Penn State's 2012 class was a scramble; A mad dash to fill in spots with bodies that would make Mario and Luigi proud. For some schools, like Ohio State, it's easy to do this, especially if your main targets include a majority of players committed to other schools. In the midst of the turmoil of the scandal in State College, however, the Nittany Lion brand was not as strong as it once had been. As a result, the 2012 class looks nothing like the 2013 class, which has already pulled in promising national studs like Adam Breneman and Christian Hackenburg. Scholarship numbers needed to be filled, and I suppose Bill O'Brien deserves a hat tip for even being able to pull that off in a month while also coordinating for the Patriots.
The quarterback position was manned by GA QB Steven Bench, a late decommitment from Rice. I've normally had a pretty high opinion of the level of talent in Georgia, but Bench clearly plays in a weak conference. In some plays, it looks he's playing more against pop warner level talent than high schoolers. Still he's got a bit of athleticism and a decent arm, but the fan reaction is pretty much summed up by this comment on Bench's highlight tape.
PLEASE Be the answer at QB....
Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
NY RB Akeel Lynch claimed offers from several heavy hitters such as Oklahoma and (I guess) Ole Miss, but committed to the Lions a few days before NSD. Many Michigan fans are familiar with the disease I find prevalent in Lynch's highlight film, appropriately named BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE. Still, he is a hard runner and a touch better at hitting the hole than Mike Shaw.
One of the few bona fide studs of the class comes in the commitment of PA WR Eugene Lewis. There isn't a whole lot of film out on him, but he looks like an agile, elusive playmaker, although his top end speed is questionable. Still, he's one of the few prospects in the class that's reminiscent of traditional levels of talent Penn State normally manages to accrue. CT WR Malik Golden is a speedster with good explosion, but he simply doesn't strike me as a natural wide receiver. He has plenty of athleticism to turn into a potent threat in the future, but his more immediate path may involve a lot of screens and special teams duty. I'm not sold that WA WR Jonathan Warner is a two-star, but his upside isn't far beyond that. IMO, he's the least likely to make a splash of the three.
MD TE Brent Wilkerson is a decent tight end, but I had hoped that Michigan would land him for the defensive side of the ball. In my opinion, switching him to tight end somewhat limits his NFL potential, although I do understand the heavy role that the position plays in Bill O'Brien's offense.
After seeing prospects like CO OT Joey O'Connor, PA OT JJ Denman, PA OL Chris Muller, and NY OT Jarron Jones slip through their fingers, Penn State was once more forced to settle when filling out the big uglies up front. OH OL Anthony Stanko, who spent his high school career blocking for Michigan commit Deveon Smith, stuck with his commitment from March of '11. PA OT Jesse James (NOTY?) is another long time commit that stuck through all of the turmoil, but that may be more of a product of having few other options (Toledo being his only other one listed). At 250 pounds, it should be a long time before he sees the field. Another late grab came in the form of NJ OL Wendy Laurent, who may end up a decent center for the Nittany Lions. MD OL Brian Gaia, a teammate of Michigan commit Henry Poggi at the Gilman school, is pretty limited in his upside. I'm not all too high on his athleticism.
The defensive line group is another stacked with numbers, but not necessarily talent. NJ DT Austin Johnson is sort of an enigma. I can't find much film out there on him, and his only other offer came from Villanova. Another NJ DT, Jamil Pollard, was highly touted, but curious in that he chose to recommit to Penn State before they ever named Bill O'Brien the coach, as they were still in a state of limbo. VA DT Derek Dowrey has good athleticism for his 300+ pound frame, but is slow getting off the ball. PA DE Evan Schwann, the last addition to the class, looks like nothing more than a space filler to me.
The only linebacker of the group, PA LB Nyeem Wartman, is a vicious attacker, but looks stiff in the hips and slow to diagnose and attack plays. Their '13 linebacker haul gives me a bit more hope than Wartman.
3 of the last players to join the class were defensive backs, and all garnered the same (deserved) reaction; meh. Two teammates, MD DBs Trevor Williams and Da'Quan Davis, both dropped on January 22nd. Williams flashes good hands as a WR, but can't seem to get much separation which doesn't reflect all too positively on his athleticism. Davis garnered first team all state recognition, and does have an innate playmaking ability, but speed is a question mark there. Of the three, my favorite is probably MA DB Jordan Lucas. He's no where near perfect, but is an excellent open field tackler. If you put some weight on him, he'll start at SS in the future. The last, NH ATH Jake Kiley, could play WR or DB, but probably wouldn't excel at either.
All in all, it's a disappointing class in a disappointing situation. Few of these players seem to have NFL (or All-Conference) type of upside, and a majority may simply end up as depth players throughout their careers. Still, the promise of the '13 class should be enough to sell people on O'Brien's ability to recruit, even in the hardest of times.