Andre White/Twitter
Linebacker Andre White is the latest Penn State target at Harrisburg (Pa.) High School.

Penn State recruiting mailbag: Nittany Lions make RB Devyn Ford a priority, chase several linebackers

Tyler Donohue

Have Penn State football recruiting questions? We have answers. Join us every Thursday for the Land of 10 Penn State recruiting mailbag to discuss Nittany Lions recruiting. This week, we discuss 2018 signees who could make an immediate impact and remaining targets beyond the early signing period.

Penn State recruiting efforts are relentless, so we always have plenty to address here. Let’s get started.

Matt, the name may be new to you, but Devyn Ford is a longtime priority on Penn State’s 2019 recruiting board. A junior at North Stafford (Stafford, Va.) High School, he received a Nittany Lions offer in April 2016.

Ford was James Franklin’s first running back target of the cycle, and that early investment puts Penn State in a solid position as a widespread recruitment reaches crunch time. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound prospect claims more than 30 scholarship offers, though he recently trimmed his focus to six universities.

Ford announced earlier this month that Clemson, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State and Virginia Tech have separated from the pack. This leaves programs such as Auburn, Michigan, Notre Dame, Southern Cal and Texas on the outside.

An impressive, far-ranging offer sheet provides clear indication of Ford’s talent, and his anticipated potential impact in collegiate football competition. Recruiting industry rankings tell a similar story.

Ford is considered the No. 6 running back and No. 70 overall recruit in 247Sports 2019 composite rankings. He is listed second among 2019 prospects in Virginia, where Penn State plucked 5-star running back Ricky Slade and top-10 tackle Nana Asiedu in the 2018 cycle.

Asiedu spent his senior season opening lanes for Ford in the North Stafford offensive attack. The results were spectacular: 2,056 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2017, according to Inside NOVA.

Ford joined Asiedu in State College last April, attending Penn State’s spring game. His teammate committed to the Nittany Lions during that trip, and now it’s Ford who is approaching a decision.

He said he plans to announce a verbal commitment in June. Fresh off his latest journey to Happy Valley, Ford likely will return for an official visit this spring.

The addition of Ford would provide Penn State with three former top-10 running back recruits in its 2019 backfield, barring an early departure from anticipated 2018 starter Miles Sanders. The Nittany Lions have spent nearly two years cultivating relationships in this recruitment and are clearly a main contender moving forward.

Let’s switch over to defense, shall we?

Robert, who asked this question during our weekly Facebook Live show (8 p.m. Wednesdays here), wants to know about the future of “LBU.” Based on what we know about Nittany Lions newcomers, the linebackers unit will reap the rewards of a successful 2018 recruiting class for years to come.

Before we explore the next wave of possibilities among Penn State prospects, let’s quickly refresh folks on how James Franklin and defensive coordinator Brent Pry addressed the position this winter.

The Nittany Lions secured verbal commitments from three linebackers — Jesse Luketa, Charlie Katshir and Nick Tarburton — in February 2017, and all three signed in December. Luketa and Tarburton enrolled early, along with 5-star prospect Micah Parsons.

Parsons, the program’s highest-ranked signee since 2005, widely was considered America’s premier defensive end recruit in the 2018 cycle but carried obvious potential at linebacker throughout his prep career. He’ll begin his journey in Happy Valley competing for starting reps at middle linebacker, and expectations continue to rise following recent praise from Pry and legendary Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington.

Katshir joins the group on campus this summer, adding to a young stockpile of talent. The Nittany Lions also return three redshirt freshman linebackers, so competition is crucial this summer and could create a long-lasting impact on the Penn State defense.

Beyond 2018, Franklin and his staff are well underway establishing rapport with top-tier linebacker prospects.

Penn State had a slight setback Wednesday when 4-star Texas standout Marcel Brooks eliminated the Nittany Lions from his recruitment, one month after telling Land of 10 an official visit was possible. Still, options remain plentiful.

Shane Lee of Baltimore, considered the No. 2 inside linebacker in composite rankings, is seriously considering Penn State. Fellow top-200 recruits Brandon Smith (Mineral, Va.) and Cade Stover (Mansfield, Ohio) also are firmly on the radar.

Smith, an intriguing 6-5, 215-pound prospect, is one of the true high-ceiling 2019 talents. Based on conversations with Smith and his father, Rico, it’s apparent Penn State is a long-term contender for his commitment, which should occur before next season.

Lance Dixon (West Bloomfield, Mich.) is another name to know. Penn State offered in November, and he reciprocated by visiting the program’s first junior day event of 2018 earlier this month. The Nittany Lions are engaged in a recruiting battle that spans Big Ten territory, competing especially with Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State.

Parsons was obviously the main attraction at Harrisburg (Pa.) High School last season, but Andre White broke out with a highly productive junior campaign. He led the Cougars with 87 tackles, according to MaxPreps, collecting 10 tackles for loss and 3 sacks along the way.

Penn State offered White in December and, like Dixon, he attended the recent junior day. Franklin signed Harrisburg players in each of the past two cycles (Parsons and defensive lineman Damion Barber), so there’s a sentiment the Nittany Lions are in excellent shape to eventually land this 6-3, 200-pound prospect.

Have a question about Penn State recruiting? Tweet us @Landof10PSU and we’ll try to answer it in a future mailbag. Check to see if your issue already was addressed by reading previous Penn State recruiting mailbags here.