Safety Kasey Gaines, who committed in September, is a bit undersized but has good instincts.
Committed: Sept. 19, 2012.
ESPN.com grade: 71. Three-star prospect.
ESPN.com rankings: No. 89 at position, No. 620 in region, No. 142 in state.
Picked Penn State over: Harvard, Howard, Virginia Military and others.
State of the position:Malcolm Willis and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong return as the starters (and as fifth-year seniors), but the depth here isn't great. Jake Fagnano graduated, so Ryan Keiser is now the most experienced backup. Rising sophomore Jordan Lucas and rising redshirt freshman Jake Kiley could compete for playing time here, but they could also see time at cornerback. This position was a weak spot last year, but it should still be much improved this season.
Pros: "Possesses natural football instincts and plays with confidence in his abilities. Makes quick diagnosis and generally puts himself in solid position to make a play. Will quickly get downhill and fill the running lanes. Takes proper angles to the football and will strike ball carrier low. Shows above average burst to close. A solid tackler in space showing good body control and the ability to break down in space. Can get an early jump on the ball to track and undercut route to create a sudden change." -- ESPN scouting report
Cons: "Gaines doesn't possess the measurables you look for in a defensive back but his disciplined, smart play will put him in position to make plays in both the run and pass game. Undersized in terms of height and weight. Will need to bulk up and add strength. Plays quicker than fast, lacking an explosive second gear. ... May take extra steps in transition out of back pedal. " -- ESPN scouting report
Similar to/potential role: Penn State wanted Gaines to enroll early, but he wasn't able to finish class requirements fast enough -- and didn't really want to push for early graduation anyway. So he's probably not going to make an impact as a first-year player and will likely redshirt. He's similar in size to rising sophomore cornerback Da'Quan Davis.
Expected impact: 2016. Two starting jobs will be up for grabs next season, but Gaines needs a little more seasoning before he competes. He's a smart player, but fellow safety Neiko Robinson probably has a higher ceiling. At least one defensive back from the 2012 class will slide into one of those starting roles, too, so Gaines has a shot at early playing time -- but he's likely more of a project who could take over as the top backup in the short term.