Stay updated as Penn State rises toward the top of the recruiting rankings! Don’t miss the coverage from Tyler Donohue, who brings a decade of experience as a national college football reporter and a recruiting department staff member with a Big Ten program. Read his daily notebooks here at 7:20 p.m. ET Sunday through Thursday, and follow us on Twitter for the latest Nittany Lions recruiting news.
Future Penn State kicker shines in final prep game
A key storyline to monitor this summer is Penn State’s search for a starting kicker. Tyler Davis, who filled the role during recent years, is now a member of the Buffalo Bills franchise.
Carson Landis, a redshirt freshman who walked on with the program in 2017, handled primary kicker duties throughout 2018 spring camp. He finished on a high note, making each of his attempts in the Blue-White Game, but Penn State coach James Franklin made it clear the competition wouldn’t truly start until freshmen arrived.
“We really don’t have a competition, to be honest with you,” he said during spring camp. “At kicker, we got Landis. We got one kicker right now. Obviously, I think [all-conference punter Blake] Gillikin can do it, and he did it in high school. We prefer not to do it.”
This opens the door for three newcomers — scholarship recipient Jake Pinegar and walk-on additions Rafael Checa and Vlad Hilling.
Hilling, a product of Hollidaysburg Area (Pa.) High School, put his abilities on display Saturday in the annual Big 33 Football Classic, hosted by Harrisburg. He connected on a pair of field-goal attempts, showing off long-distance range with a 56-yard conversion.
That boot set a new Big 33 record, surpassing the former mark set by former Penn State kicker Robbie Gould (50 yards) in 2001, according to the Centre Daily Times’ John McGonigal.
— Alex Cawley (@Cawley_WTAJ) June 17, 2018
Team Pennsylvania struggled to post points in a 9-6 loss to Team Maryland, but Hilling was a headliner. He earned team MVP honors and provided a glimpse at why he may challenge for the Nittany Lions gig in 2018.
Pinegar, who previewed the impending competition during our discussion in May, anticipates a high-pressure environment throughout August.
“I know coming in the pressure is going to be on me because I’m the only scholarship kid, but it’s going to be a competitive environment for all of us,” he said. “I thrive in those situations and that’s going to bring the best out of me.”
Expect special-teams activities to be in the spotlight as Penn State prepares for the season.
“It’s a competition for all of them, and Jake understands that,” Nittany Lions special teams coordinator Phil Galiano said after the Blue-White Game. “At every position on this team — it’s one of our core values — we compete in everything we do, so kicker doesn’t make a difference, punter doesn’t make a difference, long snapper doesn’t make a difference.
“We’re going to compete and it’s going to be a great opportunity for him and the other guys involved in summer camp and I’m excited. Somebody’s got to win the job and we’ll go from there.”
Top targets Julian Fleming and Landon Tengwall return
Penn State hosted its annual Lion Strong 7-on-7 tournament and Big Man Challenge on Saturday. As usual, it drew hundreds of high school football players to Happy Valley.
A talented collection of prospects, representing a variety of recruiting classes, was headlined by a pair of coveted Penn State targets: receiver Julian Fleming and offensive lineman Landon Tengwall.
Fleming, considered the No. 1 receiver in 2020 composite rankings, stars at Southern Columbia (Catawissa, Pa.) High School. He received a Nittany Lions offer hours before the 2017 7-on-7 tournament, and warrants attention each time he returns to campus.
His recruitment is filled with Power 5 competitors, including Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State. Fleming flourished as an underclassman, collecting 105 receptions for 2,418 yards and 33 touchdowns.
“I’ve never seen a more welcoming crew than Penn State,” Fleming said after attending the spring game. “As soon as I arrive, I get greeted by almost every single coach. Every person in my family knows every one of them now.”
Psu 7v7 pt2 🔵⚪️ pic.twitter.com/ENLRNFtWbN
— 🃏0J4🃏 (@julian_040) June 17, 2018
Tengwall, a 6-foot-6, 300-pound sophomore at Our Lady Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) High School, is among the Mid-Atlantic’s most coveted 2021 recruits. He landed an offer from Penn State in February and returned for the Blue-White Game.
His offer sheet has rapidly expanded to feature Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Ohio State and Michigan. Tengwall carries more than 20 offers through only one high school season.
“I can’t set my heart on anything right now, especially because — and I hope not — every Penn State coach could be gone by the end of this process,” Tengwall said in April. “And that’s with any staff. You really never know, so at this point I wouldn’t want to make a decision. But building relationships is huge for me right now with all these colleges, and I’ve been able to do that at Penn State.”
One of his earliest impressions occurred last June during Penn State’s Big Man Challenge. Still months shy of his freshman year, he earned an MVP award. Tengwall duplicated that performance Saturday.
Back to back mvps like im KD🤭😂 had a great time today 🦁🔵⚪️ pic.twitter.com/elHwo6EMkX
— landonTengwall (@landon_tengwall) June 16, 2018
Fleming and Tengwall are Penn State prospects you can expect to hear referenced often during the years to come.
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