Penn State’s 20th verbal commitment of this recruiting class may be its most important — at least in the shorter-term.
Paris Palmer actually is the second 6-foot-8, 300-pound-plus offensive tackle in the Nittany Lions’ 2015 class. But Palmer is a junior college transfer, meaning he is older and more experienced and probably more game-ready.
Palmer is a North Carolina native and a former commit to Steve Spurrier at South Carolina. But the nation’s top-rated JUCO offensive tackle officially opened up his recruitment again after visiting State College for the regular-season finale against Michigan State.
The Lackawanna JUCO standout in Scranton switched to Penn State last weekend. He plans to enroll in January. And he expects to help the Lions’ thin, struggling offensive line immediately.
“To me, he’s what they need,” said Brian Dohn, a national recruiting analyst with Scout.com. “If you’re looking at who helps them next year the most I gotta believe he’s the guy. He’s gotta be at the top of the list.”
Palmer’s commitment pushes Penn State back into the Top 10 of national recruiting rankings, including No. 8 by Scout.
Penn State also has a verbal commitment from towering Pittsburgh-area offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins, though he seems more of a long shot to play as a true freshman out of high school.
Meanwhile, Palmer gets high marks as both a pass- and run-blocker. “With his size he can still keep his pad level pretty low in the run game,” Dohn said. “And with that length on the edge, you gotta believe it can really help Penn State keep the quarterback up a little more.”
On the outside, the Lions expect to return redshirt junior left tackle Donovan Smith and redshirt freshman right tackle Andrew Nelson. Smith could potentially test his NFL Draft stock and leave early, he could stay at left tackle next season for the Lions or even move inside to guard.
For Palmer, “You figure left tackle, and he’s got long arms, too,” Dohn said. “It will take something special to get around him.”
Penn State has rarely relied on junior college players. Defensive tackle Tarow Barney was a first-year JUCO backup this past fall. Before that, Ako Poti started a majority of games at offensive tackle in 2009.
“You don’t go to the junior college ranks to get a kid who will sit,” Dohn said. “To me, this is one of the more exciting pickups for Penn State in a while because it helps them right away.”