Just 7 PSU recruits left from 2012

(Wilkes-Barre) Times-Leader (TNS)

Nineteen players signed on with Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Two more joined the class on scholarship in the summer after NCAA sanctions hit the program.

Of those 21 members of the Nittany Lions’ besieged Class of 2012, just seven are expected to return for their fifth and final season — G Derek Dowrey, G Brian Gaia, SS Malik Golden, C Wendy Laurent, DE Evan Schwan, LB Nyeem Wartman-White and TE Brent Wilkerson.

The latest to depart is reserve wide receiver Jake Kiley, who announced Thursday that he would be transferring for the 2016 season.

“After a long and challenging discussion with my family, we have decided that it would be in the best interest for me to play my 5th year of eligibility at another school,” Kiley wrote in an open letter.

“This decision definitely wasn’t easy since these past 4 years have been the best times of my life and I wouldn’t change them for the world.”

Nagged by injuries throughout his career, Kiley didn’t see the field for the Lions until this past fall, appearing in just two games on special teams. He arrived on campus as a safety and redshirted before making the switch to wideout.

With little chance of seeing his playing time increase in 2016, a transfer was expected.

Kiley becomes the fourth member of his signing class to make that same move since the end of the season, joining fellow wideout Eugene Lewis, tailback Akeel Lynch and linebacker Gary Wooten.

Kiley, Lewis and Wooten have already earned their degrees and Lynch is set to graduate this spring. All four will be eligible to play immediately at their new schools. Lewis is already enrolled at Oklahoma.

Penn State coaches were anticipating that those four would likely move on to seek more playing time.

“They’re making decisions that they feel are in their best interest personally and in their football careers,” Lions coach James Franklin said. “I wish those guys nothing but success. This hasn’t caught us by surprise. We were very aware that those things may be coming.”

The lone decision that did catch Franklin and his staff off guard was linebacker Troy Reeder electing to transfer home to play with his brother at FCS Delaware. One other underclassman, cornerback Daquan Worley, is also leaving after battling injuries in his first two seasons and falling behind on a crowded depth chart.

All of the roster movement has left Penn State with some space to fill out the team as they are expected to field a full 85-scholarship roster for the first time since 2011.

At present count with a 17-man recruiting class — one that is expected to bulge after a weekend of official visits from prospects — Penn State has seven open spots for this fall. On top of adding another handful of high school recruits, the Lions will likely look into adding some graduate transfers of their own.

But that doesn’t close the door on that 2012 class just yet.

Gaia will push to start for a third straight year on the offensive line with Laurent battling to replace Angelo Mangiro at center and Dowrey also in the mix.

Wartman-White will return from a torn ACL to start at linebacker. Golden closed out last season as a starter after an injury to Jordan Lucas. Wilkerson and Schwan both figure to be part of a rotation at their respective positions.

In his farewell note, Kiley mentioned the bond he felt with those players, as well as the others who are moving on this winter.

“That freshman summer when we got hit with the sanctions the decision to stay was a no brainer thanks to the incredible leadership of the older guys in the program,” Kiley wrote. “They truly showed me what it means to be a ‘Penn State guy’ and for that I am truly grateful and appreciative.

“The brotherhood and friendships that I have former with my teammates goes way beyond the field and the locker room and i will carry that with me for the rest of my life.”