Week in and week out, I’ll be fielding your Penn State football questions and answering them here in the mailbag — and we got a good mix this week.
Let’s take a look:
What’s the deal with this early signing period, and how does it affect Penn State? Sam, from West Chester
On Friday, the NCAA approved a three-day period in December in which players can sign with schools. The long-standing National Signing Day will still remain the first Wednesday in February, but this three-day period is basically for those recruits who are firmly committed to a team and don’t want to deal with texts from coaches of competing schools. So how does it impact the Nittany Lions? Well, it should only help them. Penn State is competing with the Alabamas and Ohio States for prospects, and any way to get those players signed earlier — before other powerhouses can swoop in with late offers — is a plus for James Franklin and his staff.
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Overall, this idea seems like something Franklin would favor. He said as much back in October: “To me, the big thing is, the kids that were going to always go to Penn State, let’s lock them up for everybody. The kids that were always going to go to school Z or school Y, let’s get them locked up and signed, and I think that’s going to help out a lot of people in the process.” Franklin saw the advantages to an early signing period, “as long as we pick the right model.” When we speak to Franklin next week, we’ll see for certain what he thinks of this one.
Think Lamont Wade starts this year? From @NeverHillDog on Twitter
If you asked me this question a few weeks ago, I’d say no. Wade would end up earning playing time, but not starting. That’s changed quite a bit. Veteran cornerback John Reid reportedly went down with a knee injury, putting his 2017 season in doubt, leaving seniors Grant Haley and Christian Campbell to take over the primary spots. But with how frequently the nickel is used, defenses essentially need three starting corners; James Franklin referred to Campbell as his third starter last season. So who’s No. 3 now? Amani Oruwariye? Zech McPhearson? Corner is a deep position for Penn State, but judging by all the praise this spring and Reid’s injury, it looks as if Wade is in-line for that No. 3 quasi-starter role. Redshirt junior safety Nick Scott said earlier this week that Wade’s been “killing it at corner,” and we found out from Haley after Wednesday’s practice that Wade is leading all defensive backs with three interceptions this spring camp. Spring ball stats only mean so much, but every player we’ve spoken to this spring hasn’t had a bad thing to say about Wade. Keep an eye on No. 38 in the Blue-White Game.
Obviously Saquon is No. 1 — but who is No. 2 on the depth chart? Sanders? A-Rob? Allen? From @6ryanhunt9 on Twitter
My sports editor Josh Moyer and I actually discussed this on the second episode of “Airing It Out,” our Penn State football podcast. Basically, if Saquon were to go down, who would step up? Or if we’re avoiding catastrophic situations, who is the first guy behind Barkley to get breather reps? I think Miles Sanders is Penn State’s No. 2 back. He was the No. 1-rated running back recruit in 2016 for a reason — his balance, speed and elusiveness were not only fun to watch in spurts last season, but I think he has what it takes to be a successful every-down back. When Barkley inevitably leaves Penn State after this season and becomes a first-round pick, it’ll likely be The Sanders Show in 2018 — might as well get him work when possible. That’s not to say Andre Robinson couldn’t be a bell-cow back; his power around the goal-line was obvious last season, and he was working with Trace McSorley and the first-team in the brief window of Wednesday’s practice the media saw, so that’s interesting. But I prefer Sanders’ skill set to Robinson’s. With Mark Allen, he might start at a lot of other schools in the country. But with his size — 5-foot-6, 181 pounds — and shiftiness, he fits more as a pass-catching option out of the backfield for the Nittany Lions.