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Our latest Penn State Nittany Lions Recruiting Question of the Day comes from @porkapolooza on Twitter.
Why do you think the 2019 class is so slow to commit?
— Porkapolooza (@porkapooloza) April 9, 2018
Now that we know quarterback Tommy Stevens will remain with the Nittany Lions, this probably is the Penn State topic raised most on social media. There has been a steady build in inquiries about the 2019 recruiting class, which has featured two verbal commitments since Oct. 26.
Penn State picked up its initial pledge in the class on Sept. 9, securing a commitment from local State College cornerback and Nittany Lions legacy Keaton Ellis. New Jersey quarterback Taquan Roberson pushed the total to two later in the season.
Naturally, many fans are measuring this progress against the 2018 recruiting cycle that produced Penn State’s best National Signing Day finish ever (fifth overall) in composite class rankings. By the start of April 2017, the class featured double-digit commitments, including elite talents such as quarterback Justin Fields, tight end Zack Kuntz, linebacker Micah Parsons, receiver Justin Shorter and running back Ricky Slade.
So it’s no surprise to sense some slight concern as the Nittany Lions reach the late stages of spring practice with the same two 2019 pledges that have been in place for nearly six months.
However, I would caution against investing too much focus on what’s happening in Happy Valley. Commitment frequency has significantly decreased across the college football landscape.
For instance, take a look at the current commitment totals of traditional “blue-blood” programs. As you can see, this trend spans various conferences:
- Auburn: 3 commitments
- Clemson: 4
- Notre Dame: 3
- Ohio State: 3
- Oklahoma: 4
- Southern Cal: 1
- Tennessee: 4
- Texas: 4
Only two coaching staffs in college football have collected double-digit commitments to this point: Ole Miss (15) and Miami (11). That tells a lot of the story, and so does the lack of decision announcements among this cycle’s perceived upper echelon of prospects.
Only 67 of the top 300 overall recruits in 247Sports 2019 composite rankings have verbally committed. Clearly, Penn State has plenty of company when it comes to a “slow” start.
It’s becoming more evident that this is another ramification of changes to the college football recruiting calendar. For the first time, high school juniors are permitted to use official visits during the spring. In past years, prospects needed to wait until Sept. 1 of their senior year.
On the surface, it may seem counterintuitive that early official visits would result in delayed commitment sprees. But upon further review, this new pace makes sense and sets the stage for an extremely eventful April, May and June.
There always is a substantial array of prospects who make it a priority to pledge prior to their senior seasons. Motivation ranges from eliminating outside “noise” for high school championship pursuits or simply growing weary of the recruitment process.
There also is always a large collection of athletes who don’t want to announce a decision until after they utilize a few — if not all five — official visits. This can be due to a desire to research options diligently, along with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for expenses-paid trips with family members to different parts of the country.
These two groups converge this spring as official visits can be taken, allowing players to make informed decisions soon afterward. Expect this to be the case with several notable Nittany Lions targets. Defensive backs Tyler Rudolph and Marquis Wilson, running back Devyn Ford and offensive lineman Caedan Wallace have expressed plans to finalize things once spring visits are done.
Some won’t wait that long, creating a major opportunity for Penn State class additions during Blue-White Game weekend (April 20-22) festivities. Augmented by the new official visit policy, this weekend will potentially become the most meaningful Nittany Lions recruiting event on an annual basis, and it produced a pair of verbal pledges from 2018 prospects last year.
The Penn State staff has prioritized top-tier talent and will welcome plenty from across America for the spring game and throughout April. Defensive lineman Antonio Alfano, tight end Isaiah Foskey and linebacker Brandon Smith were on campus last week, while running back Noah Cain is locked in for a trip to State College during the final weekend of this month.
Patience among Penn State fans should pay off soon. The Nittany Lions’ class is likely to swell in a big way as spring progresses.
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