Penn State concluded a wildly successful July recruiting period by claiming the No. 1 in SI All-American's 2022 class rankings.
SI All-American elevated Penn State from No. 4 to No. 1 in its latest 2022 rankings, after the team went on an assertive July run. The Lions capped a memorable month of recruiting with commitments from Pennsylvania linebacker Abdul Carter and Maryland defensive back Kevin Winston Jr., who became the 23rd and 24th players to join the 2022 class.
The Lions received half of those commitments in July, a whirlwind recruiting month that began with five players announcing in the first week, and three on July 4th alone.
Since then, Penn State received commitments from two of the nation's top running backs, a leading defensive end and the son of a former NFL receiver. The Lions also restarted the 2023 recruiting class with the nation's top-ranked interior lineman.
"A month ago, Penn State stood at 12 commitments, with enough talent to crack a top five class," according to SI All-American. "It has doubled the commitment list in just a few weeks but the Nittany Lions sit atop the list not just because of volume, but because of raw talent. Among the prospects added to the haul since the last update include No. 1 running back Nicholas Singleton and No. 7 back Kaytron Allen as well as NFL legacy Christian Driver, safety Jordan Allen and high upside defensive lineman Dani Dennis-Sutton out of Maryland.
In all, Penn State in July picked up commitments from 13 players across seven states and two classes. The Lions also lost one commitment, though coaches like to remind that recruiting continues until Signing Day.
Miss any Penn State recruiting news in July? Let's recap.
Penn State lands two of the nation's top running backs
July was important for Penn State's offensive future, as the program received commitments from two running backs ranked among the top 10 nationally, according to SI All-American. Pennsylvania's Nicholas Singleton announced his commitment July 6, followed by IMG Academy's Kaytron Allen 10 days later.
The commitments from Singleton and Allen were reminiscent of Penn State's 2019 class that included Noah Cain and Devyn Ford. Singleton and Allen, like Cain and Ford, are nationally elite, having rushed for more than 6,500 combined yards in high school.
Singleton averaged 15.8 yards per carry at Governor Mifflin High last season. Allen has averaged about 8 yards per carry the past two seasons at IMG Academy, perhaps the nation's most competitive program.
Penn State clearly is selling its offensive plan well to backs. Head coach James Franklin and running backs coach Ja'Juan Seider stress a rotational backfield while also playing the hot-hand strategy. Getting top running backs to understand their roles in an offense is delicate; the Lions' coaching staff seems to be navigating that approach expertly.
Defensive line talent joins the fold
Penn State addressed its defensive line future in July, receiving commitments from three key players: Dani Dennis-Sutton, Kaleb Artis, and Zane Durant.
Dennis-Sutton is the headliner, as physically gifted as "any prospect in this class," according to SI All-American. He's a 6-5, 250-pound lineman who moves like an edge rusher or even a linebacker. Dennis-Sutton, who is from Delaware, attends Maryland's McDonogh High, with which Penn State has developed a strong relationship.
Dennis-Sutton hasn't been playing football for very long. Like former Penn State standout Odafe Oweh, who was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, Dennis-Sutton began playing football later in his career.
But Dennis-Sutton has made a seamless transition from basketball to becoming a dominant football player in a short time. He had a strong sophomore season in 2019 but did not play in 2020 after McDonogh's season was canceled.
"This will be Dani’s third year playing organized football ever,” McDonogh coach Hakeem Sule told the Baltimore Sun in 2020. “So, you’re taking an athlete and a guy who’s really a basketball player and teaching him the defensive end position.
"If you look at his film, what you’re seeing is a progression in the last two years of him mastering his craft and learning how to play. A guy with his size and relentless effort to get to the ball, that presents a lot of problems for opposing teams."
Artis chose Penn State from a long offer list that included Texas A&M, Auburn, Florida State, Texas and Wisconsin, among others. He visited Penn State, Auburn and Virginia in June.
Durant (6-1, 260 pounds) is a disruptive defensive end at Orlando's Lake Nona High, where he has started since his freshman season. Last year Durant made 15.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, prompting high praise from Lake Nona head coach Anthony Paradiso.
"Zane is the best player I've ever coached," Paradiso told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. "He’s a generational kid. From day one, his work ethic, his attitude, his preparation, his character set him apart."
