Penn State Football

Overview of Penn State football’s 2018 recruiting class

Coach Franklin excited about high ranked recruiting class

Penn State football coach James Franklin talks about some of the signees.
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Penn State football coach James Franklin talks about some of the signees.

Wednesday was a historic day in Happy Valley.

After Day 1 of the newly introduced, 72-hour early signing period, Penn State finished with a top-5 class. The Nittany Lions signed 21 prospects with six players enrolling early: Micah Parsons, Jesse Luketa, Zack Kuntz, Nick Tarburton, Trent Gordon and Isaiah Humphries.

Here’s an overview of Penn State’s 2018 class so far — and where the prospects fit in on the team.

Quarterback (1)

Will Levis, three stars, 6-4, 222, from Xavier (Middletown, Conn.): Levis — the lone signal-caller in the class — joins a quarterback room with Trace McSorley, Tommy Stevens, Sean Clifford, Michael Shuster and Jake Zembiec.

Levis is the No. 2 player from Connecticut and No. 25 pro-style quarterback in the country and threw for 2,771 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior.

The only FBS offers Levis had were from Florida State, Ball State, Central Michigan, Ole Miss, Iowa, North Carolina, Connecticut, Cincinnati, UMass, Southern Miss, Ohio, Western Michigan, Syracuse and Toledo. He also had interest from FCS powers like Albany, Dartmouth, Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Fordham, Rhode Island and Princeton.

He was primarily committed by Joe Moorhead, but stayed committed to new offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne and Penn State.

Running back (1)

Ricky Slade, five stars, 5-9, 185, from C.D. Hylton (Woodbridge, Va.): With Andre Robinson transferring and Saquon Barkley expected to make the NFL leap, Slade could be in for playing time. At the very least, the No. 2 rusher in the nation will provide stiff competition for Miles Sanders, Mark Allen and Journey Brown.

Slade, the No. 24 overall player in the country, was named Virginia’s Gatorade Player of the Year — starring as a running back, receiver and kick returner. He showcased all three skills in a 64-35 win over Colgan on Oct. 6 — rushing for 343 yards and five touchdowns on 13 carries, returning two kicks to the house and adding a receiving score.

Slade racked up 1,978 rushing yards, 2,700 all-purpose yards and 40 total touchdowns as a senior.

The 5-foot-9 back — who committed to Penn State on Feb. 3 — had offers from Clemson, Ohio State, Florida, Miami, Tennessee and more.

Wide receiver (3)

Justin Shorter, five stars, 6-4, 213, from South Brunswick (Monmouth Junction, N.J.): Since committing in August 2016, Shorter’s stock has risen considerably. At the time of his verbal pledge, the New Jersey pass-catcher was a four-star prospect. Now, the five-star recruit is the highest-ranked player in Penn State’s class.

Shorter — the No. 3 wide receiver and No. 15 prospect in the country — is a productive mismatch. He racked up 1,822 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns on 112 receptions (16.3 yards per catch) the past three seasons.

He had offers from Miami, Michigan, Tennessee, Wisconsin and more before picking Penn State.

Shorter earned invites to the Under Armour All-American Game and Nike’s The Opening Finals.

Jahan Dotson, four stars, 5-11, 165, from Nazareth (Nazareth, Pa.): James Franklin and his staff stole a talented wide receiver out from under Chip Kelly’s nose.

Dotson — the No. 5 prospect from Pennsylvania and the No. 35 wide receiver in the country — flipped from UCLA to Penn State.

Dotson set Nazareth’s school records for career receptions (187), receiving yards (2,755) and receiving touchdowns (40). As a senior, he tallied 62 catches for 889 yards and 15 scores.

While interest cooled after committing to UCLA on Sept. 4, Dotson received offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, Southern California and more heavy-hitters.

Daniel George, four stars, 6-1.5, 201, from Oxon Hill (Oxon Hill, Md.): George — a four-star prospect and No. 44 wideout in the country — isn’t as heralded as Shorter, but was just as productive.

A star at Oxon Hill High School in Maryland, George tallied 1,867 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns on 113 receptions over his high school career. The 6-foot-2 target nabbed 61 catches as a senior.

When he committed to Penn State back in July, George had offers from North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Iowa, West Virginia and more.

