The annual Penn State spring game brought attention back to Beaver Stadium on Saturday. However, the Nittany Lions’ 2018 recruiting class consistently managed to claim the spotlight throughout the weekend.
It was a roller-coaster ride of sorts for a group now ranked No. 3 nationally in the 247Sports composite class rankings. First came a pair of pregame pledges Saturday afternoon from offensive linemen Nana Asiedu and Antwan Reed.
Asiedu — a 6-foot-6, 265-pound prospect from North Stafford (Va.) High School — is among the more heralded blockers James Franklin has acquired during his tenure in Happy Valley.
Ranked No. 9 among offensive tackles in composite rankings, his announcement is likely to create the most buzz, but Reed’s commitment is also cause for celebration in State College. The 6-5, 326-pound blocker, who attends Muskegon (Mich.) High School, is another top-25 player at the position and provides a significant recruiting victory in rival Big Ten territory.
“It shows Penn State is sending a very good message with top offensive linemen that players like that want to be part of the program and compete,” said Caedan Wallace, a 2019 Nittany Lions offer who received an early top-10 guard grade from 247Sports.
These pickups took place just a day after in-state offensive tackle Chris Bleich — committed to Penn State since April 2016 — backed off his verbal pledge. Fresh off a visit to Nebraska’s spring game, he tweeted, “I committed way too young in my sophomore year.”
The de-commitment bug bit Penn State again Sunday night in more emphatic fashion. Harrisburg (Pa.) High School defensive end Micah Parsons — the No. 1 overall prospect in Pennsylvania and top-ranked Nittany Lions commit — also decided to depart this class:
? hardest decision I had to make but pic.twitter.com/s0J47fi1iC
— #blessed⭐️MVP™ (@Micah_parsons23) April 24, 2017
Parsons seemingly echoed Bleich’s sentiments, stating he “committed too soon.” He became a catalyst for Franklin’s lauded 2018 class last February while continuing to express interest in other schools, evidenced by a visit to Ohio State’s spring game earlier this month.
His departure is a huge blow to Penn State and momentarily halts its surge toward the top spot in national recruiting class rankings, though the Nittany Lions remain No. 1 among Big Ten teams. Still, there’s hope for an eventual reunion between the 5-star edge rusher and his former classmates.
Parsons, who joined several other committed players on campus Saturday for spring game festivities, said during a discussion with Adam Friedman of Rivals.com that Penn State remains the program to beat.
“I talked to coach Franklin in person there and over the phone today and thought this would be the best decision for right now,” he told Friedman. “They’re still my top school right now, but I felt like I need to focus on other things right now.”
Parsons went on to share upcoming visit plans, including trips to Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State. He also anticipates a return to Happy Valley, though a potential recommitment may not occur until signing day.
His de-commitment was met with mixed reactions by those who expected to play alongside him at Beaver Stadium. Defensive lineman Fred Hansard — a 2017 signee who initially pledged to Florida before flipping to Penn State — sympathized with the stressful recruiting process:
I 100% respect his decision because I've also had to make a big decision like that. Hope he comes back and sees why PSU is the place to be ?
— Fred Hansard (@Fred_Hansard56) April 24, 2017
Although he denied he was “throwing shade” in the direction of Parsons, Penn State defensive back pledge Isaiah Humphries seemed intent on sending a message about where things stand with his 2018 class within minutes of the de-commitment:
— Isaiah (@TheHumphries23) April 24, 2017
Humphries’ post featured multiple photos of 2018 Nittany Lions commits on campus Saturday. The group now includes 12 players, and Penn State special teams coordinator/running backs coach Charles Huff believes their shared experiences at the spring game should help build momentum.
“Anytime you can bring a family together, spend time together and laugh together — especially young kids — is always good,” he said. “It allows them to build relationships. It continues to help us recruit and continues to help build their bond.”
— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) April 22, 2017
Camaraderie continues to grow for a class headlined by 5-star quarterback Justin Fields, 5-star running back Ricky Slade and 4-star pass targets such as receiver Justin Shorter and tight end Zack Kuntz. When you match this foundation with the fact that Penn State will enter the season with College Football Playoff expectations and Heisman Trophy hopeful Saquon Barkley, anticipate sustained recruiting buzz moving forward.
Speaking with Land of 10, multiple committed members of the 2018 class pointed to coveted prospects including offensive lineman Fredrick Scruggs, linebacker Brian Asamoah, receiver Shaquon Anderson-Butts and defensive backs Isheem Young and Kwantel Raines as key targets.
Here’s a current rundown of Penn State’s 2018 recruiting class:
(Based on 247Sports composite rankings)
- 5-star QB Justin Fields (Ga.) — No. 1 dual-threat QB; No. 20 overall
- 5-star RB Ricky Slade (Va.) — No. 1 APB; No. 26 overall
- 4-star WR Justin Shorter (N.J.) — No. 16 WR; No. 79 overall
- 4-star OT Nana Aseidu (Va.) — No. 9 OT; No. 82 overall
- 4-star TE Zack Kuntz (Pa.) — No. 3 TE; No. 85 overall
- 4-star TE Pat Freiermuth (Mass.) — No. 6 TE; No. 131 overall
- 4-star LB Nick Tarburton (Pa.) — No. 11 ILB; No. 315 overall
- 3-star LB Jesse Luketa (Pa.) — No. 15 ILB; No. 333 overall
- 3-star OT Antwan Reed (Mich.) — No. 25 OT; No. 337 overall
- 3-star S Isaiah Humphries (Texas) — No. 28 S; No. 362 overall
- 3-star CB Trent Gordon (Texas) — No. 37 CB; No. 417 overall
- 3-star LB Charlie Katshir (Pa.) — No. 36 OLB; No. 539 overall