Identifying talent doesn't seem to be a problem for Bill O'Brien and his staff, who haven't let a late start to the recruiting game for the Class of 2013 affect them. Jordan Smith, Kasey Gaines, Tanner Hartman and Richy Anderson -- the four most recent commitments -- attest to that.
Keeping talent hasn't been a problem, either. Adam Breneman, Christian Hackenberg, Andrew Nelson, Curtis Cothran, Brendan Mahon and Garrett Sickles all have longstanding commitments to the Nittany Lions, with Brandon Bell and Neiko Robinson coming on board early in the summer.
But the fast rolling train to National Letter of Intent Day on Feb. 6 is not slowing down, and there are still a many spots to fill to complete O'Brien's class. By Fight On State's count, Penn State has five remaining spots for the class of 2013, and three spots for early enrollees.
Breneman, Smith and Anderson are set to enroll in January, leaving the Nittany Lions with potential space for a JUCO player or two, or another couple of early enrollees.
With the depth chart clearly signaling positions of need, not just for this season, but for future seasons, as well, the Fight On State Big Board pinpoints which prospects the Nittany Lions are in the mix for at those key positions, and how likely Penn State is to land them.
Anderson flipping from Maryland and joining the 2013 mix is a big coup for O'Brien's staff. The versatile senior can early enroll and fill a need at the running back spot, his true position. But he also double as a slot receiver.
Plant High (Plant, Fla.) running back Wesley Bullock is the prospect many thought would be most affected by Anderson's commitment, as both offer a similar style of play. That said, Bullock confirmed to Fight On State Monday night that he still has high interest in potentially continuing his future at Beaver Stadium. “I'm still very interested in Penn State,” Bullock said. “And yes, I still plan on taking an official visit to Penn State in December.”
The staff hasn't put all of its eggs in one basket, though. Iowa Western Community College running back Aaron Wimberly is visiting Penn State this weekend to watch the Nittany Lions take on Indiana. But he seems like a less likely option having already committed to Iowa State. One thing is for sure: it's not likely that Wimberly will make a decision one way or the other anytime soon. Plenty of recruits have been awestruck by the Beaver Stadium atmosphere, but with a host of offers ranging from Iowa State and Iowa to Boise State and UNC, it wouldn't be surprising if Wimberly plans some additional visits before deciding.
I had previously called Amos P. Godby High (Tallahassee, Fla.) running back Tim Longmire a long shot, and I still believe Penn State's odds to land him are slim. But there was some positive news on his front Sunday, when Scout.com's Jamie Newburg reported Longmire will visit University Park after the season.
I'd be remiss not to mention Warren G. Harding (Warren, Ohio) running back and current Boston College commitment LeShun Daniels, as well, who visited Penn State for the Ohio State tilt. I said last Friday that I consider Daniels a realistic option, and I still believe that to be the case. It's an uphill climb, though, make no mistake about it. But he took the time to visit, so there has to be some kind of connection there. Now the question becomes a matter of how strong.
Of course, Lancaster (Pa.) Catholic High back Roman Clay is still in the mix, but if offered, it will come after the aforementioned backs turn down the Nittany Lions.
FOS Odds to Land
Bullock's excitement seems genuine, but I'm not ready to call him highly likely to end up in Blue and White. His picture will be much clearer after he takes his official. Wimberly has expressed an interest in the Nittany Lions, but there is a lot to overcome with his commitment to Iowa State, and I just don't have a great feeling on Longmire at the moment. Don't be surprised if O'Brien and staff are still searching for another potential JUCO fit. Even though it's already nearing mid-November, I'm not willing to call any of the named prospects more likely then another to commit. A poster had asked me to list the way I believe the staff views the prospects at tailback, and I believe it to be as fuzzy now as it was then. I'd say Daniels and Wimberly would be the top targets, followed by Bullock and Longmire and then Clay. This, of course, is assuming the Nittany Lions want a back to complement Anderson, not similar to him. If they do, I'd move Bullock right up with the first two.
