Without drama or surprises, 15 members of the high school class of 2021 signed letters-of-intent to play football at Penn State Wednesday.
It was National Signing Day, the first day of the early signing period for this recruiting cycle.
Penn State’s class is smaller by 10 than the NCAA-mandated limit on single-year scholarships awarded. That is to an extent by design, but the class, ranked 21st nationally and fifth in the Big Ten Conference by 24/7 Sports, is considered a disappointment.
“Up to this point, we have not lived up to our normal standards,’’ head coach James Franklin said in September, “At the end of the day, you get the job done or not.’’
Penn State’s approach to recruiting emphasizes camp evaluations (and testing numbers taken at those camps) and on-campus visits, all of which were curtailed or eliminated this cycle because of the pandemic.
“This is a place you have to have a really specific plan to come see, because it’s not really on the way to anything,’’ Franklin said.
“Typically, (the Blue-White game weekend) is huge for us from a recruiting perspective. White-out games are huge for us from a recruiting perspective.’’
Part of the problem is Pennsylvania’s dwindling status as a producer of football talent, but that wasn’t really the case this year. The top six prospects in the state, in order according to 24/7, chose Wisconsin (Warwick High School offensive lineman Nolan Rucci), Ohio State, Clemson, LSU, Ohio State and Pitt.
Franklin obliquely referenced Rucci when talking about brothers within his program, such as Liam Clifford, a wide receiver who signed Wednesday, who’s the brother of Penn State QB Sean Clifford.
Rucci’s brother, Hayden, is a tight end at Wisconsin.
“We’ve also had the other end of the spectrum, where we don’t offer an (older) brother, and that hurts us getting the younger,’’ Franklin said Wednesday.
The top-ranked prospect in Penn State’s class is Landon Tengwall, a 6-6, 300-pound offensive lineman from Olney, Md. who also considered Alabama, Auburn, Duke and Florida among many elite offers.
The most intriguing talent might be Lonnie White, a three-sport star from Malvern Prep in Philadephia. White played quarterback in high school, but is the kind of athlete who could play many positions, most likely wide receiver. Football may not even be White’s best sport; he intends to play football and baseball at Penn State.
The class includes four defensive backs, four wide receivers, two offensive linemen, two linebackers, a defensive lineman, a quarterback and a kicker. Geographic breakdown: Four each are from Pennsylvania and Michigan (the Detroit area, in particular, continues to be fertile ground for the program), three from Maryland and one each from Alabama, Connecticut, Indiana and Ohio.
There is still the “traditional,’’ signing day in February. Franklin said he isn’t finished with this cycle.
“You’ll see some more activity in the second recruiting period and in the transfer market,'' Franklin said, "which is really part of 2020, and where football is at and where football is headed.’’
Nationally, as usual, the rich got richer Wednesday.
Alabama has the consensus No. 1 class, with 23 signees, including six 5-star and 13 4-star prospects.
Ohio State ranks second in the 24/7 Sports composite rankings, followed by Georgia, LSU, Clemson, Oklahoma, Florida, Notre Dame and Michigan.