When it comes to predicting early contributors in any recruiting class, it's easiest to point to the early enrollees. They have the advantage of adjusting to college life, getting more time in the weight room, spring practices, and more time to learn the playbook and schemes.
who are the early enrollees
Per 247Sports, Penn State will be bringing in an outstanding group of players in January. These are the recruits that will jumpstart their college careers:
Brandon Smith, LB
One of the most important recruits Penn State has landed in recent years due to the turmoil, turnover, and injuries at linebacker, it is also a huge win for him to be on campus early. With the extra time to learn the scheme and put on good weight, he has a legitimate chance to earn the starting middle linebacker spot from the start.
Adisa Isaac, DE
Isaac is an incredible athlete, but a raw football player. Winter workouts will be pivotal for him to put on weight if he has any hopes of burning his redshirt in 2019.
Noah Cain, RB
Enrolling early will be critical for Cain. If Miles Sanders does indeed enter the draft there will be an open competition for carries. Every extra day Cain gets to learn the playbook and get stronger will determine if he could catch Ricky Slade, Journey Brown, and Notre Dame transfer C.J. Holmes in this hypothetical running back competition.
Lance Dixon, LB
Like Isaac, how Dixon performs during winter workouts will dictate his role this season. He needs to put on a fairly significant amount of weight to handle the physical demand of college football.
Tyler Rudolph, DB
Weight gain will not be the top priority for Rudolph, as he is currently listed at 205 pounds and that is very typical for a college safety. His mission will be to master the schemes of Brent Pry's defense.
Johnson could really use the extra time with the coaches. Most of his talent at this point comes from his ability to run, but his success will ultimately hinge on improving in the passing game.
Keaton Ellis, DB
Ellis could be a darkhorse to burn his redshirt thanks to his status as an early enrollee. While he's not too light at 180 pounds, he's very thin and could stand to add some needed weight.
Anthony Whigan, OL
Whigan comes in with potentially two tackle spots, with Ryan Bates considering an early departure, and Will Fries not yet locking down his role. He comes in physically ready for Big Ten football. This is one of Penn State's most important early enrollees.
Marquis Wilson, DB
Wilson will need the extra time to put on weight. Even as an EE, he is likely to redshirt.
Taquan Roberson, QB
Roberson's biggest priority enrolling early will be to learn Rahne's offense. He's physically about the same size as Trace and has a strong arm. The extra time will help him schematically more than anything. Still, with Tommy Stevens, Sean Clifford, and Will Levis ahead of him on the depth chart, this is a guaranteed redshirt.
Brenton Strange, TE
Like Zack Kuntz, Strange isn't ready to be a B1G tight end. Penn State needs effective run blocking at the position, and not only is Strange simply not big enough, but he was also never truly asked to do much run blocking in high school. With plenty of depth ahead of him, however, the Lions can be patient with their latest blue chip tight end.
This group of recruits could be the missing pieces to another Penn State conference or national championship. Their journey begins in January.