One of the great parts about National Signing Day is taking a look forward, and trying to project the futures of the newest members of any program. The Nittany Lions officially welcomed 21 new players to the program today in a group that is as talented as any in recent memory. We picked out a few highlights on both sides of the ball.
Highest Floor – Michael Miranda. Projecting offensive linemen is almost impossible, but the mauler from Stow, Ohio, seems to be the exception. Miranda is already a strong blocker, with solid fundamentals.
Highest Ceiling – Mac Hippenhammer. After a brief fling with Notre Dame down the stretch, Penn State is awfully happy to keep Hippenhammer in the fold. He earned his offer after a fantastic camp performance for the Lions' staff at Bowling Green last summer. With the depth chart opening up after 2017, expect him to make his mark as early as 2018.
Most Immediate Impact – K.J. Hamler. This was a tough one, as most of the obvious impact guys in 2017 are on the defensive side. However, Hamler's unique skill set figures to see him get plenty of chances in the return game as soon as his knee is at 100%.
Biggest Long Term Impact – C.J. Thorpe. If the leap that Thorpe made as a senior at Central Catholic is any indication, Penn State may have one of the biggest sleepers in the country. Penn State's interior offensive line might be the deepest spot on the roster (think about that for a few minutes), but Thorpe feels like a guy that can be pencilled in at a guard spot for three or four straight years once he plays.
Most Underrated - Mac Hippenhammer. Guys that earn their scholarship offers at college camps, as Hippenhammer did, always catch my eye. The coaching staff evaluates players in person, and is able to put them through a workout that tests what they want to evaluate. Hippenhammer passed those tests with flying colors, and was a guy Josh Gattis really wanted.
Most Fun - Journey Brown. Admit it, you were skeptical of Journey Brown's offer back in January. But, the speed and talent of the three-star back from Meadville is tough to ignore, as are is insane high school stats. The Nittany Lions have a crowded backfield, but Brown will make his mark somewhere on the field with his ability.
Highest Floor – Ellis Brooks. As of today, Brooks is listed at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds. Physically and mentally, he is ready to compete as a freshman. At the very least, he's going to be a solid middle linebacker. His floor is "a very solid linebacker who will contribute right away." I think that is a pretty high floor.
Highest Ceiling – Yetur Matos. The cool thing about the "highest ceiling" thing is that with most guys, it's assumed that they also have a low floor. At worst, Matos is going to be a solid pass rusher. But if he reaches his potential, Matos is going to be a force to be reckoned with on the edge, the kind of defensive end who gets double teamed and still makes plays. If everything works out for him, we're talking about one of the best defensive linemen in America.
Most Immediate Impact – Lamont Wade. Depending on the scouting service you're using, Wade is the best cornerback in the nation. He is not someone you keep off the field under any circumstances. While he's not going to start, Wade is so good that he's going to get on the field early and often – definitely on defense, probably on offense, and possibly on special teams. The scariest part? For how good he is, he's only going to get better.
Biggest Long Term Impact – Lamont Wade. The answer to this one is Wade, who could earn himself a spot in the NFL. But we just talked about him, so let's give love to someone else: Damion Barber. As he gets into Penn State's strength program, and as he gets accustomed to the game at this level, the Harrisburg native is going to become a force. If he develops into the well-rounded defensive end he's capable of becoming, he will be special.
Most Underrated – Brailyn Franklin. Brent Pry has something in Franklin. It seems like he's going to be an outside linebacker. An athletic player who really needs to learn a position and bulk up, Franklin has the potential to be a solid contributor down the road for the Nittany Lions. This is despite him being the third-lowest ranked player in the class, per 247Sports. He'll need some work, but Franklin is athletic enough that he should make an impact once he gets used to a position.
Most Fun – Lamont Wade. Talking about Wade's impact and talking about how much fun Wade is as a player are two different things. Think of how much you enjoyed watching Tyrann Mathieu at LSU. Now imagine Mathieu is not from Louisiana, but rather, he's a PA kid who picked Penn State. That's the best-case scenario for Wade. Pretty fun, don't you think? At the very least, he's a hard-nosed defensive back who gives it all on every play and is fun on Twitter. I am here for this.