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The Sports Daily > Complete Philly Coverage
National Signing Day 2017

The big day is here, James Franklin and his staff have signed another elite recruiting class.

Time Table

The fax machines start up at 7 A.M., but Penn State made some noise early in the morning when 3 star DT Corey Bolds committed to the Nittany Lions.

When 7 A.M. came around, it was the first recruit to commit to Penn State, 4 star QB Sean Clifford, who was the first to send in his letter of intent.

Clifford was followed by the other 19 Penn State commits who sent in their letters of intent throughout the morning.

When 2 P.M. came around, most of the festivities had wrapped up, but Franklin was waiting on one more target, 4 star CB Tariq Castro-Fields. Castro-Fields shocked a lot of people when he announced that he would be attending Penn State.

About an hour and a half later, Castro-Fields sent in his letter of intent, wrapping up the 2017 class.

Commits

The following 21 recruits will be joining the Nittany Lions next season. The consensus ranking from the four major recruiting sites, ESPN, 247 Sports, Scout, and Rivals, are given for each signee.

4 star CB Lamont Wade

4 star QB Sean Clifford

4 star OG C.J. Thorpe

4 star ILB Ellis Brooks

4 star WR K.J. Hamler

4 star DE Yetur Matos

4 star DT Fred Hansard

4 star DE Damion Barber

4 star S Jonathan Sutherland

4 star CB Tariq Castro-Fields

3 star CB Donovan Johnson

3 star CB D.J. Brown

3 star WR Cameron Sullivan-Brown

3 star WR Mac Hippenhammer

3 star DT Corey Bolds

3 star OC Mike Miranda

3 star OT Robert Martin

3 star OT Desmond Holmes

3 star ATH Brailyn Franklin

3 star RB Journey Brown

3 star OLB Brelin Faison-Walden

Position Break Down

Quarterback: The Ohio product, Sean Clifford, was one of the top quarterbacks in this class. He’s been a leader in this class and will have an oppurtunity to compete for the starting quarterback job after Trace McSorley’s departure.

Running Back: Journey Brown is an in state speedster and may be best known for his unbeilevable performance in a game during his junior year when he ran for 722 yards and 10 touchdowns.  He may not see any snaps for a couple years with the loaded back field Penn State has, but he certainly will play a role in the return game with his 4.40 speed.

Wide receivers: Talk about speed, K.J. Hamler and Mac Hippenhammer are two speed demons who will make an early impact in the return game and eventually should become starters at Penn State. Cameron Sullivan-Brown is a bigger guy who will be a good red zone target and should see playing time when the other two wide outs do.

Offensive Line: Big C.J. Thorpe will make an early impact at Penn State, probably as early as his red shirt freshman year. Mike Miranda has a chance to be the starting center as early as this year as center Brian Gaia has graduated and Miranda is already enrolled ay Penn State. Holmes and Martin will be projects, they both have great size at 6’5, but Martin will need to add some weight as he’s only at 265, Holmes is at 315 and contribute as well down the line.

Defensive Line: One word, loaded. With two big New Jersey DTs leading the way, this group is good. Those two DTs are Fred Hansard( 6’3 310) and Corey Bolds(6’3 276) who will probably both red shirt and then find themselves in the rotation the following year. They are joined by defensive ends Yetur Matos and Damion Barber. Matos is considered to have the highest upside in the class, a 6’5 frame will do that for you. He probably needs to add a little weight, but there’s a chance he could play a little this year. Damion Barber is a big DE at 6’3 244 and has shown great improvement sign he committed last February. All four of these guys should make an impact rather quickly.

Linebackers: This group suffered a late decommitment from Dylan Rivers, but the staff work quick and pulled in Ellis Brooks. Brooks could be the quarterback of the defense, much like Jason Cabinda is now. Brelin Faison-Walden is a physical hitter who will get after the passer and stop the run, he will be exciting to watch. Brailyn Franklin is considered an athlete, but he should end up playing linebacker. I see him being a hybrid safety/OLB much like Koa Farmer is now, he’ll be a guy that’ll do a lot of different things for the Nittany Lions.

Defensive backs: This group is very very good. They are led by the Lions’ top target Lamont Wade, who will play from day one. He’ll start in the nickel and as an explosive returner, but the following year he should start at corner. He reminds me of former Maryland CB William Likely as he is a freak athlete who will play in all three phases of the game. He will be playing along side a big corner in Tariq Castro-Fields, who did not allow a completed pass against him his senior year. A speedy corner, Donovan Johnson will help defend against the deep ball and will even the playing field when they face the explosive receivers of Ohio State and Michigan. D.J. Brown is the fourth corner and will most likely start out as depth guy, but a lot of people consider him highly underrated and he could play a role down the line. Joining these corners is safety Jonathan Sutherland who could compete for a starting job this year with Malik Golden now gone, he’s a good tackler and should make a contribution in the secondary.

 

Rankings

The 2017 class ranks 15th according to 247 Sports, 17th according to ESPN, 14th according to Scout, and 12th according to Rivals.

Last Thoughts

This was a great class for James Franklin. He added depth to wide out group that will suffer some departures after 2017. He loaded up in the secondary to counter the elite receivers of Ohio State and Michigan. The staff did a great job building an impressive defensive line group that will put in work at Happy Valley. The most impressive get by the staff had to be getting Wade over Pitt, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The biggest thing to me, was the number of decommitments, only two. Last year, Penn State suffered seven and “limped” to the finish line. This year, Penn State sprinted to the finish line being able to keep more commits and close strong with two commitments on Signing Day. This class has a lot of upside, and will play in a lot of big games. The job done in the DMV was impressive as Penn State racked up six commitments from players in Maryland and Virginia.

This was another great job by coach Franklin, coming off his best year as a head coach. Franklin and his staff will now turn their attention to an already loaded 2018 class.