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Nittany Lions strengthen fronts on signing day

Written by The Associated Press | Feb 1, 2017 3:29 PM
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Penn State's Jordan Smith kisses the trophy after Penn State defeated Wisconsin 38-31 to win the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

(State College) -- Following a turnaround that included a Big Ten championship in James Franklin's third season, Penn State remains young, especially in the trenches. Growing pains on defense were noticeable early when experienced linebackers were hurt. Meanwhile, a new offensive scheme and mobile quarterback Trace McSorley helped mask deficiencies of a youthful front five.

After losing starting center Brian Gaia and top defensive end Garrett Sickels, who left early for the NFL Draft, the Nittany Lions inked four offensive linemen and four defensive linemen on signing day to bolster their corps.

Other things to know:

Top 25 Class: Yes

Best in class: Lamont Wade, CB, Clairton, Pennsylvania. Analysts consider Wade the fifth best cornerback recruit in the country. Penn State coaches like his versatility -- he excelled in coverage at Clairton HS and his 5-foot-9 frame didn't limit him in run support, where he was often a physical menace.

Best of the rest: CJ Thorpe, OG, Pittsburgh.

Late addition: Ellis Brooks, LB, Richmond, Virginia.

One that got away: Dylan Rivers. The Virginia linebacker flipped his commitment to Virginia Tech just 10 days before signing day.

How they'll fit in: With most of its starters returning, Penn State will likely take a stash-and-develop approach this class. Watch the front seven, however. Penn State likes to use a deep rotation and considering the Nittany Lions are thin at DT and LB, a few new defenders could earn early playing time.

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