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Penn State draws an impressive collection of recruits to campus
Penn State continues to showcase itself as a college football program capable of attracting elite talent to campus. The Nittany Lions welcomed premier prospects to Happy Valley this weekend from across the United States — and beyond.
Coach James Franklin and his staff hosted several top targets in the 2019 cycle, including a few who may be nearing commitment decisions. Prospects and their families enjoyed a personal look at team facilities, learned more about their potential fit within the program and received extensive information regarding what life is like as a Penn State student-athlete.
Penn State added six verbal pledges to its 2019 class between May 17 and June 1. The Nittany Lions laid significant groundwork toward further expanding an impressive collection of talent as late spring seeps into early summer this month.
Let’s take a look at key 2019 targets who were in town during the last 48 hours.
High school: Phillips Academy (Chicago)
Composite ranking: No. 10 tight end; No. 283 overall; No. 4 in Illinois
Illinois would love to keep Jahleel Billingsley close to home but competition comes from schools such as Florida, Ohio State and Penn State. He previously traveled to Happy Valley for a junior day event in early February, within a week of receiving his Nittany Lions offer.
Penn State signed a pair of top-10 tight end prospects in its 2018 recruiting class but it’s a position that remains one of the main unknown commodities when assessing a talented roster. Billingsley’s father, Charles, posted a series of tweets from inside the official visit and we’ll share a few here.
— Charles BILLINGSLEY (@Charles98379562) June 9, 2018
— Charles BILLINGSLEY (@Charles98379562) June 9, 2018
DB Lewis Cine
High school: Trinity Christian School (Cedar Hill, Texas)
Composite ranking: No. 3 safety; No. 43 overall; No. 7 in Texas
Lewis Cine identified Penn State as a strong leader in his recruitment last January but things have evolved quite a bit since then. He relocated to the Dallas area after winning a Massachusetts state championship in 2017 with Everett High School, and a new bunch of offers soon followed.
Cine, who plans to use official visits to Michigan and Texas this month, remains a priority for Penn State in the defensive backfield despite the presence of four pledges. Only the Nittany Lions hosted him on campus for a game last season and another positive experience this weekend would likely solidify a spot at or near the top of his lengthy list of options.
DB John Dixon
High school: Chamberlain (Tampa, Fla.)
Composite ranking: No. 32 cornerback; No. 363 overall; No. 51 in Florida
John Dixon is another name to know on Penn State’s reshuffled defensive back target board in the aftermath of a May commitment spree and Cam’Ron Kelly’s commitment to Virginia Tech. The Nittany Lions reached into Tampa for 4-star cornerback Jordan Miner last cycle, and the incoming freshman told Land of 10 he’s doing his best to push Dixon toward State College.
Dixon, who has also drawn interest from schools such as Alabama, Miami, Ohio State and South Carolina, is a strong candidate to leave the Sunshine State next year. The Hurricanes have made a strong impression but programs far beyond Florida borders, including Penn State, create an intriguing and contentious recruitment.
LB Lance Dixon
High school: West Bloomfield (Mich.)
Composite ranking: No. 16 outside linebacker; No. 252 overall; No. 5 in Michigan
Lance Dixon embarked on a new chapter of his recruitment just one week after unveiling five favorite universities that each compete in the Big Ten — Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin. Dixon plans to spend time on the campuses of other finalists this month but Penn State took its shot this weekend.
The Nittany Lions, along with several Power 5 football programs, value Dixon’s versatility. He’s an athletic defender who provides pass coverage like a safety, a 6-foot-3 frame to expand upon, and recorded more than 110 tackles as a junior.
WR John Dunmore
High school: Chaminade-Madonna Prep (Hollywood, Fla.)
Composite ranking: No. 18 receiver; No. 107 overall; No. 15 overall
Penn State’s push to expand recruiting efforts in Florida persuaded yet another Sunshine State standout to visit campus. John Dunmore, a former Florida Gators commit, has a longstanding relationship with first-year Nittany Lions assistant Ja’Juan Seider, and there’s no doubt the coach played a key role this weekend, while helping to extend rapport across the staff.
