The Penn State football program wraps up an impressive 2018 recruiting cycle Wednesday, capping off a class considered one of college football’s finest. James Franklin and the Nittany Lions enjoyed consistent success while preparing for National Signing Day, landing prospects from 11 different states.
The assembling of every recruiting class is a unique process, as early plans change and surprises occur. Along the way, some commits inevitably change their minds.
Reasons for de-commitments include academic issues, coaching changes and desires to explore other opportunities. In the case of Penn State this cycle, it’s important to note that defensive end Dorian Hardy and safety Isheem Young both left the class following off-field incidents.
So in reviewing the de-commitments from Penn State this cycle, we’ll keep those two off the list. Here’s a look back at three recruits who opted out of Nittany Lions pledges due to necessity or personal reasons — and what they’ve done since.
5-star DE/LB Micah Parsons (Harrisburg, Pa.) — Signed with Penn State
Micah Parsons underwent a lengthy, roller-coaster recruitment prior to his January enrollment at Penn State. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound prospect and two-way star at Harrisburg High School began receiving offers in bunches as a freshman.
The U.S. Army All-American Bowl Defensive Player of the Year, Parsons earned a Nittany Lions offer in 2014 and pledged to the program in February 2016. He was the first member of Penn State’s 2018 class, and remained in place as a centerpiece for 14 months.
Dynamics changed in April 2017, when Parsons opted to reopen his recruitment immediately after spending time on campus for the Nittany Lions spring game.
“The fresh start has been good,” he said days after de-committing. “It gives me free will because I’m not signed to anybody or committed anywhere.”
He spent the offseason traveling to various schools, then made official visits to Georgia, Nebraska, Ohio State and Oklahoma during his senior campaign. Parsons ultimately returned to the class with a Dec. 20 announcement and signing during college football’s early signing period.
— BLESSEDMVP (@Micah_parsons23) December 20, 2017
It’s safe to say this a recruitment Franklin won’t soon forget.
“I’ve been coaching 23 years, and the book [about my football experiences] will probably be five chapters on my career and then 15 chapters on the ups and downs and twists and turns, and the journey of Micah Parsons and the commitments.” Franklin said on Dec. 20.
3-star OL Chris Bleich (Plymouth, Pa.) — Signed with Florida
Chris Bleich was another early in-state component to this class, as he joined Parsons as a Penn State pledge March 30, 2016. His departure from the class practically coincided with Parsons, as Bleich de-committed from the Nittany Lions one day before the 2017 spring game.
This 6-6, 305-pound Wyoming Valley West High School standout announced plans to pursue other college options April 21. Nebraska initially appeared to be the prime contender.
“I mean, after a good Nebraska visit, it kind of made me re-evaluate everything,” Bleich told Land of 10 in April. “So I kind of wanted to just do what’s best for me and reopen it up.”
UCLA offered in mid-May and landed his commitment June 19. However, the Bruins underwent a coaching change near the end of a disappointing 2017 season, leading to a Nov. 29 de-commitment from Bleich.
He flipped to Florida the same day, signed with the Gators Dec. 20 and enrolled at the school Jan. 10.
3-star OL Antwan Reed (Muskegon, Mich.) — Signed with Western Michigan
Antwan Reed pledged to Penn State while on campus April 22 for the spring game. He was one of two offensive linemen who committed that day, joining tackle Nana Asiedu of Virginia.
Those developments represented a quick response to the loss of Bleich, while Fredrick Scruggs and Bryce Effner would later join Penn State’s offensive line class. Reed, a 6-6, 325-pound prospect who attends Muskegon High School, reopened his recruitment Dec. 7.
He became a big-time addition to Western Michigan’s class on Dec. 20 when he signed with the Broncos. Penn State is targeting a fourth offensive lineman on National Signing Day as 4-star tackle Rasheed Walker will his decision that day.
5-star QB Justin Fields (Kennesaw, Ga.) — Signed with Georgia
This one certainly stung for a while, and it could continue to sting if Justin Fields lives up to lofty expectations with the Bulldogs. The dynamic dual-threat quarterback committed to Penn State in December 2016, providing a major building block as the Nittany Lions surrounded him with talent in the following months.
While pledged to Penn State, offers continued to arrive in bunches. By the time his junior year wrapped up, Fields held more than 40 offers, earned Elite 11 MVP honors and was bumped from 4-star to 5-star status in composite rankings.
Alabama, Auburn, Florida and LSU are among the programs that pushed hard for a flip, but the in-state Bulldogs ultimately beat out a crowded group of contenders. Fields de-committed from Penn State in early June, days after his Elite 11 performance, and left the Nittany Lions searching elsewhere at football’s most important position.