Penn State pushed past a frustrating first full week of June on the recruiting trail and added its first commitment in more than a month Sunday, securing 4-star defensive end Dorian Hardy. The New Jersey standout returned to campus yesterday and finalized his process, pledging to James Franklin and the Nittany Lions staff face-to-face.
He mother, Sharon Hardy, shared a video of the moment, allowing outsiders an opportunity to see a celebration in the coach’s office.
— Sharon Hardy (@Hardy39Hardy) June 11, 2017
Hardy previously spent time on campus April 22 for the program’s spring game. That trip may have provided a turning point in how he views a potential future in Happy Valley.
“It was amazing to see fans come out for a spring game like that,” Hardy told Land of 10 a week later. “[The atmosphere] was just like a regular game, and I’m not really used to that. It was crazy.”
When asked to elaborate where that experience ranked among other campus visits, he placed it in high esteem.
“It’s definitely up there,” Hardy said.
Of course, it will be difficult to top the occasion Sunday, when Hardy became the 13th member of a 2018 Nittany Lions class now considered No. 5 nationally in 247Sports’ composite rankings.
Hardy, a 6-foot-5, 241-pound prospect, transferred to Paramus Catholic (Paramus, N.J.) High School this offseason. It’s a program that perennially produces defensive studs, such as 2016 Heisman Trophy finalist Jabrill Peppers, No. 1 overall 2016 recruit Rashan Gary and recent 2017 signees Drew Singleton (Michigan) and Corey Bolds (Penn State).
This commitment means Franklin is gaining ground with the talent hotbed at Paramus Catholic, which seemingly became Jim Harbaugh’s turf following his arrival at Michigan. It’s also a quality pickup at this point since Hardy previously expressed plans for a busy summer of travel.
Hardy, the No. 6 strongside defensive end and No. 160 overall player in 247Sports’ composite rankings, told Land of 10 in late April that he hoped to return to Ohio State and nearby Rutgers. He also intended to journey south for first-time trips to Alabama, LSU and Tennessee.
The Crimson Tide were considered a formidable force in this recruitment when nationwide hype began to surround Hardy in 2o16.
Former Bleacher Report college football recruiting analyst Sanjay Kirpalani documented a major element of fandom when it came to Hardy’s relationship with Alabama. The Crimson Tide offered toward the end of his sophomore year.
“My family has always been huge Alabama fans,” Hardy told Kirpalani. “My dad has a lot of family in Alabama. With all of them being fans and him being a fan, it kind of made me become one growing up.”
Despite a crowded field of contenders for this commitment, Penn State prevailed. The Nittany Lions now have a blue-chip recruit for their defensive front, with top targets such as Maryland defensive tackle PJ Mustipher and fellow New Jersey DE Jayson Oweh remaining undecided but placing Penn State among top options.
Hardy projects as a 5-technique who lines up on the outside shoulder of an offensive tackle. His length and wingspan can shut down rushing lanes along the outside, while added bulk will enable him to handle interior duties with more authority.
He already attacks opposing linemen with an aggressive punch that puts them back on their heels and allows his athleticism to take over. Technique advancement under Nittany Lions defensive line coach Sean Spencer should result in more effective pass-rush efforts.
“There’s always room for improvement so I feel like I’m on the right path, but I can do better,” Hardy said.
We broke down the commitment in full detail immediately following his announcement Sunday:
Dependent on what Penn State roster needs dictate and Hardy’s physical development, he also could contribute as an edge rusher who essentially serves as an additional linebacker.
“I’m a hand-in-the-dirt type of guy but I have no problem standing up,” Hardy said.
Penn State fans will have an opportunity to see his versatility with more frequency at Paramus Catholic, where Hardy expects to become a focal point in the passing game.
“You guys will see this season what we have in store [for me] at tight end,” he said with a smile.
Hardy is further progressed from a standpoint of strength than straight-line speed, so look for him to become a more complete player when Penn State’s physical conditioning team gets him ingrained in a regimented training program.
— Dorian Hardy (@dtheillest1) June 11, 2017
Hardy previously told Land of 10 he will not enroll early, so a full year separates him from arrival in State College. Suddenly the top-ranked defender in Penn State’s class, expect him to start selling other pivotal targets on joining forces in college.
He mentioned former Nittany Lions commit Micah Parsons, a 5-star DE who still shows interest in Penn State, as a compelling half of a possible tandem that could wreak havoc on opposing Big Ten backfields.
“If we were to team up that would be great,” Hardy said. “I can learn off of him, he can learn off of me. He’s someone you want in your corner; just a great player.”