Tight end (2)

Zack Kuntz, four stars, 6-7, 221, from Camp Hill (Camp Hill, Pa.): The future early enrollee is the No. 3 player in Pennsylvania and the No. 4 tight end in the nation. A 6-foot-7, 221-pound mismatch, Kuntz recorded nearly 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns over four years.

Before choosing the Nittany Lions, he had offers from Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Florida State and more. He picked up interest from LSU and Oregon later, but stuck with Penn State.

Kuntz is one of two tight ends in Penn State’s 2018 class, joining Massachusetts product Pat Freiermuth. With senior Mike Gesicki moving on, Kuntz, like Freiermuth, could work his way into playing time right away.

Pat Freiermuth, four stars, 6-5, 250, from Brooks School (North Andover, Mass.): Freiermuth — the No. 1 player in Massachusetts — is the No. 8 tight end in the country.

An all-around threat and 2016 all-state pick, Freiermuth tallied 53 catches, 1,140 yards and 13 touchdowns catches the past two seasons.

Freiermuth verbally committed to Penn State on Aug. 16, 2016. Prior to that, he had offers from UMass, Syracuse, Toledo, Boston College and Duke. After he chose Penn State, Notre Dame and Ohio State came calling, but to no avail.

Offensive line (3)

Nana Asiedu, four stars, 6-5, 265, from North Stafford (Stafford, Va.): Asiedu, who recently earned the final spot in January’s Army All-American Bowl, is a coveted member of Penn State’s class.

Asiedu — a four-star prospect who ranks as the No. 8 offensive tackle in the country — committed to Penn State at the 2017 Blue-White Game. Prior to that, the 6-foot-5, 265-pound force fielded offers from Florida State, Clemson, Southern California, UCLA, Auburn, Georgia, Michigan, Texas and more.

Asiedu is the No. 97 player in the country.

Fredrick “Juice” Scruggs, four stars, 6-3, 270, from Cathedral Prep (Erie, Pa.): Scruggs is the No. 4 center in the country and No. 9 player in Pennsylvania. The Cathedral Prep (Erie) product stands at 6-foot-3, 270 pounds.

Scruggs had offers from Ohio State, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State and more.

Bryce Effner, three stars, 6-5, 285, from Metea Valley (Aurora, Ill.): Effner — a 6-foot-5, 285-pound presence — was the No. 8 player in Illinois and No. 48 offensive tackle.

He held offers from only Kansas, Kansas State, Syracuse, Minnesota and Duke.

Defensive line (3)

PJ Mustipher, four stars, 6-4.5, 290, from McDonogh School (Owings Mills, Md.): With the departure of seniors Curtis Cothran and Parker Cothren, the four-star Maryland prospect could make an impact as a freshman.

Mustipher is Penn State’s highest-rated interior defensive lineman. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound presence is the No. 6 defensive tackle in the country and comes in at No. 111 overall.

Mustipher, who committed to Penn State on Aug. 7, chose Penn State over Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan, Miami, Ohio State, Michigan State and more.

He was recently selected to play in the Under Armour All-American Game.

Aeneas Hawkins, three stars, 6-3, 265, from Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati, Ohio): Hawkins — the cousin of former Cincinnati Bengals wideout Andrew Hawkins — is the No. 16 player in Ohio and No. 30 defensive tackle in the nation.

Before choosing Penn State on Aug. 10, Hawkins had offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oklahoma.

Judge Culpepper, three stars, 6-5, 256, from Plant (Tampa, Fla.): Culpepper, the No. 20 strongside defensive end in the country, has the size to play anywhere on the front-four. The three-star Tampa native is the No. 82 player in Florida and son of former Florida All-American Brad Culpepper.

Culpepper had 77 tackles, nine tackles for loss and eight sacks as a senior at Plant High School.

He had offers from Alabama, Florida, LSU, Notre Dame, Southern California and more.

Linebacker (4)

Micah Parsons, five stars, 6-3, 235, from Harrisburg (Harrisburg, Pa.): Parsons — the No. 4 player in the country — is Penn State’s second-highest rated prospect since 247 Sports’ ratings began in 2000. He trails only Class of 2005 headliner Derrick Williams.

Parsons is the top Pennsylvania prospect per 247 Sports and the No. 1 defensive end nationally — but will start out at middle linebacker. As a senior at Harrisburg High School, he tallied 55 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss and 27 rushing touchdowns.

