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Monday, June 17, 2013
ESPN 300 analysis: PSU Nittany Lions

By Josh Moyer

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- What sanctions?

In the latest ESPN rankings, Penn State boasts the No. 17 recruiting class -- second-best in the Big Ten -- with a trio of ESPN 300 prospects in WR De'Andre Thompkins (No. 54), QB Michael O'Connor (No. 125) and WR Chris Godwin (No. 153). And if that surprises you, then you just haven't been paying attention.

Forget the bowl ban. Forget the reduced scholarships -- because PSU's commits sure have. Thompkins, still ranked as the No. 54 overall prospect, picked the Lions over schools in the SEC, ACC and Big 12. (And let's not forget Notre Dame, too.)

And that success is only going to continue because, as Thompkins put it, the main reason for these commitments isn't going to change.

DeAndre Thompkins
ESPN 150 propsect De'Andre Thompkins is ranked the No. 6 wide receiver in the nation.
"The coaching staff is just one of a kind," he said. "They know what they are doing, and you can see it. You learn so much from the offense."

Since Bill O'Brien jumped on board, top offensive commits have followed suit. Last season, top-ranked QB Christian Hackenberg led the way with two four-star receiving targets (Adam Breneman, DaeSean Hamilton) on his heels. This year, it's more of the same: One of the nation's top quarterbacks joined by two ESPN 300 wideouts.

No high school quarterback is more prepared for PSU's offense than O'Connor. Few receivers jumped up more in the newly released rankings than Godwin. And Thompkins? Well, his playing style at Swansboro (N.C.) might be best compared to Bo Jackson in Tecmo Super Bowl. (Thompkins averaged more than 50 yards on his 11 kick returns last year -- and his head coach swears those stats are accurate.)

True, Penn State's potential in the rankings might be limited by the quantity in this class. The Lions can only take 15 signees, so PSU could drop a bit by the time Thompkins and Co. are slated to sign their letters of intent -- especially now that the Lions are already up to 11 commits. But quality just hasn't been an issue lately.

ESPN 150 prospects Dravon Henry (No. 130) and Thomas Holley (No. 85) could be donning Blue-and-White uniforms at this point next year. And, even if they don't, PSU's already set up for the 2014 season. The only pressing concern is defensive tackle -- and the Lions are already in good standing with at least three athletes there.

The Class of 2013 won't report to campus until Saturday, and the Lions' 2014 class is nearly complete. Soon enough, O'Brien can shift the focus to that 2015 class.

And, soon enough, sanctions or no sanctions, ESPN will likely be talking about 2015 and another top-25 Penn State class.