Penn State is welcoming four more early enrollees this weekend — and James Franklin called the additions "significant."
Quarterback Will Levis, tight end Pat Freiermuth and defensive linemen P.J. Mustipher and Judge Culpepper, as first reported by Blue-White Illustrated, will start their careers in Penn State's first summer session, which begins Monday.
Franklin confirmed at Tuesday's Coaches Caravan stop that the four freshmen would join the six January enrollees in Happy Valley, and on Thursday, during his final stop in the nation's capital, the head coach explained why it's a positive having Levis, Freiermuth, Mustipher and Culpepper on-campus early.
"It's six weeks more time to get comfortable socially, build some friendships and figure out who their big brothers and mentors are going to be," Franklin said. "Six more weeks in the weight room, which is a considerable amount of time, especially for the true freshmen because they have the biggest gains because it's such a dramatic change for them. It's just more time, more time for them to get comfortable, more time for them to learn the playbook, more time for all those things."
Levis, a three-star quarterback from Connecticut, is expected to redshirt in 2018 with Trace McSorley, Tommy Stevens and Sean Clifford firmly entrenched as the starter, backup and third-string, respectively. But the other three might see playing time. Tight end is an iffy spot for Penn State, and Freiermuth — a 6-foot-5, 250-pound four-star prospect — can be an option as the Nittany Lions replace Mike Gesicki. Meanwhile, defensive tackle depth is a question mark, and Mustipher and Culpepper can chip in.
For three possible contributors in 2018 and a quarterback who might lead Penn State a few years down the line, this six-week headstart could prove vital.
At the very least, the four newcomers — along with January enrollees Micah Parsons, Jesse Luketa, Zack Kuntz, Nick Tarburton, Trent Gordon and Isaiah Humphries — can assist the remaining 13 freshmen who will arrive in late June.
"It'll be interesting because now when the rest of the freshman class show up, it'll be those six guys plus those four guys that can kind of help them from an adjustment period because they've already started the process," Franklin added. "They just are going to be further ahead."