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Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Penn State recruiting: Positions of need

By Josh Moyer

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The Nittany Lions have nearly closed out their 2014 class and have basically addressed every need. But what were the biggest needs heading into this class anyway, and just how well has PSU done?

NittanyNation takes a closer look at PSU's five areas of need in the 2014 class and just what they've achieved already with this group.

Jared Wangler
Jared Wangler can assist Penn State in coverage from the linebacker position.
1. Linebacker. This has become Bill O'Brien's biggest concern this season, so the Nittany Lions had to add some depth here. It grabbed an early commitment from four-star MLB Troy Reeder (Wilmington, Del./Salesianum), who's just outside the ESPN 300, along with OLB Jared Wangler (Warren, Mich./De La Salle). Wangler is made in the mold of Mike Hull and should provide an extra dimension to the defense by providing excellent coverage skills. And Reeder? He reportedly runs in the 4.6s and has the kind of sideline-to-sideline speed that excites LB coach Ron Vanderlinden.

2. Quarterback. This wasn't always a need but, once Steven Bench opted to transfer elsewhere, O'Brien needed to find another signal-caller. And ESPN 300 QB Michael O'Connor (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy) has fulfilled this area of concern in a big way. Not only is he one of the top pocket-passers in the country, but there's no QB who'll fit better in PSU's offense. He runs a similar offense in high school, and one of the reasons he became so attractive to PSU -- earning an offer before Bench's desire to transfer -- is because he called out PSU's plays in front of QB coach Charlie Fisher during a visit. He's a smart player who'll enroll early and could make an early impact for the Lions.

3. Defensive back. Defensive coordinator John Butler didn't hide his frustration last season with PSU's limited depth in the secondary. But that all seems to be cured now after two straight classes heavy on the DBs. Daquan Worley (Coatesville, Pa./Coatesville) isn't a high-profile commit, but PSU clearly saw something in him it liked. But the other two are what really makes this group good.

Four-star athlete Troy Vincent Jr. (Baltimore/Gilman) evolved into the Gilman DB whom coaches trusted to make adjustments for the entire secondary -- despite this past season being his first in the program. He's smart, he's polished, and he could play as a true freshman. Safety Marcus Allen (Upper Marlboro, Md./Wise) trains with Vincent Jr. at the Prime Xample training center, so they already have chemistry -- and Allen was near the top of PSU's big board when it came to safeties. He's a hard-hitting player with the mentality of a linebacker (in part because he used to be one), and he'll fit in just fine at Happy Valley. This group might not be done either, as ESPN 300 target Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa) remains a priority.

4. Running back. It's easy to forget this was a priority since the first and second PSU commits were both tailbacks -- but PSU really needed some bodies here. Mark Allen (Hyattsville Md./DeMatha) committed in October 2012 while Nick Scott (Fairfax, Va./Fairfax) pledged four months later in February 2013. Allen is the lowest-ranked commit of this class, and he's probably the biggest question mark. But Scott is a talented player who just doesn't make mistakes. He doesn't have blazing speed, but he's shifty and greatly impressed at a NIKE camp in Washington, D.C.

5. Defensive tackle. This was a big area of concern up until about ... well ... yesterday. The Nittany Lions needed somebody to provide more competition for DT once Daquan Jones leaves after this season, and Antoine White (Millville, N.J./Millville) decided to forgo his plans to visit other schools once he visited State College and spoke with PSU's coaches. The Nittany Lions might not be done at this position either, and there's a good chance it also reels in Ricky Walker (Hampton, Va./Bethel).