Penn State's 2014 recruiting class has experienced many chaotic twists and turns since receiving its first verbal commitment more than 15 months ago. From the uncertainty following Bill O'Brien's departure to the resurgence coming along with James Franklin's staff's arrival — it's been another memorable series of verbal commitments to the Nittany Lion program.
But any remaining uncertainty surrounding the program's incoming 2014 players should come to a close Wednesday as National Signing Day allows players a chance to make their commitments official once and for all.
Some questioned whether Franklin and his staff would be able to both retain prominent who had committed to O'Brien, as well as welcome new commits to the class so late in the recruiting season. But after losing just one major commit — four-star defensive tackle Thomas Holley — and hauling in eight additional commitments (including five former Vanderbilt commits) in less than a month, nearly all of these questions have been assertively answered.
Penn State's recruiting class is ranked as the 21st best in the country, according to Scout.com. And while the class may lack the star power that was found in the Christian Hackenberg's and Adam Breneman's of the 2013 recruiting class, this year's group is highlighted by a deep list of promising three- and four-star commitments — tight end Mike Gesicki and wide receiver Saeed Blacknall among them.
"I feel like we've got great teachers. I think we have great coaches, and I think we'll have the most aggressive recruiting staff in America," Franklin said when he introduced his staff in January.
Stick with us throughout the day as we provide live updates on the official word of Penn State receiving what's expected to be about 20 letters of intent today, with a bit of background on each future Penn Stater. (note: all star ratings noted are from Scout.com's listings)
But before introducing those officially joining Penn State today, be sure to recall the five members of this class that have enrolled early and are already on campus, set to begin practice this spring:
- Three-star DE Tarow Barney — Senatobia, MS (committed 4/20/13)
- Three-star QB Michael O'Connor — Bradenton, FL (committed 6/8/13)
- Three-star WR De'Andre Thompkins — Swansboro, NC (committed 4/20/13)
- Three-star DE Antoine White — Millville, NJ (committed 7/1/13)
- Three-star OL Chasz Wright — New Berlin, NY (committed 12/28/13)
Now, let the games begin...
7:14 a.m. — Jason Cabinda announces via Twitter he has faxed in his letter of intent. Penn State confirms soon after that he was first to do so.
Cabinda, a three-star linebacker commit, is officially a Lion. One of the more engaging Penn State commits on Twitter, Cabinda is just as active on social media as he is on the field. The Flemington, N.J. native played both inside linebacker and running back in high school. Standing at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, Cabinda should provide a compact body to roam around on the defensive side of the ball. Formerly committed to Syracuse before pledging his verbal commitment to Penn State in October, Cabinda also received offers from UConn, Maryland, Navy and Temple, among others.
"In my heart, it’s kind of where I always wanted to end up," Cabinda said of Penn State in an interview with the Collegian last October.
7:27 a.m. — Penn State announces Noah Beh has officially signed his letter of intent.
James Franklin promised his staff would dominate the state of Pennsylvania, but his first class — although most of it came from Bill O’Brien’s group — is short on players from the Keystone State. One of the guys hailing from Pennsylvania is Noah Beh, a three-star, two-way lineman from Scranton Preparatory School. Beh stands at 6-foot-7 but just 245 pounds, so he’s got some filling out to do. He’ll likely need at least a year in the weight room before seeing the field and could play either defensive end or offensive tackle, although he projects higher on the offensive side of the ball.
7:31 a.m. — Penn State announces Chance Sorrell has officially signed his letter of intent.
Sorrell is a three-star offensive tackle from Middletown, OH who was originally committed to Franklin's staff at Vandy. He is listed at 6-foot-6, 250, and the No. 80 player at his position by Scout. Sorrell was a notable verbal commitment in terms of time frame, as he committed on the same night Franklin was officially introduced as the Lions' new coach. Earlier this week, Sorrell told the Collegian how he found out Franklin would be extending an offer from Penn State.
