Penn State wraps up signing day with 19 new players

Penn State completed national signing day with no surprises, with 19 players submitting signed letters of intent to become part of the Nittany Lions’ freshman Class of 2012.

Penn State received letters from every player who was expected to sign. No player made a last-minute change of heart toward another school, and the Nittany Lions did not hear from anyone who made a sudden decision to go to Penn State.

The Lions ended up signing five defensive linemen, four wide receivers, three defensive backs, two offensive linemen, two tight ends, one linebacker, one running back and one quarterback.

The quarterback is 6-foot-2, 200-pound Steven Bench of Cairo, Ga. Bench, who carried a 3.86 grade-point average, is a quarterback “who’s very accurate and can process information quickly," according to running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Charles London.

Bench, who originally had committed to Rice, was someone new head coach Bill O’Brien went after quickly after he was hired. The move turned out to be a good one after St. Joseph’s Prep quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg decided against Penn State earlier this week and in favor of Florida.

O’Brien, still the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, is expected to take a break from Super Bowl preparations later this afternoon to discuss the new freshman class.

The class included eight players who committed to Penn State after O’Brien took over. Ten of the players committed while Joe Paterno still was head coach, and one gave his word to interim head coach Tom Bradley during the TicketCity Bowl.

The recruiting class had been considered 46th in the nation by both Rivals and Scout, two recruiting web sites, and in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. The Lions lost six commitments after the arrest of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky on child sex abuse charges triggered national outrage.

Five players in the Class of 2012 hail from Maryland, more than any other state. Pennsylvania has four players and New Jersey three. Six states – Connecticut, Georgia, New York, Ohio, Virginia and Washington – and one Canadian province – Ontario – each have one.

Penn State signed two Philadelphia-area prospects, both defensive linemen – Jamil Pollard of West Deptford High School and Austin Johnson from St. Augustine Prep.

The most recent players from those high schools to star at Penn State were Anthony Scirotto (West Deptford) and Jack Crawford (St. Augustine).

The signees also include wide receiver Jonathan Warner, the son of former Nittany Lions All-American running back Curt Warner. Tight end Jesse James of Glassport, Pa., already has enrolled at Penn State.

The release of signees as their letters of intent arrive is a new twist for Penn State. Former head coach Joe Paterno never commented on his new players on national signing day, and officials waited until late in the day to release the full list.

--Joe Juliano