The 2010 Penn State football team faced more turmoil and criticism than Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes. Although, very little of it was warranted.
The Nittany Lions finished the season 7-6 and struggled against ranked opponents. Joe Paterno faced health and retirement rumors during most of the season, and the upcoming recruiting class has taken its fair share of lumps, too.
Only, here’s the thing: Paterno isn’t going anywhere, he’s said so. This was a very young Penn State team that is only going to get better. With less than a dozen seniors on last year’s roster, why would anyone expect there to be a large number of top recruits flying to Happy Valley?
Penn State is going to be fine, and so is the 2011 recruiting class. Here is the current top half of the group of verbal commitments:
Penn State Football: Seven Top Recruiting Commitments for 2011
7. Matt Zanellato – WR (Burke, VA)
The Nittany Lions have two seniors at the position in Brett Brackett and Graham Zug, both who had size and got significant playing time. There will be a need for depth at the WR position, and Zanellato – while not ranked highly by Rivals – is a four-star recruit according to Scout. He’s unofficially listed as being nearly 6’4”, and Scout lists him as a fiery player with “excellent route running skills”. If he pans out, he’d be a great addition to the offense.
6. Ben Kline – OLB (Dallastown, PA)
Linebacker U saw a slight dip in 2010, and rightfully so, what with some great talents departing the year before. There were also injuries, most notably to star Michael Mauti. Penn State has a lot of linebacker talent in house, but the school could use more. As many are aware, a number of local PA kids have flourished in the PSU system. Scout has Pennsylvania native Ben Kline listed as 6’3” and 225 lb., with 4.5 speed. If accurate, that’s very solid. Former PSU linebacker Sean Lee is listed at 6’2” and 240 lb.
5. Donovan Smith – OT (Owings Mills, MD)
Penn State’s biggest need heading into 2011 is adding offensive line depth. The Nittany Lions had three seniors from that group in 2010 – specifically Stefen Wisniewski, Doug Klapacz and Lou Eliades. Donovan Smith is a talented kid, and one that’s listed as a four-star recruit by Scout, Rivals and ESPN.
4. Shawn Oakman – DE (Lansdowne, PA)
Over recent years, the Penn State defensive line has been loaded with talent, often falling near the top of the national list in total sacks. Last year’s group tallied just 17 sacks on the year, which was good for 96th in the nation. New additions and depth are welcome, especially with senior Ollie Ogbu moving on. Oakman is listed a local PA kid that is listed as 6’8” on Scout. Along with his great size, Scout also lists his pass rushing skills as a strength. This is a huge need for the Nittany Lions after a down year in that department.
3. Anthony Zettel – OG / DE (West Branch, MI)
As mentioned previously, Penn State needs to add depth and talent in the trenches, both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Zettel played on both sides in high school, and the major recruiting sites are conflicted when predicting which position he will play. In particular, Rivals has Zettel as PSU’s top recruit, and listed as a defensive end. Either way, he will be a welcomed addition, especially since he was swiped away from the state of Michigan.
2. Angelo Mangiro – OG (Succasunna, NJ)
Mangiro is listed as one of the top guards in the country by multiple recruiting sites. With one of the best guards in recent Penn State memory leaving (Stefen Wisniewski), it was important for Penn State to bring in some new blood. It’s common that the Nittany Lions rarely play its offensive linemen as freshmen. Therefore, only time will tell how Mangiro develops and if and when he breaks into the starting lineup. There are enough departing linemen that starting positions could be available.
1. Bill Belton – WR / ATH (Atco, NJ)
Belton was a recent verbal commit to the Nittany Lions, after decommitting from a Pittsburgh team that was making major coaching changes. In high school, Belton was known to play running back, wide receiver and quarterback. With Evan Royster graduating, the Nittany Lions need new weapons on offense. Belton is an athlete with multiple talents, and ESPN listed him in its ESPNU Top 150 for 2011. With a need for athletes to compete with the best of the best, Belton could earn playing time sooner rather than later.
* Also posted to my Bleacher Report page