“About 9:30, I got a call, and it said Pennsylvania at the bottom of my phone. So I’m like, ‘Hey, turn everything down,’ ” Sorrell said. “And we all went into the kitchen. I answered the phone and honestly just hearing coach Franklin on the phone was a big relief.”
7:46 a.m. — Penn State announces Troy Apke has officially signed his letter of intent.
Apke is a three-star wide receiver Penn State snagged right under the nose of Pittsburgh. A Mt. Lebanon, Pa. native, Apke ranks as the 12th-best wideout in the state and 73rd nationally by Rivals. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound pass catcher will add depth to a unit that has seen the departure of senior Brandon Felder and, more importantly, Allen Robinson, the Big Ten's most prolific receiver the past two seasons. Along with his offer from Pitt, other schools such as Georgia Tech, Kentucky and Minnesota offered Apke.
7:53 a.m. — Penn State announces Amani Oruwariye has officially signed his letter of intent, making him the fifth commit to be made official today.
The Tampa native was the last former Vandy commit to flip to Penn State, doing so less than a week ago. Oruwariye is the 61st-ranked player at his position, according to his profile on Rivals.com, and joins four other three-star defensive backs in Penn State’s incoming recruiting class. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound corner said it was more than just following Franklin that enticed him to come to Penn State.
"We have a good class coming in. A new coaching staff ready to work," Oruwariye told the Collegian Wednesday. "It’s just everything is falling into place. Everything is set up perfectly."
8:00 a.m. — Penn State announces Grant Haley has signed his letter of intent.
A one-time Vanderbilt commit, three-star cornerback Grant Haley made his flip to Penn State official. Haley, an Atlanta native, played both corner and running back in high school. Standing at just 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, Haley has a above average speed, clocking the 40-yard dash at 4.4 seconds according to Scout. The same recruiting site tabs instincts and change of direction as a couple of Haley's strengths. And given the fluidity of Penn State's secondary, Haley has a chance to garner time as a freshman. The corner also held offers from Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin, among others.
8:04 a.m. — Penn State announces Trace McSorely has officially signed his letter of intent.
The three-star quarterback was also formerly committed to Vandy, but did not alter his commitment until after a new coach was hired in Nashville. McSorely is listed at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds and hails from Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, Va. He's a crucial piece of the puzzle for Penn State, even in 2014, as he offers a third scholarship quarterback option that had not previously been there following Tyler Ferguson's transfer.
“Just how the whole staff meshes together," McSorely said of what he likes most about Penn State's coaches in an interview with the Collegian. "They’re all pushing to reach the National Championship level and that’s what I want as a player. I want to be a part of a team and want to be leading a team to that National Championship level.”
8:12 a.m. — Penn State announces Troy Reeder has officially signed his letter of intent.
Reeder is a three-star recruit who verbally committed to Penn State after being recruited by then-linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden almost a full year ago. Vanderlinden's resignation did not deter Reeder from coming to Penn State however. While Reeder has played both sides of the ball successfully at Salesianum School (Wilmington, Del.), the 6-foot-3, 232-pounder is expected to play linebacker for the Nittany Lions. Reeder is also a two-sport athlete, having received a lacrosse scholarship offer from North Carolina. In 2013, Reeder was named defensive player of the year in the state of Delaware after helping Salesianum to a state title. Scout lists Reeder as the 17th best middle linebacker recruit in the country, while Rivals has him tabbed as the 32nd best outside linebacker in the nation. Reeder is a 4.0 student, while receiving other offers from Boston College, Miami (Fla.), Pittsburgh, and James Franklin's former team, Vanderbilt, among others.
"That's why going through the recruiting process, everyone tells you, 'You need to pick the school.' That's what I based my decision on," Reeder said after O'Brien left for the Texans. "I just love Penn State so much...Coach O'Brien did a great job of recruiting Penn State guys, and that's why I think we'll stick together."
