Penn State prospects are expected to pack the fields at the New York Jets practice facilities in Florham Park, N.J., on Sunday. The Opening regional camp circuit rolls into the Northeast following recent stops in California, Florida, Georgia and Texas.
The Opening’s annual showcase schedule culminates this summer with invite-only finals action in Dallas. Event alumni include NFL stars Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown, Todd Gurley, Andrew Luck and Jalen Ramsey.
The schedule Sunday features individual combine testing, positional drills, 1-on-1 competition and accolades for those who perform at a high level. Land of 10 will be live in Florham Park throughout the day, providing updates on our website and social media (be sure to follow along on Twitter here and here).
Penn State fans have plenty to look forward to as the action unfolds. The field will feature at least a few future Nittany Lions players, battling against premier peers and under-the-radar athletes attempting to build their case for scholarship offer consideration.
Here are a few notable storylines to be aware of entering Sunday.
Eventual Penn State players previously excelled in this setting
This will be the fifth straight April in which I cover this event, and it has provided an early peek at Penn State stars in the past. Running back Saquan Barkley, offensive lineman Ryan Bates, receiver Juwan Johnson and cornerback John Reid competed in 2014, prior to their respective senior seasons of high school football.
Barkley and Johnson earned invitations to The Opening finals, then held at Nike’s world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.
Nittany Lions coach James Franklin had only been on the job for a few months, but his impact on recruits in the region was apparent.
“Coach Franklin is first and foremost,” Bates said in April 2014. “It’s impressive what he did at Vanderbilt, turning the program around. He’s going to do the same thing at Penn State, and everyone wants to be a part of it.”
After consecutive 11-win seasons that featured a Big Ten championship and a Fiesta Bowl victory, it’s safe to say Franklin has more clout when it comes to targeting top prospects. He signed Penn State’s first top-5 recruiting class this winter, and it featured several players who competed at The Opening in New Jersey last spring.
Nittany Lions signees Jahan Dotson (receiver), Pat Freiermuth (tight end), Zack Kuntz (tight end), Will Levis (quarterback), PJ Mustipher (defensive tackle), Jayson Oweh (defensive end), Micah Parsons (linebacker) and Justin Shorter (receiver) each attended the camp in 2017.
As we’ll address in a moment, there are many uncommitted talents Penn State would love to land from this camp roster.
Penn State commit Taquan Roberson will showcase his skills
The 2019 Penn State recruiting class will be represented by DePaul Catholic (Wayne, N.J.) High School quarterback Taquan Roberson. Cornerback Keaton Ellis, the Nittany Lions’ only other verbal pledge, initially planned to compete Sunday but will instead attend The Opening’s regional camp in Canton, Ohio, next month.
Roberson, who committed to Penn State on Oct. 26, led DePaul Catholic to a state championship in 2017. He completed 67 percent of pass attempts as a junior, according to MaxPreps, collecting 3,039 total yards and 34 touchdowns.
Considered the top quarterback recruit in composite 247Sports 2019 New Jersey rankings, Roberson is on a mission to join an illustrious Elite 11 fraternity. The Elite 11 is a nationwide quarterback competition that coincides with The Opening, and its alumni include Jared Goff, Marcus Mariota, Tim Tebow, Deshaun Watson and Jameis Winston.
Penn State commits have advanced in Elite 11 action during recent years. Christian Hackenberg, Sean Clifford and Jake Zembiec reached final stages, as did Justin Fields and Brandon Wimbush, who ultimately flipped their pledges elsewhere before National Signing Day.
Roberson is a candidate to jump from composite 3-star to 4-star prospect this offseason. A strong performance Sunday could serve as a springboard.
Penn State targets from various classes are all over the field
Roberson may be the lone Penn State pledge in attendance but it’s probably a sure bet he’ll share the field with a few future college teammates. There are more than 20 anticipated attendees who carry a Nittany Lions offer, including some who visited campus as recently as Saturday.
Below is a rundown of Penn State targets expected to compete Sunday, including classification and need-to-know details.
DB Litchfield Ajavon (Alexandria, Va.) — He attends the same school (Episcopal) that produced 2017 Penn State safety signee Jonathan Sutherland. Ajavon placed Penn State in his top 7 this winter, along with Clemson, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Virginia Tech.
DL Antonio Alfano (Colonia, N.J.) — He considered announcing a commitment in December but opted to postpone. Alfano visited Penn State on Thursday, and plans to spend time at Alabama and Georgia next week.
