Highest ceiling? Hidden gem? Debating the Penn State Nittany Lions' 2021 recruiting class
With Early National Signing Day right around the corner, we thought now would be the perfect time to break down Penn State's 2021 recruiting class with superlatives.
Who's the hidden gem of the class?
Who has the highest ceiling?
And who could make the quickest impact?
We recently took a deeper look at the Nittany Lions' 15 commits to share our takes ahead of the early signing period, which kicks off Wednesday and ends Saturday.
Here's what we're thinking:
BEST OVERALL PLAYER
Parth Upadhyaya: OT Landon Tengwall
This seems like the most obvious choice here, and that's because it is. Tengwall, a 6-foot-6, 300-pound offensive tackle, is the highest rated player in the Nittany Lions' class. The Olney, Maryland, native is a 4-star prospect and is the 50th-best overall player and the seventh-best offensive tackle in the 2021 class, according to 247Sports. Tengwall also appears physically ready to play at the collegiate level. Still, offensive line is one of the more difficult position groups for players to come in and contribute for right out of high school, so it's probably more likely that Tengwall either plays a role off the bench or redshirts next season. With the departure of redshirt seniors Michal Menet and Will Fries after this season and the departure of redshirt juniors C.J. Thorpe and Mike Miranda after next, Tengwall could have a legitimate impact in 2022.
Jon Sauber: OT Landon Tengwall
There's a reason Tengwall is the highest-rated player in Penn State's class in the 247Sports Composite player rankings. The 4-star offensive lineman could play inside or outside at the next level, even though he's currently ranked as an offensive tackle. He has the strength to move inside and could be even better there long-term. He has a chance to make an early impact if he arrives on campus and quickly picks up the technique and scheme of offensive line coach Phil Trautwein. Tengwall chose Penn State over offers from some of the best programs in the country — including Alabama, Notre Dame and Ohio State — and has the most impressive offer list of any player in Penn State's 2021 class. He has a chance to be an All-Big Ten-level talent in college.
Parth Upadhyaya: LB Kobe King
I'm not sure how "hidden" a player with 31 scholarship offers can be. Still, King is just a 3-star prospect, who is ranked 438th overall and 19th as an inside linebacker in the 2021 class, according to 247Sports. The 6-foot, 223-pound Detroit, Michigan, native saw his stock rise after a solid senior season at Cass Technical High School. Throughout this season, Penn State has shown that it could use some help at middle linebacker, and King — who boasted scholarship offers from nine other Big Ten programs — should eventually provide just that. The Nittany Lions have hit on under-the-radar prospects in the past in running back Journey Brown (former 3-star recruit) and quarterback Trace McSorley (former 3-star recruit). It wouldn't be a huge surprise to see King have a sizable impact in Happy Valley one day, too.
Jon Sauber: WR Harrison Wallace
Wallace may fly under the radar because he's the most recent commit, but he could produce at a high level because of his athleticism. The 3-star wide receiver has great long speed and leaping ability while possessing the quickness and change of direction skills needed to become a good route runner at the college level. The former Duke commit didn't have many high-level offers, but could end up being the steal of the class for Penn State. Penn State could use contributors at wide receiver as the team continues to rely on youth to start and fill out the depth chart. He will have time to develop, and once he does, could prove to be one of the better players in the class.
Parth Upadhyaya: QB Christian Veilleux
After the 2021 season — and, honestly, maybe even before that — Penn State will have to reevaluate its quarterback situation. Redshirt junior quarterback Sean Clifford is expected to play his final season in a Nittany Lion uniform next year, and the team will have to decide whether to start redshirt freshman quarterback Ta'Quan Roberson, freshman quarterback Micah Bowens or look elsewhere. Adding Veilleux into that mix makes things a bit more exciting. The 6-foot-3, 201-pound Canadian is a 3-star prospect, ranked as the 443rd overall player and 20th pro-style quarterback in the 2021 class, according to 247Sports. For a pro-style quarterback, Veilleux is also fairly athletic (he reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in the 4.6 range at a Nittany Lions camp in the summer of 2019). With Penn State not hosting any camps this summer because of the coronavirus, Veilleux's intangibles weren't able to get remeasured — still, he'll only be expected to get better once he steps foot in Happy Valley.
Jon Sauber: WR Lonnie White Jr.
No player in the class has the upside White Jr. does. He's not just a star in football, he's a star in baseball, too. The 4-star wide receiver commit made the decision to play at Penn State after he was previously committed to play baseball at Clemson. His upside on the diamond is high, with ESPN's Kiley McDaniel ranking him in his top 50 way-too-early prospects for the 2021 MLB Draft. But his upside on the football field may be even higher. White Jr. is an elite athlete who made highlight-reel catch after highlight-reel catch in high school and should be able to earn playing time early at Penn State. The Pennsylvania native is as good of an athlete as the Nittany Lions have in the class, while also showing the skills at his position to raise his ceiling to heights others can't reach.
Parth Upadhyaya: WR Lonnie White Jr.
This choice comes down to Penn State's future need at the wide receiver position. If junior receiver Jahan Dotson chooses to depart for the NFL after this season, that'll leave the freshman duo of Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith to carry the load. And, as good as Washington has proven to be, the unit will surely need more help. Insert White Jr. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Malvern native is a 4-star prospect and is ranked as the No. 194 overall player and No. 34 receiver in the 2021 class, according to 247Sports. Penn State beat out Big Ten foes Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana and Rutgers for White Jr.'s services. Even if he's not playing a majority of snaps next season, it's easy to imagine White Jr. being the Nittany Lions' third option at receiver in 2021.
Jon Sauber: S Jaylen Reed
Penn State could lose its two starting safeties next year, and Reed is good enough to make an impact fairly quickly. He's able to make an impact in the run game because of his physicality and intelligence and that could lead him to playing the "star" role the Nittany Lions have used when they bring a fifth defensive back on the field. He could still play a traditional safety because he plays well enough in coverage to not get exposed on every play. At the very least, Reed could play early on special teams as long as the staff decides not to redshirt him because he's seeing enough time in the secondary. He has one of the clearest paths to early playing time of any player in the class.
Parth Upadhyaya: S Jaylen Reed
Penn State needed to snag an elite defensive back in this class — especially if senior safeties Lamont Wade and Jaquan Brisker choose not to take the NCAA up on its offer of an extra year of eligibility next season. In Reed, the Nittany Lions got just that. The 6-foot, 190-pound Detroit, Michigan, native is a 4-star prospect and the 272th best overall player and No. 17 safety in the 2021 class, according to 247Sports. Reed is a physical player who's great in run support and — per 247Sports analyst Allen Trieu — has the potential to "be extremely productive in college and have an opportunity to play a similar role beyond college because of his skill set." Look for Reed to contribute sooner rather than later to a Nittany Lions secondary that has struggled at times this season.
Jon Sauber: QB Christian Veilleux
Penn State hauled in plenty of higher-rated prospects, but few can impact the team in the future like Veilleux can. The 3-star quarterback will have more say in what happens on the field than any other position and the Nittany Lions beat out a few high-level programs in order to secure his commitment. He chose Penn State over offers from Clemson, LSU and Michigan when he made his commitment in April. His decision is also important because he's the first quarterback to commit to the program since Kirk Ciarrocca was hired as the offensive coordinator in December 2019. Veilleux will be the first signal caller to spend all of his college time developing with Ciarrocca at Penn State.