The core of Penn State’s 2021 recruiting class is in place and signed following Wednesday’s National Signing Day.
The class is headlined by offensive tackle Landon Tengwall and wide receiver Lonnie White Jr., but the Nittany Lions secured players at a handful of positions.
Penn State’s offensive and defensive recruiting coordinators, Tyler Bowen and Terry Smith, spoke with the media about the 2021 class.
The Nittany Lions brought in Canadian quarterback Christian Veilleux this recruiting cycle, and he is the lone quarterback currently committed in the 2021 class.
A long time prospect of Penn State’s, Veilleux’s relationship with Bowen and the team was key in securing and evaluating the quarterback with the lack of access to recruits due to the coronavirus.
“You look at this class, it was very valuable to have information and live [evaluations] on a guy like Christian,” Bowen said. “It turned out that his skillset and what we were looking for at quarterback for the program also matched what we wanted to do offensively.”
Bowen mentioned new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca had been interested in Veilleux before coming to Penn State, and the fit between the player and the system was ideal.
“Christian is a guy that, as a program, we had been recruiting for a while,” Bowen said. “It really was just a match for what we were looking to do schematically and his skillset.”
White is coming into Penn State as a dual-sport athlete as he is set to play baseball as well as wide receiver.
White’s versatility between sports is something that stood out to Smith, reminding him of the Nittany Lions’ past recruiting styles.
“Lonnie White is kind of like the old school Penn State guy,” Smith said. “When Paterno used to recruit, he would recruit all the multi sport athletes, guys that can kind of do a little bit of anything like Sean Lee and all those guys.”
Smith also went on to say White has the potential to play defensive back and possibly strong side linebacker.
As for now, he is listed as a wide receiver and has the potential to make an early impact at that position.
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Along with being Penn State’s offensive recruiting coordinator, Bowen also coaches tight ends for the Nittany Lions.
Khalil Dinkins is a 6-foot-3 tight end out of Wexford, Pennsylvania, and a three-star recruit according to 247Sports.
“You look at Khalil, what I get excited about in a tight end prospect, anyone we’re bringing into that room right now, is a guy that not only has a high ceiling, but also has a high floor,” Bowen said.
Penn State had to rely on multiple true freshmen in Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren to play snaps at the position this season, while redshirt freshman Brenton Strange took over the No. 1 tight end role after Pat Freiermuth underwent season-ending surgery.
“I think that’s what you’re getting with Khalil,” Bowen said. “If you look at his skillset compared nationally, he really jumped up my list and ended up being one of my favorites in the entire class, and obviously the favorite when it came down to it.”
The offensive line might be the best position group in this class from the way that Bowen speaks about it.
Tengwall and Nate Bruce headline the position group and could potentially play as freshmen next year.
“You talk about two quality offensive linemen, for high school prospects they’re very physically ready to come in and play college football,” Bowen said. “Obviously there’s going to be a little bit of a jump in speed of the game and things like that, but you look at their size, their strength, their athleticism — we’re super excited about both of them from that standpoint.”
Bowen said he has had the opportunity to see Bruce play in-person multiple times before the coronavirus altered the amount of games he could go to.
“He’s an aggressive football player, he’s what you look for in a big-time interior offensive lineman,” Bowen said. “Great feet, strong at the point of attack, really long and clan play with length inside, all those physical traits are there.”
Bowen has known Tengwall since he was in eighth grade, and the offensive tackle has been on the Nittany Lions’ radar ever since.
“We couldn’t be more excited about those two guys, and we really feel like we hit a home run in the offensive line department in this class.” Bowen said.
Three out of Penn State’s top five recruits in this class are defensive backs, and the Nittany Lions will welcome the reinforcements.
With the potential departures of Tariq Castro-Fields, Jaquan Brisker and Lamont Wade in the secondary, a few players from this class could be set to play in their first year with the program.
“If you look at our history, each year there are one or two guys who are going to play as a freshman,” Smith said. “We’re looking for an immediate impact at safety, and an immediate impact at corner — hopefully it’s two guys and maybe it could be three guys.”
Zakee Wheatley is a 4-star safety out of Maryland, and his versatility is something that has caught Smith’s eye throughout the recruiting process.
“Zakee brings tremendous flexibility, positional flexibility with his size, his length, his speed and athleticism,” Smith said. “He can play the corner or either of the safety positions and possibly the dime and the nickel as well.”
Joining Wheatley at defensive back in the 2021 class are Kalen King, Jeffrey Davis Jr. and Jaylen Reed.
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