Dadeville High (Dadeville, Ala.) three-star defensive tackle Rod Crayton has drawn the most attention from fans, and all signs point to the 6-foot-1, 305-pound tackle being intrigued after his visit to University Park for the Ohio State game a few weeks ago. Interview requests to Crayton and his coaches have gone unreturned thus far, but based on what we knew previously, there is no reason to think Penn State is out of the mix here. In fact, the Lions seem to be right in it.
Another prospect who came onto the scene late but is certainly worth keeping an eye on is 6t-2, 280-pound tackle Zach Webb from Metro Christian Academy in Tulsa, Okla. Webb bloomed late but has picked up plenty of interest since October, including a bunch of Western schools. Tulsa, Arizona and Oklahoma State are all on the list of schools Webb plans to visit, as well as Arkansas. Webb will visit Penn State for the Nov. 24 game against Wisconsin, and told me Monday night he is very much looking forward to it. With Larry Johnson heading his recruitment, I think the Nittany Lions are in decent shape with Webb, regardless of the geography, mainly because he has said so. I asked Webb directly about being far away from home, and he responded: “Geography doesn't matter to me if it's Penn State. I wouldn't go that far for a mediocre program, but sanctions or not, Penn State is big time.”
A late entrant to the field, FOX Sports NEXT reporter John Garcia Jr. reported last week that the Nittany Lions have offered current Purdue commitment Parker Cothren. A two-star prospect, many of you noted his propensity to play defensive tackle at the college level, which is why I include him in this section. John reported that Cothren “loves Purdue, but won't ignore other options.” So while I consider him a long shot, the chance is there.
On a final note: many have asked about Ohio defensive tackle Donovan Munger. I'm going to go ahead and quash those thoughts for the time being based on a few discussions with our Ohio guys. If something changes, we'll be sure to let you know, but it doesn't appear likely that Munger is giving much thought to Penn State.
FOS Odds to Land
If Webb gets an offer, I think Penn State shoots right to the top of his list based off his comments and the discussions we've had. That offer, though, may very well have to wait until Crayton makes his decision, and/or Cothren gives the staff a clearer picture of whether he plans to explore other options with more depth. Kristen Ledlow and I will continue to try and track down Rod, but I think the Nittany Lions have as good a shot as anyone to land him. I'd give Washington State a slight nod at the moment, and LSU seems to be in play, too.
The elephant in the room -- Penn State is clearly trying to tackle the ever present depth issues in the secondary through this recruiting class. There are a few options the staff is looking at to go along with the verbal commitments from Smith and Neiko Robinson.
At safety, Calvert Hall College High (Baltimore.) safety Delando Johnson remains on Penn State's radar, but he has yet to receive an offer after sending his recruiting coach, Larry Johnson, his mid-season highlight tape a little while back.
As for cornerbacks, three-star corner Jaleel Hytchye remains in the mix after receiving a Penn State offer at the end of October. Hytchye named a top five back in August, so his prolonged recruitment should be at least a small sign for the Nittany Lions that their offer will be taken under consideration by the 6-0, 165-pound prospect.
Another Milford Academy prospect, Sterling Parks, who gave a rave review of Penn State to Brian Dohn a couple weeks back, and seems highly interested in the Nittany Lions if an offer were to come his way.
To round out the corner back position, getting Malcolm Cook on campus for the OSU game was a good start. But I still think there is a long way to go there. If I can track Malcolm down, I will be sure to report back with the latest.
On a final note, Archer High (Lawrenceville, Ga.) Deondre Singleton DB told me back at the beginning of November that Penn State has offered him, and the 5-11, 170 pound cornerback is planning to visit University Park in December, and expressed a high interest in the Nittany Lions.
FOS Odds to Land
Parks' glowing review of Penn State gives me the feeling that the Nittany Lions are right at the top for his services if an offer is extended. But that, of course, relies on paperwork, academics and the staff believing he's worthy of it -- all still to be determined. Hytchye has been quiet, but as mentioned, his willingness to remain open can only mean good things for Penn State. Johnson is high on O'Brien's club, but it's unclear if he would pass on the offers he has to walk-on at Penn State. I haven't talked to Singleton enough to gauge his true interest level, but from our initial conversation, I would say he's at least willing to potentially explore his options at Penn State and come north from Georgia.