Penn State signing day central: Recruit info, video highlights and more

By Derek Levarse - [email protected]
Coach James Franklin and Penn State are expected to bring in 20 or 21 recruits in their 2017 signing class. - Nabil K. Mark | AP file photo, Centre Daily Times

STATE COLLEGE — It’s national signing day for Penn State and the Nittany Lions have finalizing their 2017 recruiting class at 21 players.

The activities began well before sunrise in Happy Valley when coach James Franklin announced a verbal commitment at 6:08 a.m. A few minutes later, New Jersey defensive tackle Corey Bolds confirmed it came from him, boosting the class to 20 players.

Finishing off the group was four-star Maryland defensive back Tariq Castro-Fields, who picked the Lions over finalists Maryland and Alabama in the afternoon.

The Lions’ other top remaining target — four-star receiver Mark Webb from Archbishop Wood outside of Philadelphia — has stuck with his initial commitment to Georgia and officially signed with the Bulldogs.


Below is Penn State’s updated recruiting map, which can be expanded by clicking on the full-screen icon in the upper right corner of the frame.

All recruit rankings and offers represent the 247Sports Composite, which averages the ratings of prospects from 247Sports, Rivals, Scout and ESPN.

If a player’s highlight video does not appear, right-click on the space and select “Reload frame” or click on the player’s name.


