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Penn State Lands Two More Class of 2021 Commits

Photo by Kami Brand

The Nittany Lions are on a recruiting run as of late. You almost began to wonder if they were going to cool down for a little bit. Then, early-afternoon Wednesday, head coach James Franklin & company did it again. Then moments later, again.

Penn State lands one of the nation’s top kickers, in the 2021 class, Sander Sahaydak from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Kickers aren’t put through the same evaluation as most recruits, but he is still considered highly touted.

Moments later the Nittany Lions found their quarterback for the future when former Canadian, now Maryland native and four star quarterback, Christian Veilleux committed. He is a 247 Top 300 player and the 15th best pro-style QB in his class. He was also holding offers from numerous schools including Clemson.

With these two commits, Penn State’s 2021 class now sits at 10 verbal commits, which is 14th best in the country, currently 6th best in the Big Ten.

How Can Penn State Catch Ohio State?

Photo by Kami Brand

In the Big Ten it’s the Ohio State Buckeyes and then everyone else. That is the undeniable truth.

In the past four seasons, Ohio State is 49-6 and boasts a 33-3 conference record (16′ loss at Penn State, 17′ loss at Iowa, and 18′ loss at Purdue). To put it plainly, it has been utter dominance.

So how do the Nittany Lions rise to the same level? Well, it’s important to note that Penn State has played the Buckeyes as well as anyone in the past four years: both the 2017 and 2018 games were heartbreakers with a single point separating the Lions from the Buckeyes. Last year’s game wasn’t as close, but it was also probably Ohio State’s most talented team since 2014 and it was in Ohio Stadium.

As close as the Nittany Lions were to knocking off the Buckeyes, there are also no moral victories in College Football. The pair of losses in 2017 and 2018 were a figurative Ohio State stiff arm–keeping Penn State out of arm’s reach.

Let’s take a closer look:


Recruiting is the fuel to any college football program. Obviously every program has to be able to develop their players to be successful, something Michigan has struggled with. But the top-tier teams are able to consistently develop their four and five star recruits. So it doesn’t matter how well the Iowas and Wisconsins improve their three star players, they will never consistently keep up with the schools that are recruiting and developing their blue-chip recruits.

That is simply why Ohio State has dominated the Big Ten.

 

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Look at the above data. Ohio State has dominated the Big Ten when it comes to recruiting. In 2019, the Nittany Lions did edge out the Buckeyes. The class has players who will look to make a major impact in 2020: Noah Cain, Brandon Smith, Adisa Isaac, John Dunmore, and Devyn Ford. But for the most part Ohio State has had their way when it comes to recruiting. Typical recruiting battles between the Buckeyes and Wolverines in Michigan and Ohio have been won by Ohio State. Furthermore the Buckeyes have stolen big time players from Pennsylvania like five star receiver Julian Fleming. To top it off, the Buckeyes have been recruiting on a national level rivaling the likes of Georgia and Alabama.

It’s no surprise that the strong 2018 and 2019 Penn State recruiting classes came after the Nittany Lions returned to greatness in 2016. However, the 2016 Big Ten Championship is long gone; high school recruits were only 11-14 years old when James Franklin raised that trophy. The Nittany Lions need to continue to defend why their product is better than Ohio State’s.

Because right now it isn’t.

On top of the recruiting imbalance, Ohio State continues to attract top-level transfers to their program. The most gut-wrenching one? Justin Fields transferring from Georgia to Columbus, who was at one time committed to Penn State. Just yesterday, Oklahoma running back and graduate transfer, Trey Sermon, announced he too will be transferring to Ohio State.

Penn State’s biggest addition via the transfer portal? A specialist. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions have lost big time players such as Juwan Johnson, Justin Shorter, and Ricky Slade. Perhaps Penn State fans won’t miss any of them, but the program still needs to find a way to entice a couple playmakers where their depth is shallow.


It’s hard to compete against Ohio State with the number of blue chip players on their roster. But it’s important to note that Penn State doesn’t need to beat the Buckeyes every time they play them to narrow the gap. But when they have the opportunities to win, they must capitalize. The single-point losses in 2017 and 2018 halted the momentum of the entire program not because they lost to Ohio State, but how and when they lost. Losing by one-point, twice, leaves a stinging resonance within the entire program. Even a split in those games would have helped close the distance between the programs. Instead, losing both those games, then losing the following week to Michigan State lagged the program’s growth and let Ohio State separate.