Lions get skill in the secondary
Safeties Kevin Winston Jr., and Cristian Driver and cornerback Cam Miller bring quite a level of talent to Penn State's defensive backfield.
Winston committed July 31, choosing Penn State over Maryland. The 3-star prospect continued Penn State's recent success recruiting Maryland's DeMatha Catholic, following current defensive lineman Coziah Izzard and offensive lineman Golden Israel-Achumba.
Miller, a 4-star prospect from Florida according to the 247Sports composite, chose Penn State over Virginia Tech. He also received offers from Miami, Virginia, Maryland, Central Florida and South Carolina, among others.
Miller was a second-team Class 4A all-state player at Fernandina Beach High last season, when he played quarterback and defensive back. Miller helped the team to its first regional playoff victory in school history.
And Driver brings an NFL pedigree to Penn State. James Franklin coached Driver's father Donald during his year on the Green Bay Packers' staff in 2005. Though Cristian Driver, who plays at Texas' Liberty Christian, is listed as a safety, he seeks a shot at wide receiver in college.
Four more talented Penn State commits to watch
A quartet of prospects could make significant impacts with the Lions.
Abdul Carter, a 4-star linebacker per 247Sports, adds plenty of defensive punch to the class. Carter, a 6-4, 235-pound senior at La Salle College High, had offers from USC, LSU, Michigan, Pitt and others. He visited Penn State in June along with South Carolina.
Jordan Allen, a defensive back from Louisiana, became Penn State's latest commit July 17. The 5-11, 175-pound Allen earned the nickname "Lockdown" at Lafayette Christian Academy for his exceptional cover skills.
Allen committed to Penn State without visiting in June, in part because of his relationships with the coaches and their specific pitch. In an interview with SI All-American's Matt Ray, Allen called cornerbacks coach Terry Smith key to his decision.
"That is my guy," Allen said of Smith. "He really made me feel like it was home. He told me that I was the number one guy on their board and that I needed to come in early and fight for some playing time. So, I was thinking about that stuff and the reaction I got from him when I committed to him; he was going crazy. He was so happy."
Offensive lineman JB Nelson kicked off the July commitment run, becoming the latest Lion from Lackawanna College.
Nelson (6-6, 310 pounds) recently completed his freshman season at Lackawanna College. The Mt. Lebanon High graduate was considered among the best offensive lineman in western Pennsylvania before joining the roster at Lackawanna College.
Nelson is the second Lackawanna player to commit to Penn State's 2022 class, joining safety Tyrece Mills, who announced his decision in May.
Keon Wylie seeks to become Penn State's next great defensive player from Philadelphia's Imhotep Charter, which is the alma mater of former defensive end Shaka Toney. Washington selected Toney in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Wylie (6-2, 220 pounds) chose Penn State over Kentucky and Pitt, among other schools. He was impressive in Imhotep's five-game spring season, making five sacks in one game against Northeast High. Wylie plays defensive end for Imhotep and projects as an end or outside linebacker in college.
During an interview with CBS Sports HQ, Wylie credited Penn State graduate assistant Deion Barnes for making the big push to recruit him. Wylie spoke with head coach James Franklin and fellow staff members but said that he "connected very well" with Barnes, who has made a significant impact on Penn State's recruiting in Philadelphia.
Pittsburgh defensive end decommits
Tyreese Fearbry, a 4-star prospect according to Rivals, committed to Penn State on July 4 and decommitted July 29. The 6-5 defensive end from Perry Traditional Academy is considered the No. 1 recruit in Pittsburgh's City League, according to Triblive.
Fearbry, Pennsylvania's No. 8 overall prospect according to 247Sports, initially chose Penn State over Pitt and Kentucky. Watch for Pitt to circle back into the picture.
Virginia lineman restarts the 2023 recruiting class
Alex Birchmeier, a 4-star prospect, per Rivals and 247Sports, is a 6-5, 275-pound interior lineman from Virginia with time and room to grow. According to 247Sports, Birchmeier is the top-ranked overall prospect in Virginia for the 2023 cycle, and also the No. 1 interior lineman in the country.
Birchmeier received offers from more than 30 schools, including Virginia and Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Florida, Georgia and Auburn. He no doubt won over Franklin with his wrestling skill as well. As a sophomore, Birchmeier won the Virginia High School League Class 4 heavyweight wrestling title in February.
Birchmeier currently is the lone player committed to Penn State's 2023 class.