Dunmore, who lists Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Ohio State and Michigan among his other top contenders, presents a tough task in terms of prying him away from his home state. Heading into this trip, sources in South Florida described Penn State as a stronger competitor than many realize, so that could increasingly become the case if the Nittany Lions sent him home feeling the love.
— Jdsunn__ (@JohnDunmore2) June 9, 2018
RB Eric Gray
High school: Lausanne Collegiate School (Memphis, Tenn.)
Composite ranking: No. 3 all-purpose back; No. 246 overall; No. 11 in Tennessee
Penn State picked up a commitment from elite running back recruit Devyn Ford on May 18. That hasn’t nullified the Nittany Lions’ chances with other prized prospects at the position, including Eric Gray.
Gray, who could commit soon, has generated plenty of buzz among SEC programs and is one of many blue-chip rushers who are compelled after observing Saquon Barkley’s success with the program. He rushed for 5,688 yards and 85 touchdowns during his first three high school seasons, according to 247Sports.
High school: Sheldon (Eugene, Ore.)
Composite ranking: No. 4 dual-threat quarterback; No. 200 overall; No. 1 in Oregon
Last week, Michael Johnson Jr. made it clear his interest in Penn State is legitimate. He included the Nittany Lions in a small group of programs pursuing him hardest, alongside Florida State, Miami and North Carolina State.
A 6-3, 195-pound playmaker with 40-yard dash speed in the 4.5-second range, Johnson has been in frequent communication with Franklin and Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne since receiving an offer from the team last September. He’s totaled 5,565 passing yards, 1,878 rushing yards and 97 touchdowns through three prep campaigns, and won’t shy away from a two-quarterback recruiting class (the Nittany Lions carry a commitment from fellow 4-star quarterback Taquan Roberson).
WR John Metchie
High school: Peddie School (Hightstown, N.J.)
Composite ranking: No. 42 receiver; No. 259 overall; No. 5 in New Jersey
John Metchie’s recruitment has reached crunch time and a commitment may very well arrive by the end of June. He’ll follow this trip to Penn State with an official visit to Alabama next weekend, and hasn’t locked in any other travel plans, though schools of interest include Michigan, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Texas.
Metchie, a frequent visitor to Happy Valley with close personal ties on the Nittany Lions roster, is as strong a candidate as any to become the first receiver on board in the 2019 class. His mother Joyce and older brothers accompanied him from their hometown of Brampton, Ontario, and he may continue a streak of Canadian recruits signing with Penn State (defensive end Daniel Joseph, linebacker Jesse Luketa and safety Jonathan Sutherland are recent additions from north of the border).
DL David Ojabo
High school: Blair Academy (Blairstown, N.J.)
Composite ranking: No. 31 strongside defensive end; No. 478 overall; No. 10 in New Jersey
It’s been an extremely busy offseason for David Ojabo, who first played football last fall and now claims approximately 40 scholarship offers. A foreign student from Scotland by way of Nigeria, he played alongside incoming Penn State freshman defensive end Jayson Oweh in 2017 and the two have established a close friendship.
His other June trips have included stops at Syracuse and Texas A&M. Considering his lack of regional ties in the United States, this recruitment could feature several interesting turns. Standing 6-5 and approaching 240 pounds, Ojabo is a high-ceiling recruit who remains in the fledgling stages of his development as a defensive lineman.
High school: Louisa County (Mineral, Va.)
Composite ranking: No. 2 inside linebacker; No. 30 overall; No. 1 in Virginia
Surrounded by uncommitted targets, Brandon Smith represented the Nittany Lions’ 2019 class. The 5-star prospect pledged to Penn State on May 21 and spent this weekend on campus alongside several family members, embracing an opportunity to sell other top talents on the team’s vision for future success.
Smith has begun to sink his teeth into a leadership role as a class member, while the same can be said for players such as Keaton Ellis, Taquan Roberson and Tyler Rudolph. This was a big step in carving out that role and, knowing the energy his family brings to the process, you can be sure his father Rico was also doing his part to convince other parents that Penn State is the place to be.
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