DB LAMONT WADE
• Early enrollee, arrived on campus in January. Under Armour All-American. Rated as the country’s top defensive back at any position by Rivals, which lists him at five stars. Projects as a corner but said he could play safety, a spot where Penn State has less depth. Also starred as a running back and return man at PIAA Class A power Clairton and has a chance to play on special teams as well as on defense as a true freshman.
OL C.J. THORPE
• Under Armour All-American. First-team all-state selection. Son of former Penn State letterman Chris Thorpe. Helped lead his team to back-to-back state finals, winning the 2015 Class 4A crown. Penn State had to fight off a late charge from Jim Harbaugh and Michigan to sign one of the country’s top players. James Franklin has now signed Pennsylvania’s highest-rated offensive lineman in each of the last three seasons.
QB SEAN CLIFFORD
• It never hurts to land your quarterback early on in the cycle, and Clifford wasted no time in jumping aboard. The Cincinnati-area native committed way back in July 2015 as the first member of the 2017 class. He has been a chief recruiter for the Lions ever since, and his stock has risen in the last two years at St. Xavier. As a senior, Clifford led the Bombers to a state championship in Ohio’s top division, an improbable run that included some big rallies and even some overtime magic. Clifford fits the mold of what Penn State wants in its signal callers — a pass-first guy who’s comfortable running it himself. He finishes the cycle as Ohio’s top-rated quarterback and as the country’s No. 8 pro-style passer. Was a finalist at the Elite 11 camp and was selected to the Under Armour All-America Game but did not play because he was scheduled for shoulder surgery for a torn labrum in January.
DL YETUR GROSS-MATOS
• Conference player of the year who has the potential to be the Lions’ top player in this cycle. Not only possesses the frame for a big-time pass rusher, he already has the production. Led the entire state of Virginia with 18.5 sacks as a senior and broke Chancellor’s single-season and career sack records. Has overcome multiple personal tragedies, including the deaths of his biological father and older brother.
DL FRED HANSARD
• Originally committed to Florida, flipped to Penn State on Nov. 27. Projects as a defensive tackle, a position that has been hit-and-miss for the Lions in recruiting. The top-rated defensive lineman in New Jersey and a first-team all-league selection, he collected 51 tackles (14 for loss), 8.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two recoveries as a senior. Helped lead Hun to to consecutive championships in 2015 and 2016.
LB ELLIS BROOKS
• Under Armour All-American. Penn State lost a commitment from Virginia’s top-rated linebacker but managed to replace him with the state’s No. 2 linebacker. The Lions looked to be in a bind when long-time pledge Dylan Rivers flipped to Virginia Tech just 10 days before signing day. A late offer here and a last-minute official visit landed the box linebacker they needed. Family friends with former Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson.
DB JONATHAN SUTHERLAND
• One of a handful of Canadian transplants to enroll at the Alexandria, Va., boarding school in recent years, many of whom have gone on to major programs. Known as a hard-hitting presence in the secondary who excels in run support. One of the first big wins on the recruiting trail for Banks in his first year on the Lions’ staff. Has a chance to play early because depth at safety isn’t as strong as it is at corner.
DB TARIQ CASTRO-FIELDS
• The final member to join the 2017 class seemed to keep most people in suspense right until his announcement at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. Predictions flew back and forth in favor of both Penn State and Maryland before the Nittany Lions ultimately won out. Former high school teammate of current Lions freshman corner Zech McPhearson. A first-team All-Met selection, he did not allow a completion against him in his senior season.
DL DAMION BARBER
• Took a big leap in his senior season, earning first-team all-state honors as Harrisburg reached the PIAA Class 5A championship game. Recovered from a knee injury as a junior to record 13 sacks and 27 tackles for loss as a senior, earning defensive player of the year honors from PennLive. His presence could help the Lions land his talented teammates in DE Micah Parsons and WR Shaquon Anderson-Butts in 2018.
WR K.J. HAMLER
• Early enrollee, arrived on campus in January. Had been playing at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, alma mater or former Lions Allen Robinson and Rob Bolden, before transferring to IMG. But that senior season ended right at the start because of a torn ACL, which he will contine to rehab at Penn State. Best known for his speed, projects as a slot receiver who can also stretch the field and serve as a dynamic return man.
DB DONOVAN JOHNSON
• U.S. Army All-American. First-team all-state selection by the Detroit Free Press. Captained a talented Cass Tech roster to an undefeated season and a state championship as a senior. Known best for his speed, he was also a talented running back, scoring four touchdowns in his team’s closest game in 2016. Also shined as a return man, returning three kickoffs for scores in his senior year.
DL COREY BOLDS
• Jumped on board before the sun came up on the morning of signing day. Officially visited Penn State back in November, but it wasn’t clear if the Lions would have room for him in the class with scholarships getting tight. Transfers of two other defensive tackles in Antoine White and Brenon Thrift likely played a role in PSU giving him the green light. A space-eater in the middle from one of New Jersey’s top programs.
LB BRELIN FAISON-WALDEN
• Early enrollee, arrived on campus in January. Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas selection. Some schools looked at him as a safety, some as a linebacker, which is where he will play for Penn State after bulking up. His athleticism drew the attention of major schools and earned scholarship offers from every major conference including national finalists Alabama and Clemson. Has shown talent in coverage and as a pass rusher.
OL MIKE MIRANDA
• Early enrollee, arrived on campus in January. Respected enough by opposing teams near Youngstown that he was named his league’s offensive player of the year, a rare honor indeed for a lineman. Played tackle in high school but will most likely man the interior at Penn State. Lions coaches have already mentioned how much they like his aggressiveness and demeanor on the field.
WR CAM SULLIVAN-BROWN
• Recruited by some schools as a defensive back, projects as a receiver at Penn State. First-team All-Metro selection by the Baltimore Sun. Caught 51 passes for 751 yards as a senior. Showed off his hands and athletic ability on defense as well, picking off eight passes and returning three of them for touchdowns. That versatility helped earn him earn a rating as Maryland’s top wide receiver prospect.
WR MAC HIPPENHAMMER
• Indiana’s highest-rated receiver got a late offer from Notre Dame, but the Lions managed to hold off the Fighting Irish down the stretch. Earned Mr. Football honors from the Indianapolis Star after helping his team win 12 games and a conference title. Scored 18 total touchdowns — with four coming on specials teams — as a senior as both a receiver and a rusher. Caught nearly 100 passes over the last two years.
OL ROBBIE MARTIN
• Committed to the Lions along with fellow offensive lineman C.J. Thorpe at the Blue-White Game in April. Has the frame to play guard or tackle down the road. Hails from. Hails from a high school known for putting out strong linemen. Got a boost in his rating from a solid senior season that saw his team win nine games while averaging more than 200 yards per game on the ground.
OL DES HOLMES
• irst-team all-state selection in Class 4A. One of a handful of Lions offensive line recruits who saw his stock shoot up during his senior season. Described as a late-bloomer before 2016, he earned a scholarship offer with a strong showing at one of Penn State’s camps. For a change, the Lions have managed to build up enough offensive line depth that new recruits will have more time to develop.
LB BRAILYN FRANKLIN
• Linebacker. Wide receiver. Tight end. Cornerback. And yes, nose guard. After moving from Texas to Northern Virginia, one of Penn State’s most intriguing recruits played just about everywhere in high school, though linebacker is where he’s set to play for Penn State. Regardless of the position on defense, he excelled at getting to the quarterback, finishing his junior year with 17 sacks.
RB JOURNEY BROWN
• First-team all-state selection in Class 5A. Those who have heard of him before know him from one of the wildest games in high school football history. In 2015, Meadville beat Dubois 107-90, a game in which he ran for — wait for it — 720 yards and 10 touchdowns. His four-year total at Meadville topped 7,000 yards and 100 touchdowns on the ground. Received an offer late in the process from Penn State and jumped aboard.
DB D.J. BROWN
• Began receiving scholarship offers from around the country during his senior season. Transferred from a Class A school to Class 5A Creekside helped give him a boost with his development. Played all over the secondary but projects as a cornerback for Penn State, which he committed to after his first visit to campus during the spring. Helping sway him was another Georgia cornerback in Grant Haley.

