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More Power 5 programs after 5-star Penn State QB commit Justin Fields
It’s reckless to consider any 2018 Penn State commitment as a signed, sealed and delivered Nittany Lion. We’re talking about 16- and 17-year-olds still four months shy of their first snaps as high school seniors, and a lot of variables can change between now and National Signing Day, such as:
- coaching changes
- family indecision
- new scholarship offers
In the case of Justin Fields, let’s focus on the latter.
The 6-foot-3, 221-pound playmaker, ranked the nation’s top dual-threat quarterback in 2018 by 247Sports, pledged to Penn State in December. Through five months of this verbal pact, things have gone according to plan for Nittany Lions coach James Franklin.
Fields frequently speaks with fellow Penn State commits and is considered a leader among the group. The Kennesaw (Ga.) Harrison High standout traveled north last month for a spring game visit, spending quality time alongside potential future teammates and coaches.
“Even though he’s a 5-star recruit, I’m still not sure people fully understand what Justin brings to the table,” Nittany Lions linebacker pledge Jesse Luketa said. “He’s one of the most athletic individuals I’ve ever seen. The kid is gifted, and when he steps foot on campus, he’s going to impress a lot of people. His film doesn’t lie, and he’s going to dominate.”
Unfortunately for Franklin and company, they can’t keep that film hidden from the rest of college football’s coaching staffs. Since his Dec. 1 commitment, Fields has attracted scholarship offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Oregon and Texas.
You can count an additional two teams among the fray following his latest offers, both coming in a three-day span. Auburn extended a scholarship on Saturday, then Baylor pushed Fields past 40 total offers by entering the mix Monday.
Blessed to have received an offer from Baylor University!!! ?? pic.twitter.com/RGVgNRDoI3
— Justin Fields (@justnfields) May 2, 2017
We’re not writing this piece to send Penn State fans toward the panic button, but rather to serve reminder that Fields is a young man with free will and at least 40 programs that would love to pry him away from a future in Happy Valley.
My colleague Zach Abolverdi of SEC Country caught up with the quarterback earlier this spring at The Opening’s Orlando regional. Fields earned an invitation to the Elite 11 finals in Los Angeles that late-February afternoon, and he also cleared the air on where things stand as fresh collegiate possibilities pile up.
He told Abolverdi then he was “100 percent committed” to Penn State but also didn’t shut the door on alternative explorations.
Fields mentioned Florida as a university he’d “like to check out” and members of the Gators staff spent time at his high school days before Penn State’s spring game. He also traveled to Florida State in April, receiving an offer from the Seminoles soon after.
His lack of proximity to State College is a bit concerning, but these are the recruitments that powerhouse programs close. Need recent examples?
Georgia lured Washington quarterback and National Gatorade Player of the Year Jacob Eason across the country in 2016. Just this winter, Alabama brought Hawaii native and Elite 11 MVP Tua Tagovailoa to Tuscaloosa as an early enrollee.
A bridge between the Peach State and Penn State is already in place. Now it’s just a matter of making sure Fields makes it all the way across on National Signing Day.
4-star WR Daniel George talks up Penn State, plans return visit
Franklin, offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead and wide receivers coach Josh Gattis continue to stay diligent in the pursuit of 2018 pass catchers. Our Monday notebook focused on the development of 4-star Nittany Lions commit Justin Shorter, who earned WR MVP honors at The Opening’s New Jersey regional last weekend and an invitation to The Opening finals this summer in Beaverton, Ore., at Nike’s world headquarters.
Shorter (South Brunswick, N.J.) looks like the real deal and could be in line for a rankings bump — he is listed 16th nationally among prospects at the position in 2018 composite rankings — but he’s the only receiver on board for Penn State’s class at this point.
Eventually, and perhaps before summer training camp, this will change. It’s just a matter of which prospect is ready to take the plunge with Penn State and vice versa.
For instance, fellow 4-star New Jersey WR Jahan Dotson detailed his strong interest in the Nittany Lions for a Monday story on Land of 10.
Another prospect to keep tabs on resides in Maryland.
Oxon Hill High junior Daniel George landed a Nittany Lions offer shortly after last season. He visited campus in February and told Land of 10 he “definitely” intends to return to State College.
George, a 6-2, 195-pound prospect with a 4-star rating from 247Sports, sees plenty of positives when he evaluates Penn State.
“The 107K [Beaver Stadium capacity is 107,000] is definitely a big part,” he said. “It’s a stable coaching staff, and they’re all really good guys. I like the way the whole school is set up, and I like the fans. I like the way they use the receivers and the running game.”
— Daniel George (@11DanielGeorge) February 13, 2017
A top-200 prospect and the No. 37 WR in 2018 composite rankings, George listed Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and West Virginia as schools also under strong consideration. Each of the universities could receive visits from him in the months ahead.
While those other potential landing spots carry an edge in distance from his home region, he admits Penn State brings something special.
“Penn State is pretty flashy,” George said. “It’s a big name like the Alabamas and Ohio States, but it kind of has that small feeling when you go there. You won’t just get lost.”
It’s worth noting he possesses a personal connection to the current Penn State roster. George came up through the same youth football system as starting Nittany Lions S Marcus Allen, gaining mutual familiarity since childhood. The two also shared a conversation during that February visit to campus.