Each month, Penn State recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue will take a look at the Nittany Lions’ to-do list here on Land of 10. This outlook focuses on three priority concerns for the program’s recruiting efforts in the weeks ahead. We evaluate March results here.
March provided new challenges and causes for celebration in the Penn State football facilities. Former Nittany Lions players displayed their talents during NFL showcase opportunities, spring practice started and recruiting efforts rolled on.
Here at Land of 10, we begin each month with three items on the recruiting agenda. Let’s review the priorities presented in our March to-do list and look at how each item evolved during recent weeks.
1. Coordinate key visits for new spring recruiting calendar.
March outcome: Happy Valley remains a priority destination for several top prospects.
April ultimately will provide a litmus test regarding how an altered college football recruiting calendar will impact programs, as an inaugural spring window of official visits begins. The Nittany Lions are well underway charting this new territory.
Notable 2019 talents such as running back Devyn Ford (Stafford, Va.) and defensive back Tyler Rudolph (Waterbury, Conn.) have confirmed official visit plans coinciding with the Blue-White Game, which culminates Penn State’s spring camp on April 21. Both of those blue-chip prospects intend to announce college commitments in June, creating high stakes for their upcoming trips to town.
The Blue-White Game is sure to be a destination event for future Nittany Lions players and Penn State targets alike.
Members of the program’s 2018 recruiting class are expected on campus, and they’ll be acknowledged as new additions during action at Beaver Stadium. This group features tackle Nana Asiedu, who played alongside Ford at North Stafford High School and pledged to Penn State prior to the 2017 Blue-White Game.
The Nittany Lions landed a pair of verbal commitments before the game last April, though offensive lineman Antwan Reed ultimately signed elsewhere. A consistently expanding guest list presents the opportunity for another productive day for recruiting goals.
Penn State also hosted several top targets during the spring practice sessions in March. This list is headlined by players such as linebacker Antoine Sampah, defensive end Jacolbe Cowan and offensive lineman Saleem Wormley, who received a scholarship offer during his visit.
The first week of April presents more possibilities for positive results, as elite recruits Antonio Alfano (defensive line), Derrick Davis Jr. (defensive back) and Brandon Smith (linebacker) plan to spend time in State College.
2. Continue evaluation of in-state prospects.
March outcome: No new reported offers.
In-state recruiting strategy is a topic routinely brought up by Penn State fans these days. The Nittany Lions have offered only two high school juniors in Pennsylvania: State College cornerback Keaton Ellis and Harrisburg linebacker Andre White.
Ellis committed to Penn State on Sept. 9, while White has seen his recruitment expand to a national level during recent weeks. The Nittany Lions staff undoubtedly has invested substantial time evaluating in-state athletes, but there are no new targets to report among 2019 players.
Pennsylvania products who’ve particularly risen as premier Power 5 prospects this offseason include Pine Richland offensive lineman Andrew Kristofic (offers from Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, Oregon), Malvern Prep linebacker Keith Maguire (Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State) and North Allegheny cornerback Joey Porter Jr. (Arizona State, LSU, Nebraska, West Virginia).
Penn State entered the mix early for 2020 receiver Julian Fleming (Southern Columbia) and 2021 defensive back Derrick Davis Jr. (Gateway), who will be in Happy Valley twice in April, according to Land of 10’s Ryan Donnelly.
3. Point to NFL combine as proof of path toward success.
March outcome: Saquon Barkley and company kept Penn State in the national spotlight.
If any Penn State fans assumed departing Nittany Lions standouts such as running back Barkley and tight end Mike Gesicki were done contributing toward the program, they were shown to be wrong throughout March. The NFL combine, held in Indianapolis, developed into an extremely impressive representation of Dwight Galt’s performance enhancement program.
Barkley, Gesicki and safety Troy Apke especially turned heads during the combine, which is nationally televised and discussed by sports media outlets at a borderline absurd rate. This positive publicity for Penn State during the offseason shouldn’t be undervalued.
Plenty of the high school players Land of 10 spoke with in March expressed enthusiasm for those performances and added they viewed the program as one that can truly produce a path toward professional football. These developments also further fueled the desire of prospects who signed with Penn State this winter.
“It was incredible how they all performed, but I don’t think anyone from the team was all that surprised,” quarterback signee Will Levis said. “The way those guys have worked throughout their careers with the strength and conditioning program got them to this point. Coach Galt is amazing, and he obviously gets players to their peak athletic ability. Seeing all the guys kill the combine makes me so excited to get in the weight room and on the field running with him and his staff so that they can turn me into the best athlete they can.”
An overlooked aspect of college football recruiting is “return on investment”.
When a staff lays out the long-term plans for a player from enrollment to graduation and beyond, prospects and their families often want to see tangible, realistic outcomes that include NFL opportunities. Some coaches only can sell a vision, but James Franklin can point toward mounting proof.
"Penn State has lit this combine up." 🔥
— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) March 5, 2018