DB Dean Engram (Washington, D.C.) — The son of former star Nittany Lions receiver Bobby Engram. He visited Beaver Stadium last season for Penn State’s win over Michigan.
WR John Metchie (Ontario, Canada) — Recent offers from Alabama, Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame have changed the complexion of this recruitment. Metchie has a close relationship with Penn State freshman linebacker and fellow Ontario product Jesse Luketa.
DB Nyquee Hawkins (Orange, N.J.) — A frequent Happy Valley visitor, Hawkins has been on Penn State’s radar since his earliest high school days. Virginia Tech and nearby Rutgers are pushing hard for his pledge.
WR DeMarcco Hellams (Hyattsville, Md.) — Hellams, viewed as a potential college contributor at receiver and safety, recently visited Alabama and Virginia Tech. He’s been a long-term priority for Penn State.
RB Jordan Houston (Oakton, Va.) — The son of a Penn State graduate, Houston received a Nittany Lions offer before his sophomore season. Penn State was his first Power-5 opportunity but a crowd has since formed.
DB Quinten Johnson (Washington, D.C.) — Johnson is one of three St. John’s College High School players who picked up a Penn State offer last June during a campus visit. He is projected to play safety at the next level.
LB Shane Lee (Baltimore) — Lee, who attended Penn State’s Lasch Bash festivities last summer, has often mentioned the Nittany Lions among his top contenders. Big Ten rivals Michigan and Ohio State are also in the mix.
DL David Ojabo (Blairstown, N.J.) — Ojabo is following a similar path as Blair Academy teammate Jayson Oweh, a defensive end who enrolls at Penn State this summer. He started playing football as a junior and quickly attracted attention from college coaches. Franklin became the latest to offer him on Saturday.
QB Taisun Phommachanh (Avon, Conn.) — This prized dual-threat playmaker traveled to Happy Valley during the final weekend of March, following stops at Florida, Florida State and Georgia. He may top the wish list as Penn State pursues a second quarterback commit in this class. Phommachanh told Land of 10 he won’t shy away from competition at the position.
DB Tyler Rudolph (Waterbury, Conn.) — He plans to use an official visit in State College for the Blue-White Game weekend (April 20-22). Other potential campus visits include Clemson, Florida, Michigan and Ohio State, leading up to a June commitment announcement.
OL Xavier Truss (Warwick, R.I.) — A major riser on the recruiting trail this winter, Truss carries offers Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State and several other marquee programs. The 6-foot-7 tackle is strongly considering the Nittany Lions but this shapes up as a national battle.
OL Caedan Wallace (Princeton, N.J.) — Wallace is in the discussion as one of America’s premier guard recruits and carries more than 30 offers. He has visited Happy Valley several times, will attend the Blue-White Game and is a former high school teammate of Penn State defensive tackle Fred Hansard.
LB Andre White (Harrisburg, Pa.) — He traveled across the country last month to compete at The Opening’s San Francisco regional camp, where he earned linebacker MVP honors. White, who also landed a USC offer while on the West Coast, played alongside Penn State freshman Micah Parsons last season. He is the only uncommitted high school junior in Pennsylvania who holds a Nittany Lions offer.
OL Saleem Wormley (Smyrna, Del.) — Considered the top overall prospect in Delaware, Wormley received a Nittany Lions offer last month while on campus. An interior offensive line recruit, he plans to return for an official visit.
OL Dominic Bailey (Salisbury, Md.)
RB Jalen Berger (Ramsey, N.J.)
Bryan Bresee (Damascus, Md.)
OL Anton Harrison (Washington, D.C.)
DB Luke Hill (Washington, D.C.)
RB Marshawn Lloyd (Hyattsville, Md.)
DB Joshuah Moten (Washington, D.C.)
DT Tre Williams (Oakdale, Conn.)
DB Derrick Davis Jr. (Monroeville, Pa.)
OL Landon Tengwall (Laurel, Md.)
Non-offered prospects to know
2020 QB Michael Alaimo (Montvale, N.J.)
2020 RB Ali Barkley (Whitehall, Pa.)
2020 TE Kevin Bauman (Red Bank, N.J.)
2019 LB Keith Maguire (Malvern, Pa.)
2019 DL RJ Oben (Jersey City, N.J.)
2019 DB Tykee Smith (Philadelphia)
2019 LB Omar Speights (Philadelphia)
2019 WR Yusuf Terry (Philadelphia)