The loss in 2019 didn’t change the opinions of many, Penn State wasn’t supposed to beat one of the best teams in the country on their home-field. But now let’s fast forward to the 2020 season.

Penn State is returning a ton of experience, a stout defense, and a couple game-changers on both sides of the football. Let’s focus in on the last point because I believe that is what makes the difference between the elite and the great programs. Having team speed and disruptive linemen help you dominate the lesser opponents, but the game changing playmakers are the ones that swing the game in your favor against evenly matched teams. Think Saquon Barkley, Chris Godwin, KJ Hamler.

Penn State will still be looking for a few more game changers in their receiving corps, but they have promising prospects eager to prove themselves. All things considered, given how much Ohio State has to replace, this appears to be a season where Penn State can move one step closer to Ohio State.

And beating Ohio State every couple years along with capitalizing on other primetime matchups is the only way to narrow the gap and truly compete with the Buckeyes.

And if they don’t beat them in 2020 then they will just move further away.

Evaluating Penn State Players at the NFL Combine

This weekend five former Penn State Nittany Lions took part in the 2020 NFL Draft Combine to showcase their skills in front of NFL scouts, coaches, and general managers. Here is our evaluation for each of them.

KJ Hamler WR

Grade: B

The knock on KJ Hamler heading into Indy was always going to be his size. He didn’t necessarily help himself with his weigh-in under 180 pounds. That being said, the flashy receiver benched 15 reps at 225, which was impressive for any receiver. Hamler didn’t run his 40 this weekend though because of a tweaked hamstring. He claims he will run a Β sub-4.3. It’s safe to say his stock will highly depend on that time, more than it would for other receivers.

Yetur-Gross Matos DE

Grade: B-

Yetur-Gross Matos was never going to wow anyone away with his bench press showing. The defensive end’s length was a talking point though. Gross-Matos was measured with 82 2/8″ wingspan and almost 35″ arms. That length is something that cannot be coached or taught. Like Hamler, Gross-Matos didn’t run his 40.

Robert Windsor DL

Grade: A

Robert Windsor went into Indianapolis with very little to lose and it showed. Windsor put together an impressive combine and boosted his stock. He ran a sub 5.0 forty, which would bode well for any interior defensive linemen. Furthermore, his hustle and pass rush ability appears on his tape as well as his measurables. I am not sure where he is going to go but I can see him lasting in the NFL for a long time.

Cam Brown LB

Grade: C

This was an important weekend for Cam Brown and he didn’t put his best foot forward. The linebacker only managed 16 reps on the benchpress, which was only one better than his former teammate, KJ Hamler. That disappointing result is partially due to his length, but it still doesn’t look good for an undersized linebacker. Furthermore, his 40 time, 4.72 was not as fast as he would’ve liked it. He will look to improve his stock at Penn State’s pro day, where he will look to get that 40 time possibly under 4.70 at the very least.

John Reid

Grade: A

John Reid closed out the NFL Combine for the Nittany Lions with a strong performance. The former Nittany Lion defensive back was once a possible candidate to leave early for the NFL, but was held back with a couple injuries. One important aspect of the NFL Combine is the medical evaluations during the week, which plays a pivotal role for players like Reid. If he passed those tests without any red flags then this week was already a successful one for him. Furthermore, his hips were as fluid as any during the on-the-field drills. He capped off his performance with a sub-4.50 40, which was one of the question marks heading into the combine. Oh and it doesn’t hurt when Hall of Famer, Deion Sanders says you look smooth:

Top Reactions to the Lawsuit Filed against Penn State, James Franklin

Yesterday, a lawsuit was filed by former Penn State DB Isaiah Humphries and his representatives against Penn State, James Franklin, and ex-teammate Damion Barber. The lawsuit accused Penn State players of hazing Humphries and numerous other players, Franklin and his staff of knowing about the hazing, and essentially accusing the Penn State coaching staff of setting Humphries up to fail in practice.

So, with such a huge story coming out with details that have such strong claims against the Penn State Football program, of course social media was a buzz about the lawsuit. Those in the anti-Penn State crowd of course made their headlines and comments revolving around the “I am going to Sandusky you” threat mentioned in the lawsuit. And others made their comparisons to the Jerry Sandusky scandal when this lawsuit came out yesterday afternoon.

