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Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Signing day primer: Penn State

By Josh Moyer

With two weeks left until signing day, NittanyNation takes a closer look at what fans should know about the state of the class and this Penn State team.

Team needs: Defensive coordinator John Butler made it clear he wasn't happy with the secondary's depth last season. At cornerback, untested true freshman Da'Quan Davis was the backup, and the safeties opened the year as the team's weakness.

That's not the only concern. With Matt McGloin's departure, Steven Bench is now the most experienced quarterback on the team. And he threw just eight passes last season. Linebacker is also a position that could use a few extra bodies, especially with Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges making a run at the NFL.

Kasey Gaines
Loganville, Ga., defensive back Kasey Gaines is one of four defensive backs in the Penn State class.
Help is on the way: Penn State will sign four defensive backs in this class -- two safeties and two corners -- and a pair, Anthony Smith and Jordan Smith, were able to enroll early. The Smiths will be able to compete for situational playing time from the beginning. Kasey Gaines and Neiko Robinson could compete for starting jobs as early as 2014.

At quarterback, juco QB Tyler Ferguson has already joined the team and will compete for the starting job. At worst, he'll add some needed depth -- which allows Penn State the option to redshirt No. 1-rated signal caller Christian Hackenberg. Linebackers Zayd Issah and Brandon Bell will add depth and could contribute to special teams early in their careers.

Other key commits: There's a lot of strong offensive recruits here. Tight end Adam Breneman, an early enrollee, is ranked as the 67th-best player in the nation and should ensure Penn State's tight ends dominate for another five years. He and rising redshirt sophomore Kyle Carter will be compared as the Penn State version of the New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

Offensive guard Brendan Mahon is already nearing the prototypical size of his position at 6-foot-5, 300 pounds and is a member of the ESPN 300. Offensive tackle Andrew Nelson and wideout DaeSean Hamilton are four-star prospects, and defensive end Garrett Sickels is the big name on the defensive side.

Other key targets: The staff was going after four-star athlete Tyler Boyd, even after his Pitt commitment. But flipping Boyd has proved to be no easy task, and it appears as if the staff is finished with the Pennsylvania native. With three scholarships left, Penn State has a few other options.

It could choose not to add another recruit and basically bank the scholarships for 2014. It could also choose to go after another linebacker, such as two-star recruit George Vinson. Adding another tailback is also possible. No matter what route Penn State decides to go, this will still wind up as a successful class.