Intents were declared and futures were inked by Penn State’s latest class of incoming football players on Wednesday morning.
Scattered around the country, Penn State’s recruits sent in their National Letters of Intent, which arrived on fax machines and computer screens inside a midsized room on the second floor of the Lasch football building.
Inside, as breakfast was served and highlight reels lit up the handful of flat-screen TVs in the room, Penn State coach James Franklin sat at the head of a long conference table. There, over the few hours, Franklin bounced from phone call to phone call, swapping cells with assistant coaches before announcing each member of Penn State’s 2014 recruiting class in an NFL Draft format.
It didn’t take long for all the letters to come in and for Penn State’s 2014 recruiting class to be solidified. When the final letter was faxed in, the latest group of Nittany Lion freshmen stood at 25. It boasts players from 15 different states, 10 team former team captains, four players who won state titles and is the Big Ten’s third-best class and the nation’s 24th best according to 24-7 Sports.
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“It’s an exciting day for us,” Franklin said. “The staff and the team has worked really, really hard at putting this class together, so today was really about celebrating the class. I thought we did a great job of that. There was really no drama involved with it. All the faxes we were expecting came in.”
Flemington, N.J., linebacker Jason Cabinda was the first to send in his letter Wednesday morning, and was soon followed by Scranton offensive lineman Noah Beh and Middletown, Ohio, offensive lineman Chance Sorrell.
Also joining Penn State in time for training camp will be running backs Mark Allen (Hyattsville, Md.), Nick Scott (Fairfax, Va.) and Jonathan Thomas (Danvers, Mass.); linebacker Troy Reeder (Wilmington, Del.); offensive lineman Brendan Brosnan (Park Ridge, Ill.); receivers Troy Apke (Pittsburgh), Chris Godwin (Middletown, Del.) and Saed Blacknall (Englishtown, N.J.); cornerbacks Daquan Worley (Coatesville), Grant Haley (Atlanta) and Amani Oruwariye (Tampa, Fla.); safeties Koa Farmer (Riverside, Calif.) and Christian Campbell (Phenix City, Ala.); tight end Mike Gesicki (Manahawkin, N.J.); and quarterback Trace McSorley (Asburn, Va.)
Swansboro, N.C., athlete De’Andre Thompkins; Bradenton, Fla., quarterback Michael O’Connor; Senatobia, Miss., defensive tackle Tarow Barney; Millville, N.J., defensive tackle Antoine White; and New Berlin, N.Y., offensive tackle Chasz Wright had already enrolled at Penn State. Thompkins, O’Connor and White attended the War Room event.
And while Upper Marlboro, Md., safety Marcus Allen was the final player to send in his letter, Tuscaloosa, Ala., defensive end Torrence Brown became the final commit in the 2014 class, when he announced his intention to attend Penn State early Wednesday morning.
Brown’s commitment brought an end to a frenetic final month for Penn State’s new coaching staff wherein eight players verbally committed to the Nittany Lions in a 19-day span. Franklin said he and his assistants considered rolling over a few scholarships to next year before the final pieces fell into place.
“The staff kept recruiting and kept making the phone calls and finding guys that we had relationships with and seeing if they were interested,” Franklin said. “Only if we felt like that was a great fit for us. ... We weren’t going to go dig up guys we didn’t know or didn’t have relationships with in the past and I think that really helped. Very, very impressed with the staff and the class and how we were able to close strong at the end.”
Five of those final pieces were former Vanderbilt recruit who followed Franklin and his assistants to Happy Valley.
Brosnan, Haley, McSorley, Oruwariye and Sorrell had all previously committed to the Commodores.
“I go to sleep at night feeling really good about how we conduct our business,” Franklin said. “When we got the job, we called all the Penn State commitments, had great conversations with them, kind of told them who we were. And then the next thing we did was we called all of our former Vanderbilt commitments to let them know what happened and why, and to be honest with you a lot of those kids started recruiting us. That’s because of the relationship.”
While a hectic recruiting schedule has kept him from doing a lot of relationship building with current Penn State players, Franklin has established an understanding of what the roster needs from here on out. He identified offensive tackle and safety as position groups that the Nittany Lions had to stock up on in this class.
They accomplished that.
With only two scholarship tackles on the roster at the conclusion of last season, Franklin’s staff added four offensive linemen who all project as outside blockers. Beh, Brosnan, Sorrell and Wright are all 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds or heavier.
Meanwhile, three of Penn State’s most experienced safeties — Adrian Amos, Jesse Della Valle and Ryan Keiser — will be out of eligibility at the conclusion of next season. Franklin wanted to stock up on the position. Penn State added three safeties on Wednesday.
While a few month still stand between the majority of the recruiting class and actually taking part in a practice, defensive recruiting coordinator Terry Smith is hoping this will turn out to be a special group.
“I can remember when I went through Penn State. My senior year we had 11 guys drafted,” Smith said. “That’s a heck of a football team. Six guys that were co-captains and are all coaching today. So we want a class like that that can impact Penn State and make us better. All the plays look a whole lot better with a better player.”