Updated look at Penn State's 2016 recruiting class

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about 18 hours ago

Penn State picked up the team’s 15th verbal commitment in the 2016 class Tuesday afternoon and the addition of defensive end Daniel Joseph continues expanding the footprint of this class.

The Lake Forest (Ill) prospect is the 12th player from outside of Pennsylvania to give the Lions a verbal pledge, continuing to follow the staff’s philosophy of recruiting nationally by position while continuing to try and keep the top in-state talents at Penn State. So far that’s been the case for the most part as running back Miles Sanders, center Connor McGovern and offensive lineman Michal Menet, all among the top in-state talents are on board with Penn State.

Even with it being the NCAA’s dead period until July 12 the staff will continue working their phones while also focusing on beginning to put the 2017 class together. It’s about that time of year where one or two players from the 2017 cycle begin making college decisions and it was nearly a year ago that Penn State picked up verbal pledges from the first two 2016 members in Sanders and 4-star defensive end Shane Simmons.

I caught up with Sanders before he heads out to The Opening next week (look for a Q&A with him on here Wednesday morning) who was the first 2016 prospect to give James Franklin his pledge. Staying committed for about 19 months, which is what it will be by signing day, is a long time for any high schooler to keep his or her mind set on one place.

Here’s where the 2016 class stands with the addition of Joseph:

Name High School Position Rivals Ranking
Christian Colon Independence (NC) DT 3-star
Danny Dalton Marshfield (Ma) TE 3-star
Michael Dwumfour De Paul Catholic (NJ) DT 2-star
Will Fries Cranford (NJ) OL 4-star
Alex Gellerstedt Coffman (OH) OL 3-star
Blake Gillikin Westminster (Ga) P 3-star
LaVert Hill Martin Luther King (MI) DB 4-star
Ellison Jordan Gilman (Md) DT 4-star
Daniel Joseph Lake Forest (Ill) DE 3-star
Connor McGovern Lake Lehman (Pa) C 4-star
Zechariah McPhearson Riverdale Baptist (Md) DB 3-star
Michal Menet Exeter Township (Pa) OL 4-star
Miles Sanders Woodland Hills (Pa) RB 4-star
Shane Simmons Dematha (Md) DE 4-star
Jake Zembiec Aquinas Institute (NY) QB 4-star

Audrey Snyder: and Twitter: @audsnyder4

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QB Christian Hackenberg will be Elite 11 counselor

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about 22 hours ago

Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg is no stranger to Nike’s high school showcase event known as the Elite 11. The Nittany Lion junior participated in the event the summer before his senior year of high school and received rave reviews while lining up with the the best quarterbacks in his recruiting class.
Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg (14) throws a pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan State in State College, Pa. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

This time around Hackenberg will be in a different role. The Elite 11 confirmed to the Post-Gazette that Hackenberg will be one of the program’s counselors for next week’s event. The three-day competition, held July 5-7 at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., tests the high school quarterbacks in all aspects of their game. Physical and mental toughness, situational drills and film study are all evaluated while the players learn from former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer and college and professional athletes that Elite 11 brings in. 

For Hackenberg this means the chance to mentor future Penn State quarterback Jake Zembiec who earned his spot to the Elite 11 after competing last month in the semifinals in Los Angeles. Zembiec, who is verbally committed to Penn State’s 2016 recruiting class, will have a chance to work with some of his future teammates and Penn State recruiting targets later in the week when the premier showcase for all the players, known as The Opening, takes place. 

Last year Ndamukong Suh, Richard Sherman and Tyrann Mathieu were among the guests The Opening brought in to help players through drills while college quarterbacks Sean Mannion, Connor Cook, Everett Golson, Travis Wilson and Bryce Petty served as the Elite 11 counselors. Given Hackenberg’s previous participation in the event, coupled with many pundits pegging him as a future first-round NFL draft pick, the pairing makes sense. 

Hackenberg is coming off a shaky sophomore season where an inexperienced offensive line played a big role in the offense’s struggles while he was sacked 44 times and threw 12 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. The former five-star prospect will have more experienced receivers around him this year and the offensive line with more than a year together needs to find a replacement for left tackle Donovan Smith. 

There will be plenty of Penn State ties out in Oregon next week that extend beyond Hackenberg and Zembiec. Woodland Hills running back and 2016 Penn State verbal commit Miles Sanders will participate in The Opening along with fellow classmates Shane Simmons and LaVert Hill. Penn State recruiting targets Oluwole Betiku, who is LaVar Arrington’s adopted son, will be on hand and so will receiver target Trevon Diggs and running back D’Andre Swift. Central Catholic standout cornerback Damar Hamlin will be in attendance as well.

Audrey Snyder: and Twitter: @audsnyder4

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New Penn State statue up on campus

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 1 day ago

Penn State’s 2013 class gift was installed Tuesday morning and by the looks of it the 12 foot, mirror polished We Are... statue will be a hit. 