After verbally committing to Penn State last February and then decommitting, Parsons ultimately picked Penn State over Georgia, Oklahoma, Nebraska and a bevy of other programs.

Jesse Luketa, four stars, 6-3, 238, from Mercyhurst Prep (Erie, Pa.): Luketa — the leader of Penn State’s class — ranks as the No. 9 inside linebacker in the country. A Mercyhurst Prep product, Luketa — originally from Canada — is the No. 10 player in the Keystone State.

The 6-foot-3, 238-pound linebacker had 74 tackles, seven tackles for loss, four sacks and three interceptions as a senior.

While Luketa was a hot commodity with 31 total offers, the big-time interest didn’t come until after his junior season. After committing to Penn State on Feb. 3, the linebacker received offers from Ohio State, Georgia, Louisville, Oklahoma, Baylor, Florida, Michigan State and more.

But Luketa — who actively recruited other players to Penn State on Twitter throughout the process — never wavered in his commitment to the Nittany Lions.

Nick Tarburton, four stars, 6-3.5, 242, from Pennridge (Perkasie, Pa.): Tarburton is the No. 11 inside linebacker in the country and No. 11 player in Pennsylvania.

Tarburton had a mightily productive high school career. The 6-foot-3, 242-pound linebacker racked up 294 total tackles in three years and had 19, 17 and 11 tackles for loss as a senior, junior and sophomore, respectively.

He had offers from Louisville, Michigan State, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rutgers.

Charlie Katshir, three stars, 6-3, 210, from Cumberland Valley (Mechanicsburg, Pa.): Katshir is the No. 19 player in Pennsylvania. He ranks as the No. 35 outside linebacker in the country, but made the Class 6A Football Writers All-State Team as a safety.

Katshir was a two-way star for the Eagles. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder recorded 1,081 total yards (715 receiving, 366 rushing) and 15 touchdowns as a senior.

Katshir had offers from Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Boston College, Rutgers and Virginia.

Cornerback (2)

Trent Gordon, three stars, 5-11, 180, from Manvel (Manvel, Texas): Gordon — the No. 38 player in the country and a top-50 Texas prospect — is a welcomed addition to Penn State’s secondary.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound corner committed to Penn State on Feb. 29 after tallying 81 tackles as a junior.

Gordon had offers from Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Tennessee and even Yale and Dartmouth.

Jordan Miner, three stars, 6-1, 183, from Wiregrass Ranch (Zephyrhills, Fla.): Miner — a multi-faceted threat — is officially at Penn State’s disposal.

The No. 36 cornerback nationally, Miner’s ratings may not just off the page. But his athleticism does.

The 6-foot-1, 183-pound all-purpose player not only tallied seven interceptions and 17 passes defended the past two seasons, but also made an impact on special teams. As a junior and senior, Miner racked up 669 kickoff return yards on 23 attempts (29.1 yards per).

With Saquon Barkley likely moving on, Miner could compete for Penn State’s primary kickoff returner spot.

Safety (1)

Isaiah Humphries, three stars, 5-11, 191, from Sachse (Sachse, Texas): Humphries is the No. 36 safety in the 2018 class and No. 67 player from Texas.

As a senior at Sachse High School, he recorded 60 tackles, seven interceptions and five tackles for loss.

Humphries, who committed to Penn State on Dec. 31, 2016, had offers from Oklahoma, SMU, Houston, Duke, Northwestern, Colorado, Cal, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Illinois before choosing the Nittany Lions. After picking Penn State, he received interest from Baylor, Notre Dame, Arkansas and Kansas.

Specialist (1)

Jake Pinegar, three stars, 6-2, 195, from Ankeny Centennial (Ankeny, Iowa): Tyler Davis’ possible replacement has signed with Penn State.

Pinegar — the No. 9 kicker in the country — could be the Nittany Lions’ 2018 starting kicker with Davis departing and Alex Barbir transferring. He joins rising redshirt freshman Carson Landis and senior Nick DeAngelis as Penn State’s kicking options.

Pinegar told the CDT in August that he can hit field goals from 65 to 70 yards out in practice.

Pinegar had offers from Indiana, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois and Western Illinois.

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9

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