The Class of 2013 looks to continue that trend. NittanyNation decided to take a closer look at some three-star players in this class whom fans should keep an eye on.
S Neiko Robinson (Bratt, Fla./Northview) 6-foot, 192 pounds Synopsis: He reportedly runs a 4.51-second 40, and he's a tweener partly overlooked because of his size. He could play zone coverage as a corner, but his specialty is safety -- and he could be special player there. With two starters graduating after the 2013 season, Robinson has a real chance to start for three seasons (possibly four if he redshirts).
His trainer, who works with NFL players, tells Robinson he could eventually get his 40 down to the low 4.3s once he works more on his flexibility. (Even Robinson admits his hips are relatively tight.) The southern DB has a lot of potential here, and impressed Florida State in a football camp -- but told the Seminoles he wasn't interested because he was already 100 percent committed to PSU. He might just be the sleeper of the class.
CB Jordan Smith (Washington, D.C./Howard D. Woodson) 5-foot-11, 180 pounds Synopsis: He's a strong tackler and boasts great press-coverage ability. He's studied defensive coverages with former Philadelphia Eagle Troy Vincent and trained with Stephon Morris' father, Roman. Before he enrolled early at PSU, he also worked with his own personal trainer and even took up yoga to help with his balance and flexibility.
His work ethic truly separates Smith from others at his position. When he can't sleep, he doesn't toss and turn. He rolls out of bed, hits the floor and does push-ups until his alarm clock goes off. Smith has done just about everything possible to ensure he has a jump-start on other freshmen, and he's at the position that will likely require some early playing time. It would be difficult to find a true freshman who's more ready to play than Smith.
DE Curtis Cothran (Newtown, Pa./Council Rock North) 6-foot-5, 240 pounds Synopsis: His ESPN grade is 70, so he teetered on two-star status -- but Penn State's staff was clearly big on the defensive end. He was near the top of Lions' big board early on, and Bill O'Brien offered him within his first eight weeks on the job. O'Brien acknowledged last week that Cothran's junior-season film really impressed him.
His high school coach said he takes direction incredibly well and laughed when he recalled how Cothran was able to toss down sprinting ball-carriers with just one arm. He might not be as polished as Smith or an immediate contributor, but he could be a force down the line.
LB Zayd Issah (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin) 6-foot-3, 210 pounds Synopsis: This local product is just what the Nittany Lions need to get past the sanctions. He's an athlete who can play on both sides of the ball, and he's versatile enough that he can line up at a few spots on defense -- maybe like another Adrian Amos.
He could contribute to special teams right off the bat, and he already runs in the mid-4.5s. Of Penn State's 17 commits, ESPN ranks him as the 12th best -- but it'd be very surprising if he wasn't remembered as a better prospect four years from now. Both ESPN's scouts and Issah's coach believe he could add weight to his frame, at least 20 pounds, without losing a step. You can't say that about many players.
LB Brandon Bell (Mays Landing, N.J./Oakcrest) 6-foot, 222 pounds Synopsis: Most likely true freshman to make a bone-crushing tackle on special teams? That'd be Bell, who has a knack for the big hit. He averaged 14 tackles a game as a senior, and it's not often a ball-carrier would find his way around Bell.
Both Bell and ESPN's scouts said he boasts good instincts, and his scouting report was pretty similar to Ben Kline. He's an outside linebacker, and he could be the next big addition to Linebacker U.