Most of the analysts said Penn State needed to recruit defensive backs when the 2011 football recruiting campaign began.
On national signing day, the Nittany Lions finally got one.
Adrian Amos, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound safety from Calvert Hall High School and the Varsity Sports Radio Network Baltimore area defensive player of the year, became the last piece to Penn State's class in a signing ceremony at his high school Wednesday afternoon. He picked the Lions over West Virginia and UConn, where he originally committed before Huskies coach Randy Edsall left to take the Maryland job.
Amos brought Penn State's total of new signees to 15, and he was the only defensive back in that group. The Lions also re-signed Cathedral Prep cornerback Shyquawn Pullium; Pullium actually was a member of Penn State's 2010 recruiting class but is spending this school year at Kiski Prep beefing up his academics.
Penn State was able to sign all of the players that had previously committed, including holding off the overtures of Southern Cal to ink Arizona lineman Ryan Nowicki.
"Penn State is known for the number of student athletes who graduate," Amos told the Baltimore Sun of his reasons for signing with Penn State Wednesday. "If something does go wrong - and God willing, it won't - I will still have a future. I'll still go someplace because people know Penn State is serious about academics. It's a very tough academic school, and in this economy, you need everything you can to get a job."
The Mirror presents a full breakdown and class list of Penn State's, Pitt's, Notre Dame's and West Virginia's 2011 football recruiting efforts, as well as a look ahead to the Nittany Lions' targets for 2012.
How they ranked
Penn State's 2011 recruiting class as ranked by the major recruiting outlets:
ESPN.....Outside top 30
Note: Ohio State and Nebraska were the only Big Ten schools to produce consensus top 25 classes. See Page C6 for nationwide rankings by Rivals.com.
The payoff might be more immediate for the Lions, who could have opportunities for playing time relatively early in the defensive backfield. A four-year player and three-year starter in the secondary at Calvert Hall, Amos had 78 tackles, four interceptions and three forced fumbles as the Cardinals went 11-1. He was first-team all-Maryland and first-team Baltimore Sun all-metro.
"He's a kid with range and very diverse skills,'' said Calvert Hall coach Donald Davis, who played Amos at cornerback as a sophomore and junior and utilized him as a safety, wide receiver and in a variety of ways on special teams during his senior year. "Very seldom do you see big kids who can run like he does. He's one of those hybrid defensive backs who is strong and physical enough to play safety and runs like a corner. They just have to figure out where he fits into their scheme.''
Amos only had about a half-dozen Division I-A scholarship offers, but Davis said he felt that was more of a reflection of the fact that he committed to UConn in August and made it clear to other colleges he was happy with the Huskies. When he reopened his recruitment, other colleges tried to get in.
"Kansas State, Cincinnati, Vanderbilt Vanderbilt actually offered,'' Davis said. "He was going to visit Vanderbilt over the weekend, but decided instead to go to Penn State.''
While on his visit, Amos got to take in the Nittany Lion basketball team's 56-52 win over Wisconsin with assistant coach Larry Johnson. Amos used to be a teammate of Penn State freshman Jonathan Graham on the Calvert Hall basketball team.
Davis said the game that best exemplifies what Amos can do came against Gilman, which featured mercurial Virginia signee Darius Jennings and blue chip junior Cyrus Jones handling the football. With Gilman up 14-0, Amos breathed life into the Cardinals with a 65-yard touchdown catch-and-run. Then he picked off Jennings on a third-down pass to set up a late score that brought Calvert Hall within 21-19 before recovering an onsides kick with which he actually ran into the end zone before the officials brought it back.
Finally, he took out Gilman's punter on a bad snap, enabling a teammate to scoop up the ball and score the touchdown that gave Calvert Hall the 26-21 win.
"He played as big as I ever had a player play in a big game,'' Davis said.
Davis described Amos, who has run track and timed at 4.59 seconds in the 40-yard dash according to Rivals.com, as a tremendously poised player with great ball skills. Interestingly, when Amos began playing for Davis as a freshman, he was only 5-2 and 135 pounds. By the time he was a sophomore, he was up to 5-9, and he led the Cardinals in interceptions that season.
"It was like he changed people,'' Davis said.
Penn State did bring in a couple of more intriguing players to add depth to the secondary in preferred walk-ons Tim Buckley of North Carolina and J.T. Hornyak of Virginia. Buckley, whose father is a Penn State graduate, is a safety who rushed for just shy of 1,800 yards and scored 36 touchdowns in leading Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons to an 11-3 record and a berth in the third round of the state playoffs. Hornyak, a cornerback, is the son of former Nittany Lion John Hornyak.
The Lions also landed 6-4 quarterback John Cabot of Encinitas, Calif. as a preferred walk-on.
After the ouster of Dave Wannstedt and the subsequent firing of Wannstedt's replacement, Mike Haywood, nearly wiped out Pitt's recruiting class, the Panthers finished with 19 signees. Woodland Hills defensive back Lafayette Pitts, originally a Pitt commit, switched back to the Panthers from Rutgers, while sleeper wide receiver Justin Jackson from Alabama signed on Wednesday.
Notre Dame also picked up a last-day recruiting, getting the signature of top-10 lineman Troy Niklas over USC to give it the eighth-ranked signing class in the country according to Scout.com and the No. 9 haul by Scout.com's measurement. The Irish did lose running back Bennett Okotcha to Oklahoma in a commitment switch over the weekend.
West Virginia lost Texas running back Jermichael Selders on signing day but picked up a top notch offensive lineman in Miami guard Marquis Lucas, who had been set to go to Rutgers.