Brandon Smith could’ve spent his senior prep season being pursued by premier programs from across college football. Instead, the 5-star linebacker elected to end his widespread recruitment Monday with a commitment to Penn State.
Smith, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound prospect who claims approximately 30 scholarship offers, verbally pledged to the Nittany Lions during a ceremony at Louisa County (Va.) High School.
“From Day 1, Penn State has always made a great impression on all of us,” his father, Rico, told Land of 10. “Relationships are so important, and we’ve established a great one with them. They’ve done a good job with being consistent.”
Blessed to announce that I am committed to Penn State University 🦁🔵⚪️🏈 #weare @coachjfranklin @CoachPry_LBU @knnysndrs. Special thanks to @PlatinumGandE for this awesome edit! pic.twitter.com/LMXcXG0x5A
— Brandon Smith (@brand0n_smith12) May 21, 2018
Smith provided no indication of a leader or even “top group” prior to Monday, though it was long apparent that the Nittany Lions had settled in as a legitimate contender. He visited Happy Valley alongside family five times, most recently traveling to campus April 7.
Other notable suitors included Clemson, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Virginia Tech. Only Texas A&M hosted him for an official visit (April 20-22) and, despite having more trips at his disposal, Smith decided his family had done enough traveling.
“When the evaluation period came this spring, it was a lot of the same old things — the visits, the texts, all that,” Rico said. “Brandon was basically like, ‘We’ve been everywhere that we need to go. We’ve seen all we need to see. I think it’s time to close the chapter on this.’ ”
Penn State presented Smith with a scholarship offer in April 2017. The Nittany Lions prioritized him throughout the next year, and it paid off with the entire family.
When Smith attended the team’s Lasch Bash event last July, he was joined by his parents, grandparents, two uncles and younger brother.
“They got a chance to see what I like so much about PSU,” Brandon told Land of 10 afterward.
— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) July 16, 2017
Listed 30th overall in 247Sports 2019 composite rankings, he is among the highest-rated recruits Penn State coach James Franklin has landed in Happy Valley.
As things currently stand — 2019 composite rankings will continue to evolve through the winter — Smith trails only linebacker Micah Parsons (No. 5 in 2018), receiver Justin Shorter (No. 8 in 2018), running back Miles Sanders (No. 21 in 2016), running back Ricky Slade (No. 27 in 2018) and guard Michal Menet (No. 28 in 2017) on the all-time list of Nittany Lions signees.
“Between the whistles, Brandon is not going to be denied,” former Louisa County coach Mark Fischer told Land of 10. “He’s never encountered a situation on the field where he doesn’t believe he can dominate. And just as impressive, he takes the same approach in the classroom.”
Smith secured 192 tackles — 35 for loss — and 16 sacks the last two seasons. He helped lead Louisa County to Virginia’s Class 4A championship game in 2017.
Smith is the first linebacker committed to Penn State’s 2019 class. Overall, the group has grown rapidly as he is the fourth pledge since Thursday night and pushes the total to seven athletes.
The Nittany Lions now await a scheduled 6 p.m. announcement from 4-star Connecticut defensive back Tyler Rudolph. Penn State is a perceived favorite to beat out fellow finalist Clemson.