Skip to main content

For Penn State, a Talent Infusion Arrives This Summer

The Nittany Lions are about to get an influx of freshmen and transfers for the 2022 season.

At Penn State's Blue-White Game, James Franklin looked toward the recruiting lounge above the Beaver Stadium media room when he delivered this line.

"We probably have more new guys showing up on campus that have a chance to impact the roster as freshmen than maybe we've ever had," Franklin said.

It was not only a statement about Penn State's 2022 recruiting class but also an invitation to the attending recruits and their parents: Commit with us for an opportunity to play early. Eight Nittany Lions enrolled in January to take advantage of that opportunity, and the next group begins arriving now.

Penn State's first summer session begins Monday, meaning the Nittany Lions return to work on the 2022 season. Joining them are a group of signees from the 2022 recruiting class.

You know about Drew Allar, Nicholas Singleton, Zane Durant and the group of early enrollees who made a quick impact at Penn State this spring. But who's next? Here's a look at some new faces who might contribute this fall.

Alex Bacchetta

Position: Punter

About him: Bacchetta, a three-time all-state punter and kicker in Georgia, joins the Penn State roster as a scholarship specialist. Kohl's Kicking ranked him as the No. 1 punter in the 2022 recruiting cycle and also as the No. 8 kicker. Bacchetta averaged 40.3 yards per punt last season and went 24-for-24 on field-goal attempts inside 45 yards during his high school career. Bacchetta made five field goals in one game (tying a state record) and helped his soccer team win a state title in 2019.

Why he'll matter in 2022: Penn State needs a punter, and Bacchetta likely is it. He's 6-2, 205 pounds with a powerful leg and will be the only scholarship punter on Penn State's roster. Former Penn State punter Blake Gillikin, who went to the same high school as Bacchetta, told Franklin that Bacchetta is "the best freshman he's ever seen." The Lions have scholarship kickers in Jake Pinegar and Sander Sahayadak, but look for Bacchetta to lead the punting competition when he enrolls.

Abdul Carter

Position: Linebacker

About him: A two-time all-state player, Carter made 78 tackles (10 for loss) as a senior at La Salle College High in Philadelphia. He was a top-30 linebacker nationally, according to the 247Sports Composite, and possesses ready-to-play size (6-3, 235 pounds) at the position.

Why he'll matter in 2022: Penn State is pretty thin at linebacker, which in part contributed to the decision to move Jonathan Sutherland from safety. Sutherland, Curtis Jacobs and either Tyler Elsdon or Kobe King in the middle likely will form the linebacking core. But this group needs more depth. Plus, the traditional Penn State linebacker No. 11 remains open.

Dani Dennis-Sutton

Position: Defensive lineman

About him: Though he missed part of his senior season with an injury, Dennis-Sutton still made a big impact. He was a breakout player at the All-American Bowl, making plays all week and finishing with a sack in the game.

"Dani Dennis-Sutton made waves off the bus early in the week in San Antonio and he flashed with some easy pressure on Saturday afternoon," John Garcia, Jr., Sports Illustrated's director of recruiting, wrote from San Antonio. "His hands worked over a left tackle for a second-quarter sack, and on the next play he bent out to cover a tailback in the flats with a pop to knock him off of his route. The SI99 recruit won't wait long to make an impact at Penn State."

Scroll to Continue

Read More

Why he'll matter in 2022: Penn State needs pass-rushers, even with starters Nick Tarburton and Jesse Luketa (and 2021 projected starter Adisa Isaac) returning. Dennis-Sutton doesn't have to be a three-down player. Position coach John Scott Jr. can work him into a rotation, nurturing Dennis-Sutton's development while allowing him to put his 6-5, 255-pound frame to work early.

Hunter Nourzad

Position: Offensive lineman

About him: Nourzad (6-4, 298 pounds) was an AFCA second-team All-American in 2021, becoming Cornell's first All-American in 16 years. A two-time All-Ivy League lineman, Nourzad started 20 consecutive games at right tackle, anchoring a line that helped produce 121 yards rushing per game and set a school record for fewest sacks allowed (nine). Nourzad, an engineering student, was a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy, considered the nation's academic Heisman.

Why he'll matter in 2022: Like Harvard's Eric Wilson (also a former Ivy League lineman) before him, Nourzad steps into a position of need for Penn State. The Lions concluded spring drills without establishing starters at either guard position. Nourzad will enter the competition immediately.

Demeioun Robinson

Position: Defensive end

About him: Robinson played 13 games primarily at linebacker as a freshman last season at Maryland, where he made 19 tackles and two sacks. He started one game, against Indiana, and made three tackles in the Terps' win over Virginia Tech in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Why he'll matter in 2022: "We've got to find somebody who can come in and help us with edge pressure and affecting the quarterback," Franklin said this offseason. Obviously, the Lions believe Robinson can be that player.

Robinson (6-4, 250 pounds) was among the top players in the 2021 recruiting cycle. He ranked No. 10 in SI All-American's SI99 and was the highest-ranked player from Maryland, where he played at Gaithersburg's Quince Orchard High.

Demeioun Robinson Maryland

Defensive end Demeioun Robinson played 13 games for Maryland as a freshman in 2021.

Read More

Jordan Stout's time is now in Baltimore

How Will Levis became an NFL draft prodigy at Kentucky

Two former Penn State receivers land on Sportico's list of the world's richest athletes

Time for Penn State to 'right the ship,' quarterback Sean Clifford says

AllPennState is the place for Penn State news, opinion and perspective on the SI.com network. Publisher Mark Wogenrich has covered Penn State for more than 20 years, tracking three coaching staffs, three Big Ten titles and a catalog of great stories. Follow him on Twitter @MarkWogenrich. And consider subscribing (button's on the home page) for more great content across the SI.com network.