8:17 a.m. — Penn State announces Saeed Blacknall has officially signed his letter of intent.
It took until less than two weeks before National Signing Day, but Penn State received a verbal commitment from a wide receiver some felt could make a serious impact in the 2014 season in Blacknall. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound four-star wideout formerly committed to Rutgers. The Englishtown, N.J. native is the fourth four-star recruit to commit to the Nittany Lions’ incoming class, per Scout.com. Blacknall had fielded offers from many top-tier programs, such as Alabama, LSU, Michigan and Ohio State. Scout.com lists Blacknall as the 13th best receiver in this class.
“He’s got the quickness and the courage to go over the middle,” Scout.com recruiting analyst Brian Dohn said of Blacknall. “He’s got the speed to be on the outside and get behind the defense. He’s not afraid to catch the ball in traffic. He knows how to use his size and his length to fend off defensive backs.”
8:29 a.m. — Penn State announces DaQuan Worley has officially signed his letter of intent, making him the 10th commit to be made official so far today.
DaQuan Worley was recruited by Ron Vanderlinden and Bill O’Brien’s staff, but sent in his letter of intent to James Franklin and Co. Wednesday morning. Worley is a three-star cornerback from Coatesville, Pa. He had offers from Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Georgia Tech.
8:37 a.m. — Penn State announces Chris Godwin has officially signed his letter of intent.
Penn State has compiled one of the best receiving/tight end groups of any 2014 class, and four-star Chris Godwin is a major part of that. Rivals ranks him as the No. 21 receiver in the nation and No. 146 player overall. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder from Middletown, Del., was the 2012 Gatorade State Player of the Year after catching 42 balls for 834 yards and 12 scores. He was an all-state selection on both sides of the ball in 2012, as well.
“He honestly can be on the field every single play,” Mark DelPercio said, Godwin's Middletown High School coach told the Collegian last April. “We’re not talking about a receiver that’s just fast, we’re talking about a kid who’s not afraid to mix it up. When you watch Chris play, you can appreciate that he can bring a lot to the table.”
9:00 a.m. — Penn State announced Mike Gesicki has officially signed his letter of intent.
Despite Ohio State reportedly making a push for Gesicki after Bill O'Brien left Penn State, the blue-chip tight end remained committed to the Nittany Lions and should provide Christian Hackenberg with another valuable target in the near future. Gesicki is a four-star tight end standing at 6-foot-6, 215 pounds from Manahawkin, N.J. The prospect attends Southern Regional High School, the alma mater of now-former Penn State linebacker Glenn Carson. According to Scout, Gesicki was recruited as both a tight end and wide receiver. Scout noted that Gesicki has soft hands and balanced body control, but would need to improve blocking. Sounds a lot like Adam Breneman, doesn't it? Like Breneman, Gesicki was much sought after, garnering offers from multiple schools, including Florida State, Miami (Fla.), Wisconsin and, of course, the Buckeyes.
9:15 — Penn State announces Brendan Brosnan has officially singed his letter of intent.
Brosnan, another former Vanderbilt commit, pledged his verbal commitment to Penn State less than 48 hours after James Franklin was introduced as the Nittany Lions' new head coach. Brosnan is big-bodied offensive tackle, brining his 6-foot-6, 274-pound frame to Happy Valley. A native of Park Ridge, Ill., Brosnan is a three-star prospect, ranks as the 27th-best player in Illinois according to Rivals, and is the nation's 38th-best offensive tackle according to Scout. Brosnan also received offers from Illinois, Maryland, N.C. State and Virginia Tech, among others.
9:34 a.m. — Penn State announces Nick Scott has officially signed his letter of intent.