Located on the east side of Penn State’s Intramural Building, close enough to Beaver Stadium, the Bryce Jordan Center and Pegula Ice Arena, the statue is also supposed to have the words to the alma mater in the original handwriting of the creator, Fred Lewis Pattee. Seeing fans and students flock to the statue will likely be the new norm on football Saturdays as onlookers check it out between tailgates. 

It’s been nearly three years since the bronze Joe Paterno statue, which was the only statue in that area near the stadium, was removed in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. A new statue, featuring Paterno sitting on a bench reading a book, is slated to be located downtown in front of The Tavern restaurant, which is off of Penn State property. The initial completion date for the project was November 2015. 

Other notable Penn State class gifts include the Nittany Lion Shrine (1940), Beaver Field electric scoreboard and timer (1926), Beaver Stadium entrance gate (1960), sundial on Old Main lawn (1966), Beaver Stadium victory bell (1978) and plenty more that can be found here. 

Audrey Snyder: and Twitter: @audsnyder4

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Penn State adds third verbal commitment of the week

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 5 days ago

Remember last spring when James Franklin mentioned defense tackle as an area of need in the upcoming recruiting classes?

Penn State took another step toward filling the void Franklin mentioned this offseason when the Nittany Lions secured a verbal commitment from three-star defensive tackle Christian Colon Thursday evening. The Independence (Charlotte, N.C.) High Schooler picked Penn State over scholarship offers from the likes of North Carolina, Mississippi State, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Miami and UCLA. 

The 6-foot-3, 325-pound prospect is the second defensive lineman to give his verbal pledge to Penn State this week, joining future classmate and fellow three-star defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour who did so on Tuesday. Punter Blake Gillikin gave Penn State his verbal commitment on Sunday, bringing the 2016 class to 13 members with more than seven months until Signing Day. 

Colon’s verbal pledge bumped Penn State up to No. 9 in the 247Sports 2016 recruiting rankings, moving the Nittany Lions past Georgia. Penn State is 10th in Rivals’ class ranking.

Penn State’s class is fourth in the conference in the 247Sports rankings, behind Ohio State (3), Michigan State (6) and Michigan (7). 

In the spirit of the never-ending world that is college football recruiting, Penn State will host a prospect camp Friday from 6-9:30 p.m. under the lights in State College. Penn State’s staff wrapped up their satellite camp tour last week with a stop at Old Dominion and Friday’s prospect camp will be their last one until after the NCAA’s dead period concludes on July 12. 

Audrey Snyder: and Twitter: @audsnyder4

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Jim Haslett joins Penn State football staff

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 6 days ago

Former NFL head coach and Pittsburgh native Jim Haslett found a new home and this time it’s not in the National Football League.

Haslett, who brings 26 years of coaching experience to the job, joined the Penn State football staff as a team consultant, James Franklin announced Wednesday.  

“Jim has an outstanding football mind and invaluable experience that will be a tremendous resource,” Franklin said in a statement. “He has great knowledge of the game at the next level and we plan to put that to good use. He will work with our offensive, special teams and defensive coaches and will be a fantastic sounding board for our staff.”

Haslett was spotted in State College earlier this week and with fall camp a little more than a month away specifics of his new role remain to be seen. 

"I am thrilled to join the Penn State football family," Haslett said in a statement. "James is one of the great, young head coaches in the collegiate game today and he is leading this Penn State program in the right direction. The future is very bright for Penn State football and I am excited to be a part of it."

Haslett, who played his college ball at Indiana (Pa.) and was a linebacker for the Buffalo Bills, spent three years as an assistant coach at Buffalo (1988-1990) before moving on to the NFL. It was his only stint in the college ranks.

Haslett climbed through the NFL ranks as a linebackers coach for the Raiders and Saints before being promoted to defensive coordinator for the Saints in 1996. From 1997-1999 he was the Steelers’ defensive coordinator before heading back to New Orleans and taking his first head coaching job in 2000.

Haslett’s time as head coach in New Orleans was remembered for a 10-6 campaign in his first year where the Saints won their first playoff game in franchise history and Haslett was named the NFL’s Coach of the Year. His stint with the Saints ended in 2005 following a 3-13 season that was most remembered by the franchise’s temporary relocations due to Hurricane Katrina’s impact. 

Haslett served as the Rams’ defensive coordinator and interim head coach in the following seasons and was the Redskins’ defensive coordinator from 2010-2014.  

How Haslett’s skills will be put to use at Penn State on a daily basis remain to be seen. Having someone to help oversee the big picture of the program will likely be part of his duties as he works with the staff. 

Penn State retained defensive coordinator Bob Shoop in the offseason and given the defense’s success last season and Shoop’s rapport with the players how much or how little input Haslett has — especially given the NCAA’s parameters of a consulting, not coaching position — with the defense remains to be seen. 

Audrey Snyder: and Twitter: @audsnyder4

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