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From our family to yours, we wish everyone a Merry Christmas! Regardless of what awaited under your tree Monday morning, we’ve supplied one more present here in the form of Penn State recruiting coverage.
The last week was an extremely busy one for the Nittany Lions, who signed 21 high school seniors on Dec. 20. The 2018 recruiting cycle continues into February, but let’s take a moment to review three reasons why Penn State fans should feel especially merry about the program’s recent accomplishments:
1. An explosive offense will add several new weapons in 2018
Penn State piled on the points this season, often surging to sizable early advantages while putting away opponents. Led by quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley, the Nittany Lions featured one of college football’s most explosive offensive attacks and now aim to finish strong in the Fiesta Bowl against an impressive Washington defense.
Moving forward, there are some concerns about the sustainability of this success.
Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead accepted the head coaching job at Mississippi State in November. He quickly was joined on the Bulldogs staff by former Penn State running backs coach Charles Huff.
From a personnel standpoint, there are substantial impending departures. Barkley is expected to declare for the NFL draft, and record-setting seniors Mike Gesicki and DaeSean Hamilton are heading into the next phase of their lives.
Those three players combined for 2,978 yards from scrimmage and 37 touchdowns. Still, despite these expected losses, there is reason for optimism when evaluating the Penn State offense.
The Nittany Lions stockpiled talent last Wednesday during the first day of college football’s new early signing period. The collection of newcomers includes 5-star recruits Justin Shorter and Ricky Slade, who are both considered top 25 overall talents in the 247Sports composite rankings.
Shorter, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver from South Brunswick (N.J.) High School, pledged to Penn State prior to his junior season. He never wavered in his commitment despite widespread interest, wrapping up his final prep campaign with a touchdown reception in South Brunswick’s state championship victory.
“Justin Shorter is as good a high school wide receiver that I’ve ever seen, on film and in person,” Nittany Lions coach James Franklin said Wednesday.
Slade, a scintillating 5-9, 185-pound prospect, totaled more than 2,700 all-purpose yards as a senior at C.D. Hylton (Woodbridge, Va.) High School. He is a dynamic talent out of the backfield, impacting matchups as a receiver and rusher.
Penn State also is set to add another pair of blue-chip receivers in Daniel George and Jahan Dotson, who flipped his commitment from UCLA shortly before signing with the Nittany Lions. New offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne welcomes two top-10 tight end recruits (Zack Kuntz and Pat Freiermuth), along with three linemen, headlined by 4-star prospects Nana Asiedu and Fredrick Scruggs. Quarterback Will Levis of Connecticut provides another young passer to develop behind McSorley and Tommy Stevens.
2. Micah Parsons came home, after all
A three-year recruiting process for Micah Parsons featured plenty of unexpected turns and a lengthy pledge to Penn State, and even entering its final stretches, few things seemed guaranteed. Despite an abundance of visits elsewhere and continued communication with a variety of collegiate staffs, he ultimately identified State College as his future home Wednesday.
Parsons, a 5-star recruit and top 5 overall prospect, rose to prominence less than two hours away from Happy Valley. The 6-3, 245-pound edge rusher was a star at Harrisburg High School this fall and thrust himself into the mix for multiple national player of the year awards.
Entering his senior season, a reunion with the Nittany Lions seemed unlikely. He de-committed from Penn State in April, intent on exploring other options. His travels led him to schools such as Alabama, Georgia, Nebraska, Ohio State and Oklahoma.
Following this widespread search for the right fit, Parsons determined his fate Dec. 20 during a decision video shared on social media.
It’s official! Five-star recruit Micah Parsons has signed with… pic.twitter.com/67yxlMnTxc
— Penn State football (@psufootball) December 20, 2017
Penn State managed to keep its top in-state target on home turf, fending off a lengthy list of Power 5 programs that carry plenty of clout on the college football recruiting trail. Parsons, who will enroll early in January and play middle linebacker, completed a rare full-circle recruitment by returning to the Nittany Lions class.
Franklin described Parsons as one prospect he’ll always remember.
“You’re going to have to wait for the book,” he joked. “I’ve been doing this for 23 years, and the book will probably be five chapters on my career and 15 chapters on the ups and downs and the journey of Micah Parsons. The commitments, the second guessing, all the people who felt like they had an opinion on what he should and shouldn’t do. We were fortunate we built a strong relationship with Mom. We built a very strong relationship with Dad by the end of the process, his high school coach and the community.”
3. Penn State isn’t done yet in the 2018 cycle
Penn State is on track to finish with its highest-rated recruiting class of the modern industry era, dating to the early 2000s. The Nittany Lions’ collection of talent is worth celebrating but don’t view this as a finished product.
“We feel pretty confident we’re not done yet,” offensive recruiting coordinator Josh Gattis said. “We feel good with the class that we have, but we’re going to continue to add playmakers.”
Penn State may be in position to add another premier defensive prospect Jan. 4, when 4-star linemen Jayson Oweh and Tyreke Smith plan to announce their commitments during the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando, Fla.
Land of 10 will be live at the event, and I’m leaning toward the Nittany Lions ending up with Oweh. The 6-5, 235-pound Blair Academy (Blairstown, N.J.) standout secured 13 sacks in fewer than five full games this season.
Beyond this duo, there is also intrigue on offense. Penn State is a primary contender for receiver Solomon Enis, the son of former Nittany Lions running back Curtis Enis, and tackle Rasheed Walker. Both players are considered 4-star prospects, and it wouldn’t surprise to see both end up with Penn State on National Signing Day (Feb. 7).
— Solomon. (@SolomonEnis) December 7, 2017
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