But, many in the Penn State community, including the players and the university itself, gave their thoughts on the lawsuit and many of them are quite suspicious of why this lawsuit was filed.

First, here was Penn State’s official response to the lawsuit.

It appears that Penn State did their own investigation and sent their results to the Centre County District Attorney. The District Attorney went over the case and decided charges should not be pursued. The case seems pretty cut and dried based on the statement from the university.

Now, many of the players that were on the team with Isaiah Humphires gave their reactions, as well.

This one is from 2019 Penn State captain Garrett Taylor.

Taylor was in the same position group as Humphries and as a captain, his word carries a lot of weight with the team, the coaches, and the media that covers the team. Another captain and another member of the defensive backs group Jonathan Sutherland, a player who had racist comments toward him this year and handled them with the utmost grace, seems to side with Taylor here.

Lamont Wade, yet another player who was in the Penn State defensive backs group with Humphries added several comments on Twitter, as well. In addition, Wade entered the transfer portal after the 2018 season, just as Humphries did. However, Wade obviously came back to Penn State and had a big 2019 season while Humphries opted to transfer to the University of California. Here is what Wade had to say.

All three of these players beat out Humphries on the depth chart and Wade seems to think that has something to do with this lawsuit coming out yesterday.

Cam Brown, another captain of the 2019 team, added his comments.

Former Penn State Offensive Lineman Ryan Bates took to Twitter and was very adamant on the lawsuit. He later deleted the tweet from his Twitter account.

Overall, it seems that from the Penn State players that this is the case of a disgruntled player who did not earn his playing time and wants some type of revenge for it. The university has conducted their investigation and the Centre County DA reviewed the case and found no reason for charges to be filed. Specific financial terms have not come out of what Humphries and his camp are looking for from this lawsuit.

But, the consensus around the Penn State Football program is that these allegations are false and they are willing to strongly defend the program until this lawsuit is settled.

Former Player Sues Penn State and James Franklin

A lawsuit has come out revealing hazing allegations involving the Penn State Football program and its players. Former Penn State Isaiah Humphries claims to have been hazed by former teammates Damion Barber, Yetur Gross-Matos, Micah Parsons, and Jesse Luketa. In the lawsuit, Humphries names Penn State, James Franklin, and Barber as defendants.

The hazing allegations are of both sexual and threatening nature. There are several key points that Humphries mentions in the lawsuit that build his case.

  • Forcing victims on the ground and shoving their genitals in their face or putting them between the victims’ buttocks and humping them.
  • Jesse Luketa threatened to gun down Humphries if he ever visited “his city” in Canada.
  • Players would say “I am going to Sandusky you” in the locker room in reference to the Jerry Sandusky case.
  • Hazing occurred in places on campus such as the Lasch Building.
  • Coaches witnessed the hazing but did not do anything to stop it.
  • Underclassmen were threatened with sexual assault.

Humphries entered the transfer portal after the 2018 season and claims in the lawsuit that he did so because of the hazing. He ultimately decided to go to the University of California. He sat out the 2019 season because of transfer rules.

Humphries’ lawyer for the case is attorney Steven F. Marino. Marino is the same lawyer who filed a lawsuit against the James Franklin and the university in the fall of 2019. He represented former team doctor Scott A. Lynch, who filed suit because he claims James Franklin urged him to have injured players return to the field.

More to come as more details come out, players react, and the university and Coach Franklin speak to the media.

Penn State Early Signing Day Recap

The Early Signing Day period, which has become essentially the official National Signing Day, saw Penn State sign 27 prospects in their 2020 class. As of 2 PM ET on Wednesday, Penn State has the 12th best class nationally and the third best class in the Big Ten behind just Ohio State (3) and Michigan (11). Here is a breakdown of the 2020 recruiting class that James Franklin and his staff brought in on Wednesday.

