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Penn State primed to replenish with elite athletes in 2018
Penn State put its performance enhancement program on display again Tuesday while hosting representatives from all 32 NFL franchises for a team pro day. More than 20 former Nittany Lions players attended the event, headlined by potential No. 1 overall NFL draft selection Saquon Barkley.
Barkley, who starred as a running back and kick returner in 2017, didn’t participate in testing or drills. Frankly, in the aftermath of his eye-opening NFL combine performance earlier this month in Indianapolis, it didn’t make sense for him to do more than simply support his teammates on Tuesday.
Tight end Mike Gesicki, who topped all positional peers at the NFL combine in the 40-yard dash, broad jump and vertical leap, also was content to let those results stand and stuck with pass-catching drills on the Penn State practice turf. Considered a rising candidate to join Barkley in the draft’s first round, Gesicki put his athletic prowess on display again during this session.
Defensive backs Marcus Allen, Troy Apke and Christian Campbell, along with receivers Saeed Blacknall and DaeSean Hamilton, are among other Penn State products who capitalized on an opportunity to showcase their abilities under the watchful eyes of NFL personnel departments.
That’s a major chunk of talent departing the Nittany Lions roster, which will be replenished by recruits. Penn State signed a top-5 recruiting class for the first time in 247Sports composite rankings, and elite athletes are already on campus or arriving this summer.
The 23-player Class of 2018 is loaded with talent across the field, adding to an increasingly competitive atmosphere on campus. Considering the amount of attention that’s been paid to the combine test outcomes for former Penn State players, it’s an appropriate time to review a few of the physical “freaks” who signed with the Nittany Lions this winter. Trust me. This list could be much longer.
Tackle Nana Asiedu: I visited Asiedu at North Stafford (Va.) High School last Wednesday and walked away impressed by the development that has preceded his Penn State enrollment. Now approaching 6-foot-7 and weighing 290 pounds, his workout performances feature a 40-yard dash in the 4.8-second range (verified at multiple Power 5 camps) and 20 bench press reps at 225 pounds.
Tight end Zack Kuntz: One of six mid-year enrollees, Kuntz joined the program in early January and is now underway with spring practice. He’s added weight to his 6-7 frame, now approaching 240 pounds, and that will be key in his attempt to compete for reps in what should be a compelling position battle. His coordination and quickness at 6-7 are extremely rare, leading to nearly 3,000 receiving yards in high school and a 2017 state championship in the 110-meter hurdles.
Linebacker Micah Parsons: Plenty has been said — by coaches, players and media alike — about the vast potential of Parsons. Known for his defensive dominance in prep competition, this 6-3, 240-pound playmaker also might have been Pennsylvania’s most impressive running back last season. He averaged 11.4 yards per carry and totaled 29 touchdowns for Harrisburg (Pa.) High School in 2017. Parsons, an early enrollee, is in contention for the starting job at middle linebacker.
Defensive end Jayson Oweh: Only two seasons into his football career, Oweh warrants consideration as one of college football’s true “high ceiling” freshmen. The 6-5, 240-pound edge rusher racked up 13 sacks in fewer than five games as a senior, and he drew Power 5 interest at tight end. Oweh’s testing numbers are largely off the charts at his size, including a 4.46-second 40-yard dash and 10-foot, 3-inch broad jump. Last season, Oweh explained he is “less than 50 percent” of the player he can become.
Receiver Justin Shorter: Combine polished technique and a motivated attitude with top-tier athleticism and you end up with an all-time Nittany Lions signee like Justin Shorter. The No. 1 receiver and a top-10 overall talent in 2018 composite rankings, Shorter packed on quality pounds last offseason while increasing his speed. Shorter earned “fastest man” honors at The Opening’s New Jersey regional camp in 2017 after finishing the 40-yard dash in 4.50 seconds. He’ll arrive at Penn State hovering around 6-4, 220 pounds.
4-star OL Caedan Wallace schedules another campus visit
Caedan Wallace will attend the Blue-White Game for a second straight year. The 6-5, 315-pound Hun School (Princeton, N.J.) junior journeyed to State College in April 2017 alongside teammate Fred Hansard, who is now a Penn State defensive tackle, and he tweeted plans Wednesday afternoon to be back in Beaver Stadium on April 21 when the Nittany Lions conclude spring practice.
Wallace noted this will be an unofficial visit, leaving open the possibility of an official visit to Penn State at a later date. Listed No. 6 among guards and No. 128 overall in 2019 composite rankings, he is considered one of New Jersey’s premier prospects.
The Nittany Lions have enjoyed abundant recent success targeting talent in the Garden State, including Hansard, Oweh, Shorter, Gesicki, linebacker Jason Cabinda and receiver Juwan Johnson. Penn State picked up a verbal pledge from top-ranked New Jersey quarterback Taquan Roberson in October.
Wallace, who claims more than 30 scholarship offers, has been a fairly frequent visitor to Happy Valley. His offer sheet has expanded to include Auburn, LSU, Michigan, Stanford and Wisconsin since the start of February.
Penn State presented one of his earliest Power 5 opportunities in February 2017, prioritizing him on the 2019 offensive line board while competition has grown. Watch his junior-season highlights here:
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