"Today is a day to celebrate all the hard work that the coaches, the families have put in, the players have put in," head coach James Franklin said. "It's a special day for these young people. Made probably the most important decision of their life up to this point."
Franklin arrived at 5 a.m., before the celebration officially started to pick up with the entire Penn State football staff, a group of cheerleaders and special guests filling the Lasch Football Building shortly after 6:30 a.m. The office fax machine, tucked away behind the action though, and perhaps the most important item of the day, was up and running bright and early too.
Penn State's first signee came through before verification at 7:30 a.m., as quarterback Sean Clifford (Cincinnati, Ohio, St. Xavier) was the first member to officially join the family. Signing day emcee Jevin Stone (Penn State Football video coordinator) opened the ceremony, before Penn State director of athletics Sandy Barbour announced Clifford's signing and placed his signing day magnet on the signature "big board."
Less than 10 minutes later, offensive lineman C.J. Thorpe (Glenshaw, Pa., Central Catholic), was the second Nittany Lion to make it official, with the packed room once again erupting in cheers and excitement.
Special guests including Penn State men's hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky, Penn State University President Dr. Eric Barron, Penn State Deputy Athletic Director Phil Esten, as well as proud Nittany Lion alums like Matt McGloin and representatives from the Penn State Blue Band and Nittanyville all joined in on the announcement process presenting picks, along with others too.
National letters of intent (NLI) continued to pour in as Penn State verified a total of 16 letters of intent in the early part of the morning. Tariq Castro-Fields (Upper Marlboro, Md., Riverdale Baptist) was the final member of the class to sign on signing day with his letter of intent approved just after 4 p.m.
Penn State officially welcomed 17 in its 2017 signing day class, while also including the same unique announcements for four early enrollees who already arrived on campus at the start of the spring semester.
The 16 individual announcements featured a special FaceTime session with signees, family members and different staff members, all projected on several televisions hung from walls in the specially fashioned "war room."
The 2017 class features 14 signees tabbed as either a four or five-star recruit by at least of of the major four recruiting sites. Among the group, defensive back and early enrollee Lamont Wade (Clairton, Pa., Clairton) is a five-star prospect. Wade, Pennsylvania's top-ranked recruit, marks the second consecutive season Penn State has signed the top prospect in the state since signing Miles Sanders a year ago. It also marks the first time since 2005 that Penn State has signed the No. 1 recruit in Pennsylvania in back-to-back classes. [MORE].
By position, the 2017 class features 12 Nittany Lions from the defensive side of the ball and nine from the offensive side. Looking closer, the class breaks into five defensive backs, four defensive linemen, three linebackers, four offensive linemen, three wide receivers, one quarterback and one running back.
In the culmination of a tremendous amount of hard work, Penn State's 2017 signing day class was tabbed third in Big Ten, by all three major recruiting outlets heading into the end of the day.
For Franklin though, the group represents the culmination off a full-staff effort with the result yielding just the right mix of Nittany Lions who will blend perfectly into the already outstanding culture that is Penn State Football.
"The type of football players is important," Franklin said. "Obviously that's where it starts. But the type of students they are, the type of people they are, the type of communities they come from, the families they come from, then ultimately the fit. We've got a great locker room right now. Our chemistry and our culture is really good. We want to bring people that are going to come in and they're going to complement that, they're going to build on that."
A Bit About the DBs
The framework of Penn State's recruiting class features five defensive backs, all from five different states (and one country too), who bring a mix of speed and athleticism among a host of other unique qualities.
Among the group, Smith noted that five-star Lamont Wade, was someone who he had been recruiting for four years, even before arriving at Penn State.
"Lamont will have the opportunity to play on both sides of the ball," Smith said. "I think the focal point through spring is to make sure he learns and understands defensive back because that's going to be his focal point. Once he learns that then obviously we want to try and get him into the return game and try and get him some spot touches on offense."
Looking at the entire group though, Smith noted that there's already a solid group of veterans for the newcomers to rely on, who will all be imperative pieces when it comes to mentoring with leadership and veteran experience.
"I think when you look at the entire group of DBs, I think they all have an opportunity to come in and make an impact," Smith said. "You just never know which one will grasp it."
The Offensive Line
Franklin was particularly fired up about the offensive line, noting that for the first time, the unit could potentially become a strength for the Nittany Lions, especially building off of improvements from this year.
Penn State signed four offensive linemen in the 2017 class, all from either Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio, as well as an average of less than 200 miles from the University Park area.
Among the group, Franklin noted that early enrollee Mike Miranda (Stow, Ohio, Stow-Munroe) has the ability to fill interior roles at center or guard. Along with Miranda, C.J. Thorpe, whose father played at Penn State from 1985-88 as both a linebacker and a halfback, also brings a level of pure toughness in his total approach.
Franklin also highlighted that Robbie Martin (Sparta, N.J., St. Joseph Regional) could offer the Nittany Lions options at a variety of positions, while Des Holmes (West Norriton, Pa., Cardinal O'Hara) brings tremendous size at 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds.
As mentioned with Miranda and Thorpe, the common theme between the four though, is a unique level of toughness, or a true "nasty demeanor" on the field, a trait that Franklin expressed as coveted among coaches but difficult to find.
"If you look really at this entire offensive line recruiting class, they all show that," Franklin said.
On The Media Circuit
Franklin also took to a busy media circuit schedule on signing day to discuss the success of the class and the day's festivities.
Among a wealth of live interviews and appearances, Franklin joined Shae Peppler from Campus Insiders to highlight the class.
Franklin also called into FOX Sports' The Audible, a podcast hosted by Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel. Skip to the 11:30 mark in the episode for Franklin's remarks on the class.
Franklin also video conferenced in with Nick Kostos, Barton Simmons and Brady Quinn from FOX Sports to talk signing day and the newest members of the Nittany Lion football family.