Signing Day: Who to Watch Out For
James Franklin and his staff of recruiters have been plenty busy since the conclusion of the 2016 season; it's commonplace for coaches to work year round, because unlike the NFL, there's no offseason in the college ranks.
All that work's paid off for Franklin and the Nittany Lions ahead of National Signing Day today. With his crop of recruits mostly cemented, Franklin's compiled a talented class—especially with the addition of a few late commits. Here's what stands out from Penn State's Class of 2017, and who could sign on with the Nittany Lions at the final hour:
The crown jewel of Penn State's recruiting class is undoubtedly five-star cornerback Lamont Wade, who picked the Nittany Lions over West Virginia, Pitt, and Tennessee. What he lacks in height (5-foot-9) he makes up for in playmaking ability. The pressure will be on for the young corner to produce from the get-go; there's reason to believe Wade could push for time at one of the slot cornerback positions right out of spring ball as opposed to sitting on the sidelines in year one. He sets the tone for a class full of talented prospects at a variety of important positions for Penn State.
Wade joins fellow commits WR K.J. Hamler, OLB Brelin Faison-Walden, and center Michael Miranda on campus as early enrollees, giving four of Penn State's highly-regarded freshmen a head start in terms of getting ahead in the classroom and the weight room. Two linebackers, Faison-Walden and recent commit Ellis Brooks, figure to carry the "Linebacker U" torch for the Nittany Lions, especially after highly-touted 'backer Dylan Rivers—who was one of the program's first commits of the '17 cycle—decommitted and flipped to his home state to play for Virginia Tech. Brooks is an especially intriguing player with his ability to excel at the middle "Mike" linebacker position, given his Division I-ready frame at 6-foot-2, 233 lbs. A player that young and that big is any strength coach's dream. Expect Director of Performance Enhancement Dwight Galt to mold Brooks into the consummate middle linebacker—one who'll man the middle for years to come.
There shouldn't be too many surprises today seeing as most top targets have either committed to the Nittany Lions or pledged their athletic services elsewhere. One player in particular, CB Tariq Castro-Fields, is one of the only top recruits to hold off on committing until signing day. There's reason he could be part of a package deal that'll head to Maryland, but he's extremely high on the Nittany Lions, especially as of late. If he joins the Nittany Lions, he'll likely form a dynamic partnership with fellow secondary-mate Lamont Wade, but what sets him apart is how his physical makeup is in stark contrast to that of Wade's. Castro-Fields is extremely long and lanky (6-foot-1), and figures to be able to match up with receivers of any size and have no trouble high-pointing the ball like some smaller corners may have.
Castro-Fields would be the cherry on top of an already impressive recruiting class that 247Sports has ranked the No. 15 class in the nation ahead of programs like Miami, UCLA, and Florida.
Stay tuned for more updates!