Signing day good for Lions
Penn State enjoyed such a superb national signing day that, by one measure, its 2019 recruiting class trails only Georgia and Alabama nationally.
The Nittany Lions signed 18 players Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period, and 17 of them are rated as either four or five stars. Only one five-star recruit is in the mix — linebacker Brandon Smith — but there are 16 four-star guys.
According to Rivals, PSU’s average star rating of 3.89 ranks third in the country, while the Lions are fourth in that category in the 247Sports composite rating at 92.12.
“I thought we had a good day,” PSU coach James Franklin said. “Kind of the way our recruiting operation is built, we really don’t want drama (on signing day). So for us, we want to build strong relationships with parents, with high school coaches, with prospects, try to get them to jump on board early, and then not waiver, because they are very comfortable with their decision.”
Penn State signed just 18 players Wednesday, far fewer than most top-rated teams, so its overall national ranking isn’t quite as high. The Lions’ class is ranked No. 10 according to 247Sports and Rivals and No. 12 by ESPN.
“You look at our class, most people have it ranked I think top 10,” Franklin said. “If you look at it in terms of quality, I think we’re the only program in the top 10 that has less than 20 commitments, which factors into it.
“So, if you look at it from a quality standpoint, I think we’re top three in the country in terms of the quality of how services have those guys ranked. So, excited about that.”
The Lions did have a bit of drama Wednesday with regards to Texas running back commit Noah Cain. He made his decision following some late questions in the process, and Franklin described what went down.
“Very rarely in my time doing this did guys announce and no one knows,” the coach said. “It happens every once in a while, but most of the time, you know. … Noah committed to us a few weeks ago. Felt pretty confident about that until (Tuesday) night, I get a call at 12:05 and it’s Noah, mom and dad, and they want to have a discussion. And the discussion is coming off like they have not made their decision yet.
“So there I am in my boxers having a heated discussion and selling on why this makes sense. Same thing with Coach (Ja’Juan) Seider and then again this morning. And I think that happens. This is a big decision guys are making, and I think when you wait till the end, you start getting pulled in a thousand different directions, so we get that.”
Here’s PSU’s entire list of signed commitments Wednesday:
LB Brandon Smith (6-3, 225), Louisa, Va.
DT Hakeem Beamon (6-3, 259), Midlothian, Va.
RB Noah Cain (5-10, 209), Flower Mound, Texas
LB Lance Dixon (6-1, 205), West Bloomfield, Mich.
WR John Dunmore (6-1, 180), Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
CB Keaton Ellis (5-11, 177), State College
RB Devyn Ford (5-11, 188), Stafford, Va.?DE Adisa Isaac (6-4, 220), Brooklyn, N.Y.
QB Michael Johnson Jr. (6-2, 197), Eugene, Ore.?CB Joey Porter Jr. (6-1, 185), Wexford
QB Ta’Quan Roberson (5-11, 193), Orange, N.J.
CB Tyler Rudolph (5-11, 200), Waterbury, Conn.
TE Brenton Strange (6-4, 214), Parkersburg, W.Va.
OL Caedan Wallace (6-5, 291), Robbinsville, N.J.
OL Anthony Whigan (6-4, 292), Lexington Park, Md.
CB Marquis Wilson (5-11, 167), Windsor, Conn.
OL Saleem Wormley (6-3, 311), Newark, N.J.
S Jaquan Brisker (6-1, 190), Pittsburgh
The Cain commitment gives the Lions two running backs in the class, to go along with Ford.
“We want guys who want to come in and compete,” offensive recruiting coordinator Tyler Bowen said. “The guys we’re recruiting at this level and the people we’re recruiting against, obviously, you’re not going anywhere to sit behind anyone, but at the same time, we’re building a quality depth chart where there’s going to be competition.
“We want guys who aspire to compete at the highest level, that’s the type of athlete we’re bringing in. We’ll get them here, see how they work and see how the competition goes.”
The Lions also have two quarterbacks in this class in Roberson and Johnson Jr.
Franklin explained why that was necessary.
“The first thing is we started with that approach because we weren’t sure what Tommy (Stevens) was going to do,” he said of this year’s backup possibly transferring after last season. “And then once we kind of committed to that, we stayed with it.
“We always wanted to have five quarterbacks on scholarship. That’s going to allow us to do that. In a perfect world, you love one spread out — one is a senior, one is a junior, one is a sophomore, one is freshman. But there’s not too many programs in the country that have it like that.”
One familiar name locally who signed Wednesday is State College’s Keaton Ellis, who excelled as a receiver and defensive back this season. He was the first player to officially sign his letter of intent Wednesday morning and was recruited as a cornerback.
“He’s grown tremendously,” said Andy Frank, PSU director of player personnel. “He’s grown like you want players to develop. We saw him as a youngster. He came, he ran really fast, had loose hips and competed really well. And then to look at him from that point to two years later, his senior season, completely a dominant player.”
There was a cool moment for one Blair County prospect Wednesday when Tyrone’s Denver Light, who signed as a preferred walk-on linebacker, took a FaceTime call from Franklin congratulating him.
“Big Dog, what’s up? Congratulations. You look good in that blue and white, baby. Looking really good,” Franklin told Light in a video posted online by WTAJ. Franklin later added, “Remember, you’ll get what you earn.”
Light was thrilled about the call from Franklin and signing with the Lions.
“It’s an unreal experience,” Light told the Mirror. “Throughout my whole life I’ve wanted a chance to play for PSU and be a part of Linebacker U. Being a part of this was always a dream. The talk with Coach Franklin today shows that my hard work paid off, but there is more to come. I’m blessed to be in the situation I’m in now, and I got to make the best of it.”