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Penn State recruiting mailbag: Is 2023 the best OL class of the James Franklin era? 2/6/2023 Johnny McGonigal,
Penn State offensive line coach Phil Trautwein talks to his players at practice on Aug. 29, 2022. Joe Hermitt | © JOE HERMITT/ Penn State offensive line coach Phil Trautwein talks to his players at practice on Aug. 29, 2022. Joe Hermitt |

Penn State fans, welcome back to my mailbag.

A reminder that you can have your voice heard in my mailbags moving forward. You can tweet at me, message me or join our text subscriber service — the best way to connect with our PennLive team — to have me answer your questions this season.

Let’s get to it.

After signing Chimdy Onoh, where does Penn State’s 2023 class rank in terms of offensive linemen in James Franklin’s time as head coach? — Bill T.

Four-star offensive tackle Chimdy Onoh picking Penn State on last Wednesday’s signing day capped a statement 2023 cycle for the Nittany Lions.

Onoh joins five-star Wyomissing star J’ven Williams and four-star Virginia natives Alex Birchmeier and Anthony Donkoh. The only other time Penn State signed four four-star offensive linemen in the same cycle was 2015, according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings. And that included Lackawanna College transfer Paris Palmer.

So yes, you could make the argument that this is the best offensive line recruiting class Penn State has had not only under Franklin but since the turn of the century when 247 Sports starting keeping track of recruiting ratings.

Having a five-star talent like Williams anchors the class. Birchmeier is a borderline five-star recruit while Donkoh and Onoh were risers down the stretch. That was especially the case for Onoh, who decommitted from Old Dominion before the December early signing period amid increased Power Five interest.

A ton of credit has to go to offensive line coach Phil Trautwein, who has done an top-notch job since being hired in January 2020.

Look at the past five months alone. The offensive line was finally a positive in 2022, helping Penn State to an 11-2 record and Rose Bowl win. Olu Fashanu developed into a projected first-round pick. True freshman Drew Shelton held his own in Fashanu’s absence when he suffered a season-ending injury. Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen were exceptional, and it’s thanks in part to the work in the trenches.

Now, entering a highly-anticipated 2023 season, the o-line ought to be a strength. And with Onoh, Williams, Birchmeier and Donkoh in the fold, Trautwein has helped secure the future of Penn State’s offensive line in 2024 and beyond.

Who is your pick to be Penn State’s next 2024 commit? — Kathy R.

Last week, I spoke with four-star Imhotep Charter cornerback Kenny Woseley for a story on Penn State assistant coach Deion Barnes. Woseley spoke highly of Barnes and his impact on recruiting Philadelphia. He also lauded area recruiter Terry Smith, who would be his position coach if he picks the Nittany Lions.

Coming away from that conversation, it felt as though Woseley was leaning toward Penn State. The next day Blue-White Illustrated logged a prediction that Woseley will commit to the Nittany Lions. So that’s my pick, too.

Woseley would be a good get not just for Penn State’s increased recruiting efforts in Philly but because he’s an impressive prospect. Rivals rates Woseley as the No. 189 player in the 2024 class and the No. 16 corner in the country. He has offers from Georgia, Florida, Oregon, Texas A&M, Tennessee and more.

How does the staff plan to address the lack of big, physical run stuffers at defensive tackle? Michigan exposed us last year and all we’ve done to address it is lose the best DT on the roster. — Ari R.

Kalen King, Johnny Dixon and North Carolina transfer Storm Duck are good enough to hold it down at corner without Joey Porter Jr. There’s plenty of confidence in Jaylen Reed, Keaton Ellis and Zakee Wheatley in the absence of safety Ji’Ayir Brown. Abdul Carter and Curtis Jacobs return as game-wreckers at linebacker while Chop Robinson, Adisa Isaac and Dani Dennis-Sutton headline a deep group of d-ends.

If you look up and down Manny Diaz’s unit, there’s a lot to like. But defensive tackle is a legitimate question mark right now.

As you mentioned Ari, P.J. Mustipher, a captain and All-Big Ten honoree, is out of eligibility. Mustipher logged 463 defensive snaps in 2022, most among Penn State’s d-tackles. Next in line was Hakeem Beamon (428 snaps) followed by Dvon Ellies (269), Coziah Izzard (194), Zane Durant (170) and Jordan van den Berg (170).

In terms of filling Mustipher’s lane-clogging, run-stuffing role, there’s not a perfect replacement on the roster for the 318-pounder.

Kaleb Artis (315 pounds) fits the profile but played only three snaps last season. That would be a big ask of the redshirt freshman. Beamon (264 pounds), Durant (276) and Izzard (292) are better pass-rushers than they are against the run. Ellies (295 pounds) is probably the most realistic option given his size and experience.

There’s a chance the answer isn’t on the roster yet. Penn State was a finalist for Texas State transfer Davon Sears, who picked Oklahoma last month. When the portal opens back up in May, expect the Nittany Lions to keep shopping for veteran help.

It’s going to be difficult for Franklin and his staff to fill the Mustipher-sized hole up front. We’ll find out if they’re successful when Michigan visits Happy Valley on Nov. 11.

Can you give us an update on where the PSU hoops roster stands after the season is over? I know there are good recruits coming in for next season. But will Shrewsberry have any open scholarships to work the portal? — Jeff H.

Here’s how the scholarship math shakes out.

Jalen Pickett, Myles Dread, Andrew Funk, Camren Wynter and Michael Henn are all using their extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to COVID-19. That means all five will be moving on. Penn State also has three 2023 recruits — Carey Booth, Braedan Shrewsberry and Logan Imes — entering the fold.

So if the rest of the roster returns, Penn State will have at least two spots available. I say “at least” because there’s always the chance for offseason attrition.

For now, though, all Micah Shrewsberry is worried about is his team’s current form as it pushes for its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011. Penn State was among CBS Sports bracketology’s’ “first four out” on Monday, which was understandable after suffering a brutal loss at Nebraska on Sunday.

Penn State has lost three of its last four and could really use wins against Wisconsin and Maryland this week to right the ship.

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