The second verbal commit of the 2014 class is a three-star running back who played his high school ball in Fairfax, Va. Scott weighs in at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds and is the No. 61 player at his position, per Scout. Before committing close to a year ago, Scott received an offer from Boston College and interest from Maryland, West Virginia and Tennessee, among other schools. In speaking with the Collegian last year, Scott said his Pennsylvania roots — he grew up in Lansdale — affected his ties to Penn State.
“Penn State is a part of who I am and it’s never left my mind,” Scott said last February. “I’ve received a lot of questions about the sanctions, but I’m not really paying attention to that. If you love the game of football and you have a great team and fan base and you respect each other, that’s all that matters.”
10:02 a.m. — Penn State announces that Torrence Brown has signed a letter of intent to join the program, making him the 15th commit to be made official today.
The only signed commit who hadn't previously committed to the Nittany Lions' program, Brown is a two-star athlete, per Scout, (receiving three stars from other recruiting services) hailing from Tuscaloosa, Ala. Brown had been previously committed to Southern Mississippi, and has seen the field at the linebacker position, in the secondary, as well as at tight end and in the backfield for Tuscaloosa Academy. Penn State had 19 verbal commitments (following the decomittment of Lloyd Tubman) and was expected to add a new commit on Signing Day.
10:13 a.m. — Penn State announced Christian Campbell has signed a letter of intent to join the Nittany Lions.
Campbell, who verbally committed to Penn State just days ago, made his pledge to the Nittany Lions official by faxing in his letter of intent. Campbell is a three-star safety hailing from Phenix City, Ala. who will instantly add depth to a secondary that could use it. Campbell stands at 6-foot-1, weighs 181 pounds and runs a pretty solid 40-yard dash (he was clocked at 4.5 seconds according to Rivals). Campbell also yielded scholarship offers from Boise State, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri and others.
10:23 a.m. — Penn State announced Koa Farmer has made his verbal pledge to the Nittany Lions official.
A former California commit, three-star athlete Koa Farmer made his flip to Penn State official. Farmer, hailing from Sherman Oaks, Calif., previously pledged to the Golden Bears, but was swayed to the Nittany Lions in recent weeks. Standing at 6-foot-2, 207 pounds, Farmer is an interesting prospect, having played multiple positions in high school (free safety, outside linebacker and wide receiver, according to Scout). Farmer also had offers from Vanderbilt, Washington, Wisconsin and others.
“I’ve seen him play wildcat quarterback, receiver, running back, safety, linebacker and he’ll even go out and cover the slot as a corner sometimes,” Scout Kennedy, director of scouting for Scout.com, told the Collegian. “…It’s not so much where he’d be best at — it’s where he’d be best for you.”
10:32 a.m. — Penn State announced Johnathan Thomas has signed his letter of intent.
Thomas gave his pledge to Maryland in May, but rescinded that commitment in October to become a Nittany Lion. Thomas attended St. John’s Prep in Massachusetts --- O’Brien’s alma mater. The three-star running back had offers from Boston College, Arkansas, UMass and UConn, among others. He’s already solid at 5-foot-11, 215 pounds and ran for 1794 yards and 15 touchdowns on 220 carries in 2012.
10:40 a.m. — Penn State announced Mark Allen has signed on to be a Nittany Lion.
Allen, in recruiting time, committed long ago to the Nittany Lions and has stuck by his word. The 5-foot-7, 185-pound three-star running back pledged in October of 2012. Allen is listed as an all-purpose back by Rivals. The Hyattsville, Md., native had offers from Temple, Wake Forest and Cincinnati. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in 2012 and 24/7 Sports rates his speed and explosiveness high, but build and power low.
11:09 a.m. — Penn State announced Marcus Allen has signed his letter of intent.
Allen wraps up Penn State's 2014 recruiting class, capping National Signing Day as the Nittany Lions' 20th pledge of the day. Allen could have gone just about anywhere in the country. According to Rivals, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound safety had offers from Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Arizona and Stanford, among many others. Ultimately, the three-star recruit stuck with the Lions as well after committing in May of 2013.