Standouts from Signing Day 2017
James Franklin and the Nittany Lions made off big on National Signing Day 2017 after keeping most of its highly-touted 2017 class together. Despite losing top commit Dylan Rivers to Virginia Tech nearly a week before Signing Day after committing to the Nittany Lions in 2015. This year's Signing Day came with significantly less fanfare than years past, but the final-minute fireworks were well worth the drama.
Four-star cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields—a 6-foot-1 shutdown corner with the size and speed to match up with anybody—held off on his commitment decision until the final hour just prior to James Franklin's post-Signing Day press conference. Waiting in the media room below, the coaching staff could be heard erupting in cheers above as Franklin and Co. received word that Castro-Fields had pledged his commitment to Penn State. Further adding to the dramatic scene, the live stream covering the top-ranked cornerback's decision cut out prior to his announcement meaning nobody really had any way of knowing until the coaching staff received word.
There are plenty of gems in this class, but three that stand out in particular are receiver Cameron Sullivan-Brown, guard C.J. Thorpe, and linebacker Ellis Brooks. Sullivan-Brown is a speedster with hands like glue. He fits the Chris Godwin mold at 6-foot-1 with plenty of room on his frame to add some bulk. He'll likely have time to develop in what figures to be a redshirt season considering the depth Penn State is fortunate enough to have at receiver. Thorpe is a similar case—minus the pressing need for added size. At 6-foot-3, 318 lbs, Thorpe has Big Ten size. His development needs fall in the technique category. Once acclimated to the college game, he could become a focal point in Penn State's future ground attack. Don't expect to see much of him in 2017, however—the Nittany Lions boast plenty of depth up front as well, meaning he'll spend his first season waiting in the wings.
Ellis Brooks is another college-ready player size-wise who figures to benefit significantly from a year spent waiting in the wings under the tutelage of players like Manny Bowen and Jason Cabinda. He's a fearless run-stuffer who isn't afraid to lay the lumber. He'll be a fixture in Happy Valley for years to come, and his commitment is a testament to the work James Franklin put in to flip him from Duke.
This is a talented crop of young Nittany Lions, but don't expect to see many immediate contributions. Penn State is in a place where it doesn't need to strictly rely on youth, meaning this class is part of the foundation for a successful future. Only time will tell how the rest of the class shapes out once they arrive on campus.
Photo: Penn State Athletics