Now that National Signing Day is over and Penn State’s 2014 recruiting class is set, it’s time to get to work figuring out who will be given a roster spot and who will sit out a year before seeing the field. Penn State has several holes on the roster that the new class will help to fill. Specifically, defensive back and wide receiver was a need for the Nittany Lions heading into National Signing Day. Not all 25 recruits will be called on immediately, but some certainly will. It used to be a rare sight to see a true freshman play a significant role at Penn State. However, that culture certainly changed this past season when quarterback Christian Hackenberg started every game and fellow freshmen tight end Adam Breneman and linebacker Brandon Bell also both played important roles, especially late in the season. Although spring practice is still months away and the 20 recruits who signed Wednesday won’t be around till the summer, it’s never too early to make predictions as to who will make an early impact for the Nittany Lions. ATH Koa Farmer Farmer is a 4-star recruit from California who is listed as both a linebacker and a safety. Luckily for Penn State, those are both areas of need. Farmer will likely be placed into a linebacker spot for the Nittany Lions. He probably won’t start right away, but his versatility will make him a valuable player. Much like Stephen Obeng-Agyapong last year, Farmer’s size makes him a hybrid, a cross between a linebacker and a defensive back. Obeng-Agyapong is no longer around, meaning there is a spot for that type of player. Keep an eye on him, as he has a chance to see the field early and often. He may be best suited for linebacker, but could certainly fill a big need in the secondary. Either way, I expect to see him in the defensive rotation come this fall. WR Saeed Blacknall Saeed Blacknall was a late addition to the Nittany Lions, as he just gave a verbal commitment last week. The 4-star wide receiver had previously been committed to Rutgers, but decided to leave after a coaching change. Penn State head coach was already familiar with Blacknall from recruiting him at Vanderbilt As the highest-rated recruit in the entire class, expect Blacknall to see an early role. He’s a talented receiver who has the ability to be a game-changer. The Nittany Lions need to replace two starting wide receivers as Allen Robinson and Brandon Felder are no longer around. Felder has graduated and Robinson left early to enter the upcoming NFL Draft. Blacknall will look to replace Robinson, who left as one of the best receivers in school history. Geno Lewis, who saw significant playing time last season should have a firm grip on one of the starting spots heading into camp. The other one will be up for grabs, and Blacknall has a great chance to make an early impact for the Nittany Lions. DT Tarow Barney Penn State missed out on a highly rated defensive lineman on National Signing Day, but does have a solid prospect in Tarow Barney. He’s a 3 or 4-star recruit, depending on which recruiting service you look at. Though it would be unlikely to see him in the starting lineup in 2014, Barney has a great chance to join the defensive line rotation. He enrolled at the school in January and will have a jumpstart on getting accustomed to the game plan. He’s a bit different compared to the other recruits in the fact that he’s already played football at the collegiate level. Last season at Northwest Mississippi Community College he recorded 36 tackles and 3.5 sacks. After the graduation of DaQuan Jones, the Nittany Lions have a need to fill a defensive tackle spot. With his experience in junior college, Barney should find ample playing time in 2014 at Penn State. WR De’Andre Thompkins 4-star wide receiver De’Andre Thompkins is one of four wide receivers in the class, three of which are rated as 4-star recruits. Though Saeed Blacknall is the one who’ll probably see the most time among the freshman receivers, don’t count out Thompkins. He enrolled at the school in January and will be going through the offseason workouts. He has experience in high school on special teams, an area in which Penn State really struggled last season. The Nittany Lions had problems in both kick and punt returning. Geno Lewis was a regular on the kick return squad, but that could change this season if he’s the number one wide receiver. That will leave a need that Thompkins can fill. He should get an early chance to get on the field and show his talent this season. The other reason that Thompkins has a good shot at playing as a freshman is the fact that he also has experience in the defensive backfield, another area of need.
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