UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State put an exclamation point on its 2017 football recruiting class on Wednesday when four-star cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields committed to the Nittany Lions.
He commitment on Wednesday afternoon completed a 21-member class that, per Rivals, includes one five-star, 10 four-star and 10 three-star recruits.
Coach James Franklin clearly was pleased with the group that formally joined his program, saying that he had scheduled a party for his staff at his home on Wednesday evening.
“We’re going to get after it,” he said.
Penn State’s top-ranked recruit is Clairton defensive back Lamont Wade, but the class includes several highly regarded offensive linemen.
That group is headlined by Pittsburgh Central Catholic’s C.J. Thorpe, a 6-foot, 4-inch, 304-pounder who Franklin described as “a grown man.”
Not very long ago, the offensive line was an obvious weakness for Penn State, but Franklin said that no longer is the case..
“For the first time, our offensive line can be a real strength,” he said.
Quarterback Sean Clifford of Cincinnati, a four-star recruit who was the first high school player to orally commit to Franklin and his staff more than 18 months ago, also was the first one to get his letter of intent to the coaches, at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. He can expect to sit next season behind returning starter Trace McSorley.
The Nittany Lions had four of their incoming freshmen enroll for the spring semester — Wade; wide receiver K.J. Hamler of Pontiac, Mich.; linebacker Brelin Faison-Walden of Greensboro, N.C.; and offensive lineman Mike Miranda of Stow, Ohio.
Penn State had a class of 19 players going into national signing day but received an early-morning commitment from 6-foot, 3-inch, 280-pound defensive lineman Corey Bolds of Paramus (N.J.) Catholic High School.
With most of its starters returning next season, Penn State will likely take a stash-and-develop approach with this class. Watch the defensive front seven, however. Penn State likes to use a deep rotation and considering the Nittany Lions are thin at defensive tackle and linebacker, a few new defenders could earn early playing time.
Big Ten outlook: PSU's class was rated third in the Big Ten behind Ohio State and Michigan.
Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer put together a 21-man class that includes five players who received five-star ratings from recruiting analysts and 14 who are four-stars.
“This could go down as one of the great classes,” Meyer said. “We’re pretty fired up about this class.”
Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh brought in 28 players, including two five-stars and 18 four-stars, in a class widely regarded as the finest assembled in program history.
Ohio State’s class was ranked No. 2 nationally behind Alabama, according to 247sports.com. Michigan was fifth, behind Georgia and Southern California.
Three of the nation’s top 11 players in the 247sports.com rankings ended up at Ohio State.
Penn State, coming off its Rose Bowl appearance, ranked 15th in the nation.
Maryland, surprisingly, came in ranked fourth in the Big Ten. Coach DJ Durkin’s first full recruiting class was No. 18 nationally, which is the Terrapins’ highest ranking since Ralph Friedgen’s 2004 class was No. 17. Durkin has met the challenge of neighborhood rival Penn State head-on.
“Maryland’s class is the biggest story in the Big Ten. And it’s a big story nationally,” Big Ten Network analyst Gerry DiNardo said.
National outlook: According to composite rankings of recruiting services compiled by 247Sports , Alabama finished atop the team standings for a seventh consecutive year. And this might have been Nick Saban’s best class yet.
Florida’s 2010 class that included NFL first-round draft picks Dominique Easley, Matt Elam and Sharrif Floyd is 247Sports’ only higher-rated class since 2002, which is as far back as 247Sports’ data goes.
“It just speaks to the process that they’ve put in place there and the machine that is really unstoppable,” said Barton Simmons, the director of scouting for 247Sports.
The top 10 teams were: 1. Alabama. 2. Ohio State. 3. Georgia. 4. Southern Cal. 5. Michigan. 6. Florida State. 7. LSU. 8. Oklahoma. 9. Auburn. 10. Florida.
Pitt, Temple, UConn: Pitt's class was ranked No. 33 in the nation, while Temple's class came in at No. 112.
UConn, which recently rehired Susquehannock High School graduate Randy Edsall, is ranked No. 97.
PSU class: Following is a list of Penn State's 2017 recruits:
Damion Barber, de, 6-3, 244, Harrisburg HS, Harrisburg, Pa.
Corey Bolds, dt, 6-3, 286, Paramus Catholic HS, Paramus, N.J.
Ellis Brooks, lb, 6-1, 225, Benedictine HS, Richmond, Va.
D.J. Brown, cb, 5-11, 172, Creekside HS, Fairburn, Ga.
Journey Brown, rb, 5-11, 195, Meadville MS, Meadville, Pa.
Tariq Castro-Fields, cb, 6-1, 177, Riverdale Baptist School, Upper Marlboro, Md.
Sean Clifford, qb, 6-3, 200, St. Xavier HS, Cincinnati, Ohio
Brelin Faison-Walden, lb, 6-1, 195, Grimsley HS, Greensboro, N.C.
Brailyn Franklin, lb, 6-3, 215, Battlefield HS, Haymarket, Va.
K.J. Hamler, wr, 5-9, 155, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.
Fred Hansard, dt, 6-3, 306, The Hun School, Princeton, N.J.
Mac Hippenhammer, wr, 6-0, 165, R Nelson Snider HS, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Desmond Holmes, ot, 6-6, 310, Cardinal O’Hara HS, Springfield, Pa.
Donovan Johnson, cb, 5-11, 178, Cass Technical HS, Detroit, Mich.
Rob Martin, ol, 6-5, 265, St. Joseph Regional HS, Montvale, N.J.
Mike Miranda, ol, 6-4, 300, Stow-Munroe Falls HS, Stow, Ohio
Cameron Sullivan-Brown, wr, 6-1, 176, St. Vincent Pallotti HS, Laurel, Md.
Jonathan Sutherland, db, 6-0, 196, Episcopal HS, Alexandria, Va.
C.J. Thorpe, ol, 6-4, 304, Central Catholic HS, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Lamont Wade, cb, 5-10, 180, Clairton HS, Clairton, Pa.