Where they ranked as recruits: Defense

NittanyNation takes a look at returning defensive starters -- and other key players -- to see just how much attention was paid to them back on their respective signing days:

DE Deion Barnes, Grade: 78, three stars: He clearly came in underrated. He was the nation's No. 45 defensive end and was No. 12 in the state. He now has a future playing football on Sundays, and -- if ESPN could get a mulligan here -- Barnes would easily be a top-10 four-star defensive end. He's already the top pass-rusher on the team and finished with six sacks and 10 tackles for loss last year. He was ranked behind Anthony Zettel in this class.

DT DaQuan Jones, Grade: 77, three stars: The jury's still out on Jones, but his grade doesn't seem too far off from where he'll end up. He'll be a two-year starter and he did relatively well last season. ESPN thought he could play on the offensive line, too, but believed he "should become a solid starter at the BCS level of competition."

LB Glenn Carson, Grade: 78, three stars: This rating was probably pretty fair, too. A grade of 79 indicates someone who could vie for all-conference honors, and Carson appears to be just a notch below that. He might not earn a spot on the All-Big Ten team, but he'll end his career as a three-year starter. He's the most-experienced player on the defense and a solid contributor.

LB Mike Hull, Grade: 78, three stars: Hull's stock is rising and, while it may be a bit premature to rewrite his grade now, we could very well be saying how he deserved four stars in another nine months. He saw solid playing time last season and, like Jones, should turn out to be a two-year starter. He was rated as the No. 14 middle linebacker in his class. A "78" at this point is a very conservative grade. He was ranked behind Khairi Fortt, and Hull's future definitely seems brighter right now.

CB Adrian Amos, Grade: 76, three stars: He won't be leaving early for the NFL, but he's clearly played above his star rating, much like Barnes. Amos came in as the No. 68 CB, but he's more like a top-15 guy now. And that's being conservative. He was an honorable mention on the All-Big Ten team last year and, by the time he leaves PSU, an argument could be made that his grade should have been 10 points higher.

S Malcolm Willis, Grade: 74, three stars: This rating and scouting report seemed pretty close to where he wound up. He definitely started out slow this past season but still played slightly better than expectations. He broke up two passes and had no interceptions in 2012. ESPN's scouts said he needed quite a bit of polish and was a bit stiff but displayed good range.

S Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, Grade: Unrated: He was one of the least-heralded recruits of the 2009 class, but he appeared to deserve a low- to mid-range three-star rating. His teammates called him the most improved player last season, and he beat Jake Fagnano for the starting job. He has a higher ceiling than Willis and could be a pleasant surprise on defense this season.

Other key players: DE Anthony Zettel, Grade: 80, four stars; DE C.J. Olaniyan, Grade: 81, four stars, No. 148 in ESPN 150; DT Austin Johnson, Grade: Unrated; DT Kyle Baublitz, Grade: 79, four stars; LB Ben Kline, Grade: 78, three stars; LB Nyeem Wartman, Grade: 75, three stars; CB Da'Quan Davis, Grade: 76, three stars.