensive tackle (3): 3-star Judge Culpepper (Tampa, Fla.), 3-star Aeneas Hawkins (Cincinnati), 4-star PJ Mustipher (Owings Mills, Md.)
Penn State took care of business here last summer, securing commitments from all three recruits in a span of four weeks. The trio is headlined by PJ Mustipher, a top-10 defensive tackle prospect who also claimed a state wrestling championship in 2017.
Judge Culpepper and Aeneas Hawkins are sons of former NFL players. Their versatility could result in looks along the perimeter, and both have the athleticism to beat opponents regardless of where they’re lined up.
The Nittany Lions have done a nice job stockpiling young talent at this position, and this group will further enhance increased competition in the trenches as defensive line coach Sean Spencer develops his rotation.
Defensive end (1): 4-star Jayson Oweh
Jayson Oweh was outstanding in 2017 while playing only his second season of football. The 6-5, 240-pound prospect secured 13 sacks in fewer than five full games, flashing potential stardom as a force off the edge.
His recruitment became quite contentious during the fall, as he used official visits at Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. Oweh ultimately signed with the Nittany Lions on Dec. 22 but didn’t go public with his decision until Jan. 4 during a television broadcast of the Under Armour All-America Game.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see one of Penn State’s linebacker signees eventually transition to defensive end.
— Jayson Oweh (@JaysonOweh) November 20, 2017
Linebacker (4): 4-star Jesse Luketa (Ottawa, Ontario), 3-star Charlie Katshir (Mechanicsburg, Pa.), 5-star Micah Parsons (Harrisburg), 4-star Nick Tarburton (Perkasie, Pa.)
This position was impacted more than any other by early enrollment. Jesse Luketa, Micah Parsons and Nick Tarburton each arrived on campus in January and they’ll compete in spring camp as Penn State seeks to replace multiple starters.
Parsons, also considered a premier defensive end recruit, is expected to vie for middle linebacker duties. He was named the U.S. Army All-America Bowl Defensive Player of the Year following a senior season in which he also dominated at running back.
Luketa, a native of Ontario, Canada, became a coveted recruit after transferring to Mercyhurst Prep (Erie, Pa.) for his final three high school seasons. While many will focus on the potential of Parsons changing positions, don’t be surprised if Tarburton is the player who develops into a defensive end.
Charlie Katshir will join this group in the summer. He starred at safety in high school and should provide excellent pass-coverage skills as he grows comfortable as an outside linebacker.
— Jesse Luketa 🇨🇦 (@OttawasVeryOwn) December 11, 2017
Cornerback (2): 3-star Trent Gordon (Manvel, Texas), 4-star Jordan Miner (Tampa, Fla.)
Trent Gordon enrolled at Penn State in January, and previously told Land of 10 there was a possibility of him working at safety. He is an excellent open-field tackler who also aims to contribute on special teams.
Jordan Miner emerged as one of the finest defensive backs in Florida. He represents a major long-distance recruiting victory for the Nittany Lions, and will arrive on campus in June.
Last season, Penn State only played three freshmen, but two of them were cornerbacks.
— TG (@_TRENTG_) January 4, 2018