Penn State officially added five players to the program on Monday with five players enrolling in classes at Penn State for the spring semester. Among them was quarterback Michael O'Connor, who had put his early enrolling plans on hold following the coaching change at Penn State. After meeting with new head coach James Franklin, O'Connor must have felt comfortable enough to stick with his original plans.
In addition to O'Connor, Penn State added wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins from North Carolina, offensive tackle Chasz Wright from Virginia, defensive tackle Tarow Barney from Florida and defensive tackle Antoine White from New Jersey.
O'Connor is a four-star quarterback recruit out of Florida that was the second major quarterback recruit under Bill O'Brien. O'Brien had recruited four quarterbacks in his short time at Penn State, including Steven Bench in the rushed Class of 2012, Christian Hackenberg and junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson in the Class of 2013. Bench spent one year with the program backing up Matt McGloin before transferring to South Florida before the 2013 season once it became clear Hackenberg and Ferguson were going to be given consideration for the starting job. Hackenberg won that job and played his way to Big Ten Offensive Freshman of the Year honors. Ferguson recently transferred to Louisville, where he will have a chance to compete for a starting job in 2014 under new head coach Bobby Petrino. O'Connor will be the back-up to Hackenberg in 2014, but it is unknown if he will redshirt the 2014 season.
Penn State already has three back-up quarterbacks on the roster between freshmen Austin Whipple, Jack Seymour and D.J. Crook. None of those other players have the caliber or expected potential of O'Connor but how Franklin handles the quarterback situation behind Hackenberg should be worth watching. Redshirting the top incoming quarterback makes sense given Hackenberg's status and remaining eligibility. The concern comes if Hackenberg is injured. Giving O'Connor early experience has benefits but with no postseason to play for, how important would that be?
Thompkins is also joining Penn State as a four-star recruit. It may take a little time for Thompkins to become a featured player in the offense, but the loss of Allen Robinson to the NFL and graduation of Brandon Moseby-Felder, players will be competing for a pair of starting jobs in 2014. Eugene Lewis and DaeSean Hamilton may be your leading candidates as of now, but with plenty of young players on the roster it would not be a shock to see Thompkins make a push if he puts in a good spring in his first semester on campus.
All five players are eligible to participate in winter workouts and spring football practices.
National signing day is February 5.