The 2020 Class By The Numbers

According to 247Sports, this class features 11 4-star prospects and 16 3-star prospects. Two of the prospects, Ji’Ayir Brown and Norval Black, come from the JUCO ranks by way of Lackawanna College in Scranton, PA. As a whole, the 27 recruits that signed on Wednesday come from 14 different states, districts, or countries. Here is the breakdown:

  • Pennsylvania (4)
  • Virginia (4)
  • Maryland (4)
  • Florida (2)
  • Michigan (2)
  • New Jersey (2)
  • Canada (2)
  • Connecticut (1)
  • District of Columbia (1)
  • Indiana (1)
  • Nevada (1)
  • New York (1)
  • Ohio (1)
  • Texas (1)

In terms of the roster, it seems that James Franklin was able to fill out a well-rounded class that has depth all the way around. Franklin added a QB in this class in dual threat QB Micah Bowens from Nevada. They also added two running backs in the 2020 class, just one year after adding Noah Cain and Devyn Ford in the 2019 class. Caziah Holmes and Keyvone Lee are both 4-star prospects from Florida who will add to an already crowded running back room.

In addition, six wide receivers and tight ends are within this class. TE Theo Johnson is the #3 TE in the class and is a 4-star prospect. Three wide receivers, KeAndre Lambert, Parker Washington, and Jaden Dottin are 4-star prospects, as well. Malick Meiga, a 3-star recruit from Canada, is a 6’4″ WR, and the previously mentioned Norval Black is a 3-star prospect from Lackawanna College.

On the offensive line, Penn State signed five prospects on Wednesday. All five are 3-star prospects, according to 247 Sports. Three of the lineman are offensive tackles and two are slotted to play on the inside at either guard or center. J. Christ, Jimmy Christ that is, is the top rated offensive lineman of the group. He stands at 6′ 7″ 295 lbs from Virginia. Olu Fashanu is a tackle and Golden Israel-Achumba is a guard, both listed at 6′ 5″ 320 lbs, also both from the DMV area. 6′ 5″ 290 lb tackle Ibrahim Traore and 6′ 4″ 300 lb guard Nick Dawkins round out the offensive lineman from the 2020 class. Dawkins is the son of basketball legend Darryl Dawkins.

On the defense, James Franklin made it a priority to continue to beef up the defensive line. Seven defensive linemen signed with Penn State on Wednesday, the most signees of any position in the 2020 class. Cole Brevard and Coziah Izzard are both 4-star prospects listed at defensive tackle. Zurriah Fisher from Aliquippa is also a 4-star prospect that is a 6′ 3″ 255 lb defensive end. The other four defensive ends are Amin Vanover (DE), Brandon Taylor (DE), Bryce Mostella (DE), and Fatorma Mulbah (DT). They are all 3-star prospects.

Behind them, two linebackers, including class headliner Curtis Jacobs, will be Nittany Lions in 2020. Jacobs is the highest ranked player in the Penn State 2020 class, according 247Sports. He is listed as the 44th best prospect in the entire class. The other linebacker in the 2020 class is Tyler Elsdon from Pennsylvania. Elsdon is an inside linebacker who is the 5th best prospect in the state.

Penn State also signed three defensive backs, including 4-star prospect Enzo Jennings. Jennings is the 157th ranked player in the nation. He projects as a safety for the Nittany Lions. The other two defensive backs are rangy 6′ 2″ cornerback Joseph Johnson and JUCO transfer Ji’Ayir Brown.

Tyler Warren is listed as a 6′ 6″ 235 lb athlete. He has high school quarterback experience but has the size of a tight end. It will be interesting what kind of mold the Penn State coaching staff places on Warren when he steps foot on campus.

For more here is James Franklin recapping his 2020 recruiting class with Big Ten Network

For a complete rundown on all 27 recruits from 247Sports, click here.

 

 

 

#10 Penn State is Cotton Bowl Bound

Penn State fans were hoping to be California Dreamin’. But, instead, they will settle for their third New Year’s Six Bowl appearance in four seasons. After finishing 10th in the College Football Playoff Rankings, Penn State will head to Dallas to play in Cotton Bowl.

The Cotton Bowl will be played on December 28th at 12 PM on ESPN.

After an impressive(?) showing in the Big Ten Championship, #8 Wisconsin will go to the Rose Bowl to face Oregon.

Penn State will face the #17 Memphis Tigers, who won the American Athletic Conference Championship and qualifies for a NY6 bowl as the highest ranked Group of 5 team. This is Penn State’s first appearance in the Cotton Bowl since 1975, where they defeated Baylor, 41-20.

With a win in the Cotton Bowl, Penn State would win their 11th game for the third time in four seasons. In addition, it would be their second straight victory in a New Year’s Six Bowl.

What do you think of the College Football Playoff Committee’s decision? Do you like Penn State playing in the Cotton Bowl?

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