PENN STATE SCHOLARSHIP CHART
QB 2017 2018 2019 2020
Trace McSorley Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Tommy Stevens Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Jake Zembiec Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Sean Clifford Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Justin Fields Freshman Sophomore Junior
Totals 4 5 4 3
RB 2017 2018 2019 2020
Mark Allen Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Johnathan Thomas Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Saquon Barkley Junior Senior RS available
Andre Robinson Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Miles Sanders Sophomore Junior Senior RS available
Journey Brown Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Totals 6 6 3 1
WR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DaeSean Hamilton Senior (RS)
Saeed Blacknall Senior RS available
DeAndre Thompkins Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Brandon Polk Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Irvin Charles Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Juwan Johnson Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Dae’lun Darien Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
K.J. Hamler Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Cam Sullivan-Brown Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Mac Hippenhammer Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Justin Shorter Freshman Sophomore Junior
Totals 10 9 8 5
TE 2017 2018 2019 2020
Mike Gesicki Senior RS available
Nick Bowers Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Jonathan Holland Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Danny Dalton Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Zack Kuntz Freshman Sophomore Junior
Pat Freiermuth Freshman Sophomore Junior
Totals 4 5 5 3
OL 2017 2018 2019 2020
Andrew Nelson Senior (RS)
Brendan Mahon Senior (RS)
Chasz Wright Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Noah Beh Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Brendan Brosnan Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Ryan Bates Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Steven Gonzalez Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Sterling Jenkins Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Connor McGovern Sophomore Junior Senior RS available
Michal Menet Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Will Fries Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Alex Gellerstedt Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Mike Miranda Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
C.J. Thorpe Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Robbie Martin Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Des Holmes Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Chris Bleich Freshman Sophomore Junior
Totals 16 15 12 8
DL 2017 2018 2019 2020
Parker Cothren Senior (RS)
Curtis Cothran Senior (RS)
Tyrell Chavis Senior (RS)
Torrence Brown Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Kevin Givens Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Ryan Buchholz Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Shareef Miller Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Robert Windsor Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Shane Simmons Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Ellison Jordan Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Daniel Joseph Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Shaka Toney Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Antonio Shelton Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Yetur Gross-Matos Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Fred Hansard Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Damion Barber Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Corey Bolds Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Micah Parsons Freshman Sophomore Junior
Totals 17 15 14 10
LB 2017 2018 2019 2020
Brandon Smith Senior (RS)
Jason Cabinda Senior RS available
Koa Farmer Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Manny Bowen Junior Senior RS available
Jake Cooper Junior Senior RS available
Cam Brown Sophomore Junior Senior RS available
Brelin Faison-Walden Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Ellis Brooks Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Brailyn Franklin Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Totals 9 7 4 3
DB 2017 2018 2019 2020
Marcus Allen Senior RS available
Grant Haley Senior RS available
Christian Campbell Senior RS available
Troy Apke Senior RS available
Amani Oruwariye Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Nick Scott Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
John Reid Junior Senior RS available
Ayron Monroe Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Garrett Taylor Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Jarvis Miller Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Johnny Petrishen Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Zech McPhearson Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
T.J. Johnson Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Lamont Wade Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Jonathan Sutherland Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Tariq Castro-Fields Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Donovan Johnson Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
D.J. Brown Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Isaiah Humphries Freshman Sophomore Junior
Totals 18 15 11 7
ST 2017 2018 2019 2020
Tyler Davis Senior (RS)
Blake Gillikin Sophomore Junior Senior RS available
Alex Barbir Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Totals 3 2 2 1
TOTALS 87 79 64 42
AVAILABLE 0 6 21 43

Players in italics are non-binding verbal commitments

Coach James Franklin and Penn State are expected to bring in 20 or 21 recruits in their 2017 signing class.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/web1_psunsd20172171954618-8.jpgCoach James Franklin and Penn State are expected to bring in 20 or 21 recruits in their 2017 signing class. Nabil K. Mark | AP file photo, Centre Daily Times

By Derek Levarse

[email protected]

Reach Derek Levarse at 570-991-6396 or on Twitter @TLdlevarse

Reach Derek Levarse at 570-991-6396 or on Twitter @TLdlevarse