As I embark on my exciting journey to dive deep into everything Penn State football with Nittany Sports Now, I’ll start with an assessment of the current 2023 recruiting class.
As you all know, I have covered recruiting from a national perspective for 25 years and am very aware of the expectations in State College all the way back to the Joe Paterno days. And I can say this with confidence — this is a very good class by Penn State and national expectation standards.
Let’s start with the strengths and that’s easily the offensive line, back seven and tight ends. And honestly these should always be strengths for Penn State as a physical Big Ten program with the LBU moniker and running an offense that plays to OL and TE keys. I love the 1-2 punch of Alex Birchmeier and J’Ven Williams. While I don’t have Williams as a 5-star he’s improved drastically from season to season. He has a great frame, good length and he’s excellent at hitting moving targets at the second level. I do have Birchmeier as a 5-star however and as my No. 1 IOL prospect in the country. It’s a small class at OL right now with only three but the quality is as good as it gets.
Once again James Frankin has done a great job recruiting tight ends as well. Andrew Rappleyea is the headliner to me as a Top 25 prospect at his position while Mathias Barnwell and Joey Schlaffer aren’t far behind. Barnwell is more physically ready to play early but Rappleyea and Schlaffer are wide receivers in tight end frames and they all compliment each other. On defense, LBs Tony Rojas and Ta’Mere Robinson are long, can run and cover and have good frames to fill out. And at DB it’s an extremely deep class led by Elliot Washington and King Mack with Dakaari Nelson probably having the top ceiling of everyone. It’s a good mix of corners and safeties all with good ball skills and a serious Southeast recruiting flex.
Things are solid at running back with Landon Montgomery but iffy at QB with Jaxon Smolik who is a bit of a reach to me as he needs work on passing polish.
There is talent at DE and DT, but depth is needed here, and Carmelo Taylor is the only WR. But here’s the new thing in the last couple of years — small positional classes can be offset with the transfer portal and coaches don’t have to reach as much at positions to get bodies because they can hit the portal. So, it’s less of a concern than it has been in the past.
I have this as a Top 15 class nationally right now with much shifting ahead with a lot of dominoes to fall.