Land of 10 has embarked on a series of Next Generation articles, a project that aims to bring our readers greater insight into the Class of 2018 signees. Land of 10 Penn State reporter Tyler Donohue is traveling to visit members of the Nittany Lions’ incoming freshman class. Leading up to their arrival, Land of 10 will introduce fans to these newest Penn State players. Today, we feature tackle Nana Asiedu.
STAFFORD, Va. — Nana Asiedu’s reputation preceded him at North Stafford High School. Eighth-grade athletes like him normally don’t go unnoticed.
“Nana was a legend in middle school,” North Stafford football coach Joe Mangano said. “He was 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and the MVP of his team two straight years. We knew he was coming.”
But then rumors started to swirl. From the AAU basketball circuit to various private schools across the region, word spread that Asiedu would focus on hoops in high school.
Ultimately, he enrolled at North Stafford as a freshman in 2014. That autumn came and went without Asiedu putting on shoulder pads. Still, Mangano’s imagination would wander whenever they crossed paths in the hallway.
“I thought, ‘This is what future NFL tackles look like when they’re in ninth grade.’ It was that clear,” Mangano said. “Then he’s an all-conference basketball player as a freshman and so I’m starting to accept we’ll never get a shot to see him on the football field.”
That spring, a knock came on the coach’s door. Asiedu was itching to get back into football following his one-year hiatus.
When Mangano approached Asiedu’s mother on the subject in 2015, her response went something like this: Nana is a basketball player. He’s too skinny to play football.
Today, Asiedu stands 6-7 and weighs 290 pounds. He’ll join the Penn State football program in June after turning down scholarship offers from more than 30 universities.
“When Penn State gets ahold of him, with the training staff they have, they’re going to make him a monster,” Mangano said. “He’s going to be a 320-, 330-pound behemoth. If Nana does what he needs to do, he’ll be playing on Sundays.”
Born in Ghana, a nation located on Africa’s west coast, Asiedu moved to the United States before kindergarten. Always the biggest kid on the playground, he rapidly emerged as one of this North Virginia community’s most compelling young athletes.
“Nana kept to himself and was quiet, but you couldn’t help but notice him because of the size,” said longtime teammate Devyn Ford, a premier 2019 running back prospect who is considering a collegiate career at Penn State.
Long before he became the beneficiary of Asiedu’s devastating blocking abilities, Ford watched him earn his first offer during their mutual visit to a University of Virginia camp in spring 2015. The Cavaliers coaching staff worked Asiedu through tight end drills and sent him home with a scholarship opportunity.
“It didn’t matter that he had literally no high school game film, and wouldn’t have any until months later,” Mangano said.
By the time his sophomore season arrived, Asiedu was on the radar of Power 5 programs across the region.
“Everything happened so fast,” Asiedu said. “At that point, I just wanted to prove that those interested college teams were right about what they saw in me, and also prove to myself that I could be a big-time player.”
He made an instant impact at tight end, catching 9 touchdown passes as a sophomore and turning more heads across the college football landscape. By spring 2016 — one year after Asiedu returned to football — he carried offers from Clemson, Duke, North Carolina State, South Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia Tech.
It became clear that basketball was his second sport. Mangano remembers something Asiedu said during this transitive period, reflecting a realization that football could create long-term effects.
“It’s the way college football coaches looked at me when they saw me for the first time,” Asiedu told his coach. “College basketball coaches don’t look at me the same way.”
Penn State entered the pursuit in late April 2016. Nittany Lions coach James Franklin and his staff spent the next year building the foundation for a verbal commitment, which came hours before the Blue-White Game in 2017.
“When they offered him, he was at least 40 pounds lighter than he is now and a lot of it was based on projection,” Mangano said. “Heading into this winter, Franklin looked at him and said he was truly seeing an offensive tackle.”
Asiedu bulked up to 270-plus pounds by the start of his senior season, moving to left tackle full time after spending substantial snaps at tight end again as a junior. He paved the way as Ford rushed for 2,056 yards in 2017.
“Nana became way more physical. His whole game has changed,” Ford said. “Instead of catching passes, he’s throwing around bodies. … I’ve seen him make defensive linemen give up by the fourth quarter and he’s just driving them back like 20 yards.”
Asiedu estimates an average daily consumption of 6,000 calories during much of his high school career.
“When I get home from school, I’ll make something like spaghetti and a whole bunch of meatballs. That’s a snack,” Asiedu said. “An hour or so later, I’ll make a sandwich, and then maybe I’ll have some ice cream. I’m always craving something.”
North Stafford cafeteria employees recognize Asiedu as “the guy who always asks for extra.” He is, after all, a growing boy.
“As I added more power, I developed a new mindset and started to dominate,” Asiedu said. “Then I wouldn’t let myself accept anything less than domination.”
Asiedu has packed on another 10 pounds since appearing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January. According to Erik Richards, the event’s national recruiting director, he was the last roster addition.
“The late selections are often the kids with the highest ceilings,” Richards said.
Final All-American Bowl invites previously went to eventual No. 1 NFL draft pick Andrew Luck and Southern Cal star Sam Darnold, a candidate to be first off the draft board later this month. Asiedu didn’t disappoint during a competitive week of practice in San Antonio.
“He was definitely one of the highlights on the offensive line,” Richards said. “Nana has all the tools — he can pass block, he can run block, he’s got great mobility in his ankles.”
In an era that features defensive edge rushers such as fellow Penn State signee Jayson Oweh — a 6-5, 240 prospect with sub-4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash — there is an arms race of sorts underway across college football.
“We’ve seen a big run on tight ends turning into tackles, and that trend isn’t going to change,” Richards said. “The defensive ends are genetic freaks now chasing after the quarterbacks and you’re in for a long day if you don’t match them with an athletically gifted offensive tackle.”
Looking for athletically gifted?
Asiedu completed the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds at multiple Power 5 camps. He can bench press 225 pounds 20 times, which is six more reps than potential first-round draft pick Orlando Brown of the Oklahoma Sooners posted during the NFL combine.
“It does feel like I can accomplish a lot on the offensive line,” Asiedu said. “But, yeah, I do miss catching touchdowns.”
Nana Asiedu breakdown
|247Sports composite ranking (tackle/overall)||No. 8/No. 116|
|Commitment date||April 22, 2017|