Three Penn State Recruits Who Could Play as True Freshmen in 2017
Which 2017 recruits could see the field as true freshmen for Penn State?
Penn State just signed a top 15 recruiting class for the 2017 recycle. While there were no five-star recruits in the class, some big names and highly rated players decided to play for the Nittany Lions. In all, head coach James Franklin will welcome 21 new players to the mix in 2017.
Of course, every class has players that stand out, and this one is no different. While most will be given a red shirt in order to have another year to develop and advance, some will see playing time right away due to both skill and position need.
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Last season, Penn State had four true freshmen see the field.
Punter Blake Gillikin was the starter from the onset and kept the job all year. Miles Sanders filled a role of backup running back, but also transformed into the team’s top kick returner. Offensive lineman Connor McGovern turned into a starter when the injury bug hit, as did linebacker Cam Brown.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of opportunities for true freshmen this year, as Penn State is fortunate to return the majority of its starters. Offensive lineman Brian Gaia and wide receiver Chris Godwin are the only offensive starters who left, while ends Garrett Sickels and Even Schwan, linebackers Brandon Bell and Nyeem Wartman-White, and safety Malik Golden are gone on defense.
Still, anything can happen throughout a season, and depth is always important. Franklin and his staff did an excellent job of stacking the cupboards and getting prepared for whatever may be needed.
Check out the following three Nittany Lions who have the best chance to see the field as a true freshman at some point during the 2017 season.
DT Fred Hansard
Though it won’t be in a starting role, Fred Hansard could work himself into assistant coach Sean Spencer’s rotation on the defensive line. Curtis Cothran, Parker Cothren, and Kevin Givens are all returning and should have locks on starting jobs at defensive tackle.
Still, there can never be too much depth on the defensive line.
Hansard is a four-star prospect who was rated as the No. 11 defensive tackle in the entire class. He’s six-foot-three and already weighs over 300 pounds. With some time in the strength and conditioning program, Hansard should have even more muscle on him come fall.
He’s a big body who can plug up holes in the interior of the line. He’s good at stopping the run and has the potential to be a very big piece of the Penn State defense.
Fred Hansard will likely be given a roster spot for the 2017 season and could find himself picking up some significant playing time.
CB Lamont Wade
Lamont Wade is one of the best athletes in the class and the entire country. He was one of the top cornerbacks available and came in as the No. 46 recruit in the 2017 class.
Penn State has a crowded secondary on the roster for next year, but that doesn’t mean Wade will be kept off the field. He has too much talent to be given a red shirt. Grant Haley and John Reid should each have a starting cornerback job locked up, but Wade could be used in a reserve role.
With Wade’s skill set, the coaching staff could use him in a very versatile role. Even though he may not see much time at cornerback in 2017, there could be opportunities for him on both special teams and offense. He played both sides of the ball in high school and could do the same in Happy Valley.
When the Nittany Lions take the field in 2017, don’t be surprised to see Lamont Wade out on the field as a true freshman.
LB Ellis Brooks
Ellis Brooks may have one of the best chances of all the true freshman on the team to see playing time this season. The Nittany Lions remain thin at linebacker, particularly in the middle. Brooks could step in, and with an impressive offseason, play himself into the role of backup for Jason Cabinda.
Brooks wasn’t Penn State’s first choice at linebacker for the 2017 class, but he made a very nice replacement when Dylan Rivers flipped his commitment just a week out from National Signing Day.
Rated as a four-star recruit and the No. 11 inside linebacker in the country, Brooks brings a lot to the table for Penn State. He’s a good tackler and has a nose for the football. Those are important traits for an inside linebacker.
Penn State was ravaged at linebacker last season due to injury. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen this year and ht depth chart stays in tact. Either way, Brooks should be able to find a spot in the rotation at linebacker even as a true freshman. At the very least, he could be a contributor on special teams.