What helped Penn State in recruiting linebackers?
The Nittany Lions have already made moves since the early signing period to secure a top-10 class. And they might not stop before Wednesday.
As it stands, Penn State’s 2019 class has 21 members. Defensive linemen D’Von Ellies, Smith Vilbert and Joseph Appiah Darkwa are the newest additions to the Nittany Lions, as they announced their commitments in January.
Still, there are more pieces out there that can be added. Here are a few recruits James Franklin and his staff will be after come Wednesday’s National Signing Day.
S Nick Cross
High school: DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.)
Pedigree: Four stars, No. 4 safety, No. 1 Maryland prospect
Breakdown: Cross ought to be priority No. 1 for the Nittany Lions. But getting him to sign with Penn State won’t be easy.
The 6-foot, 206-pound safety is committed to Florida State; he has been since Sept. 3. But Cross did not sign with the Seminoles during December’s early signing period and was in State College this weekend for an official visit.
If Franklin, Terry Smith and company can flip Cross, it would be a crucial add to their 2019 class, maybe the most important. The Nittany Lions are thin at safety. Nick Scott ran out of eligibility, while Ayron Monroe and Isaiah Humphries announced transfer decisions last month. Lamont Wade entered the transfer portal, but decided to stay — a positive to be sure. But Scott’s vacated spot is subject to an open competition, and rising redshirt senior Garrett Taylor will be gone after 2019, too.
In short, there’s fluidity at the safety position, and Cross could push for time early. That is, if he flips from Florida State.
OG Doug Nester
High school: Spring Valley (Huntington, W. Va.)
Pedigree: Four stars, No. 6 guard, No. 2 West Virginia prospect
Breakdown: Like Cross, Nester is also verbally committed to another school. Only this one is an in-division rival.
Nester — a 6-foot-6, 305-pounder — is pledged to Ohio State. Since committing to the Buckeyes, he has visited Columbus, officially or unofficially, at least six times, according to 247 Sports. And he has maintained throughout his recruitment that he is committed to Ohio State.
But after Urban Meyer retired and Ryan Day stepped in, Ohio State signed 15 players in the early signing period —and Nester was not one of them. Instead, the guard visited Penn State the last weekend in January and Virginia Tech this past weekend. According to 247 Sports’ Bill Kurelic, Ohio State, Penn State and Virginia Tech all “feel they have a legitimate shot at signing Nester on National Signing Day.”
If the Nittany Lions pull it off, Nester would add to a young-but-promising front. In the last three seasons, Matt Limegrover and Penn State signed three linemen that were ranked in 247 Sports’ top 100 overall prospects: CJ Thorpe (No. 89, 2017), Rasheed Walker (No. 65, 2018) and Caedan Wallace (No. 81, 2019).
DT Jaquaze Sorrells
High school: Winter Park (Orlando, Fla.)
Pedigree: Four stars, No. 14 defensive tackle, No. 21 Florida prospect
Breakdown: The Nittany Lions are making a heavy push for Sorrells, but so is the SEC.
South Carolina is seen as the leader for the 6-foot-3, 310-pound run-stuffer; 86 percent of Sorrells’ Crystal Ball predictions go in the Gamecocks’ favor. Alabama is also in on the defensive tackle, hosting him this weekend on an official visit, according to 247 Sports.
But Sean Spencer visited Sorrells on Jan. 21, Sorrells came up to State College last weekend, and a contingent of Nittany Lion coaches (Spencer, Franklin and JaJuan Seider) went down to Florida to see him.
If that’s enough to land the four-star prospect, it would be a nice addition to the Nittany Lions’ depth at defensive tackle, which took a hit with Kevin Givens’ early departure to the NFL. The Nittany Lions have, however, earned two DT commitments recently with D’Von Ellies and Joseph Appiah Darkwa picking Penn State.
Sorrells will make his announcement on Wednesday afternoon.
WR TJ Jones
High school: Columbia (Lake City, Fla.)
Pedigree: Three stars, No. 74 wide receiver, No. 72 Florida prospect
The skinny: Virginia Tech grad transfer Eric Kumah (42 catches, 559 yards, seven TDs in 2018) is visiting Happy Valley in April. But Penn State might add another wideout before then.
Jones — a 6-foot-1, 185-pound wideout — looks as if he’s leaning toward Penn State; 71 percent of his 247 Sports Crystal Ball predictions have the Nittany Lions landing the Florida prospect.
Jones, who recorded 42 receptions, 833 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior, accumulated a remarkable 38 offers. But it looks as if it’s down to three schools: Penn State, Indiana and Georgia Tech. Jones visited Bloomington last month, came to Penn State the last weekend in January and was in Atlanta this past weekend.
Jones would be a welcomed addition to Penn State’s wideout room. Juwan Johnson and Brandon Polk entered the transfer portal and won’t be back. KJ Hamler, Justin Shorter, Jahan Dotson and more make up an impressive young core, and John Dunmore signed in December.
But Jones would provide another option for Penn State’s quarterbacks of the future. Plus, he’s a Florida prospect — and Seider and Penn State are looking to continue expanding their footprint in the Sunshine State.
Position: Offensive tackle
High school: Ben Davis (Indianapolis, Ind.)
Pedigree: Three stars, No. 87 offensive tackle, No. 13 Indiana prospect
The skinny: After losing Ryan Bates early to the 2019 NFL draft, it wouldn’t hurt to add another tackle to the mix — especially one that stands at 6-foot-8, 360 pounds.
Jones, who also had Division I offers to play basketball, is an athletic late-bloomer. Ohio State, Michigan and Louisville offered him in late November, while Penn State, Oregon, Auburn and Florida got in on the lineman in December.
Jones will make his decision on Wednesday’s National Signing Day.