2018 shaping up nicely

Penn State football fans are pretty happy with the top 15 recruiting class the Nittany Lions signed on Wednesday.

If things keep going the way they currently are playing out, Lion faithful might be unable to contain themselves next signing day.

“There are so many top players out there that are high on Penn State, they absolutely have reason to dream of a top-five class,” Ryan Snyder of BlueWhite Illustrated said. “Since Rivals has started in 2003, Penn State has never had a better start. You can’t ask for much more.”

The Lions are expected to sign somewhere around 20-22 recruits in the 2018 class. With the commitments of five-star running back Ricky Slade and fast-rising three-star linebacker Jesse Luketa on Friday, they already have 10 slots filled and have far and away the top-rated class in the country at this time.

In addition to Slade, the country’s top-rated all-purpose back, Penn State has verbals from the top-rated tight end (Zack Kuntz), the fifth-rated dual-threat quarterback (Justin Fields), the ninth-rated wide receiver (Justin Shorter) and the No. 5 prospect in the nation regardless of position according to 247Sports composite rankings of all the top recruiting sites, Harrisburg defensive end Micah Parsons.

Eight of the Lions’ current commits hold four-star or higher rankings, and the two that don’t — Luketa and Cumberland Valley linebacker Charlie Katshir — are considered solid prospects whose stock is going up and who play positions of need.

Penn State might just be scratching the surface of what this class will become, though. According to 247Sports, 11 more prospects in their top 200 have the Nittany Lions at or near the top of their list of potential destinations, including fifth-rated safety Isheem Young, fifth-rated corner Anthony Lytton (a five-star prospect), third-rated defensive tackle Matthew Jones, fifth-rated defensive tackle P.J Mustipher, sixth-rated strong-side defensive end Dorian Hardy, sixth-rated outside linebacker Dallas Grant, sixth-rated weak-side defensive end Tyreke Smith, sixth-rated inside linebacker Nick Tarburton, 10th-rated safety Kwantel Raines and 10th-rated guard “Juice” Scruggs.

Tarburton, whose future might be on the defensive line, is considered a possibility to commit soon.

They’re also involved with four-star Maryland offensive tackles Rasheed Walker and Jaelyn Duncan, as well as Virginia’s Teradja Mitchell, the top-rated inside linebacker for 2018.

Penn State figures to sign a balanced class similar to 2017. It already has two tight ends and still is looking at Archbishop Wood’s Kyle Pitts. Linebacker, defensive tackle and safety are likely to be points of emphasis, with another receiver and a couple of players who can play offensive tackle among the line signees probably in the mix.

Of course, oral commitments aren’t binding. Parsons still is being heavily recruited by a lot of other schools, and it’s likely plenty of other college’s will try to flip Slade and Fields over the next year.

If Penn State manages to keep this together and do well on the field, again, though, this might be one of its best recruiting classes ever.

“The table is set. Pennsylvania is pretty top-heavy,” said Sean Fitz of Lions247. “You’ve got a top-rated quarterback. You’ve got a top-100 wide receiver who probably is underrated. Micah is Micah. You’ve got some star power to this class.”

Penn State recruiting class of 2017

Total number of players: 21

Strengths: Overall balance, offensive line, secondary, linebacker, quarterback, return game

Deficiencies: No tight end, maybe could have used another defensive tackle

The gems: CB Lamont Wade, G C.J. Thorpe, DE Yatur Matos, QB Sean Clifford, LB Ellis Brooks

The impact players: Wade, Brooks, Thorpe, LB Brelin Faison-Walden

The sleepers: RB Journey Brown, LB Brailyn Franklin, OT Robert Martin

The ones that got away: DE Josh Kaindoh (Florida State), WR Mark Webb (Georgia)

Best job of recruiting: Brent Pry was key to bringing in three linebackers, Matos and four-star defensive tackle Fred Hansard. … Terry Smith headed up the effort to bring in Wade, a five-star corner. … The Lions regrouped from the loss of LB Dylan Rivers to secure Brooks, an Under Armour All-American, in nine days.

Most intriguing background: Thorpe’s father played at Penn State in the early 1990s. … Mac Hippenhammer is a baseball standout and will play that sport for Penn State, too.

Where the class ranks nationally: Rivals.com — 12. Scout.com — 15. 247Sports — 15. ESPN — 17. Prep Football Report — 14. PrepStar — 18.

Next Signing Day: Feb. 7, 2018