Decision day is here for 4-star linebacker Dallas Gant, who lists Penn State among his finalists. The Nittany Lions target has said he will announce his college commitment at 3:30 p.m. ET Tuesday, and Ohio State is considered a formidable favorite for the in-state Gant (St. John’s Jesuit/Toledo, Ohio).
Ohio State has all 18 of the 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions. The Buckeyes landed four blue-chip defensive prospects in April, and a pledge from Gant would lead Ohio State to supplant Penn State atop the 247Sports Composite 2018 Big Ten recruiting class rankings.
Still, this is a multi-program pursuit until Gant shares his decision. Ohio State must contest with three fellow Big Ten finalists — Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State — and Notre Dame.
Gant included each school in a top-5 list he released in early April:
Top 5 top 5 top 5… pic.twitter.com/Rr0RONDVA7
— Dallas Gant (@dallas_gant) April 4, 2017
So, is there a chance Penn State adds another piece to “Linebacker U” on Tuesday?
We’ll label it highly unlikely, and the Nittany Lions probably are staring up at multiple programs in this pursuit. In addition to Ohio State, where Gant has spent a ton of time since receiving an offer from the Buckeyes last June, Notre Dame became a major factor as this recruitment gained momentum.
The Fighting Irish welcomed Gant to campus twice in the last three months. He traveled to South Bend for a February junior day and returned April 22 for his most recent university visit.
Like Ohio State and Notre Dame, Penn State offered him in summer 2016. He visited Happy Valley last July, and coach James Franklin formally put his program in the mix then.
“[Defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Brent] Pry thinks that I could play any one of the linebacker positions based on my size and my athleticism,” Gant told Sean Fitz of 247Sports following the offer.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound prospect is listed No. 5 among outside linebackers and No. 126 overall in the 247Sports 2018 composite rankings.
247Sports revealed new rankings in the last week, which labeled Gant as the nation’s No. 1 outside linebacker and No. 23 overall prospect. Since others in the industry aren’t quite as sold on Gant’s long-term potential, his general composite score falls outside the top 100 for now.
Penn State coaches consistently communicate with Gant, who acknowledged he’s progressively gained a new appreciation for the program.
“My first visit I didn’t expect too much,” he told Bill Kurelic of 247Sports on May 9. “But they have great players and great coaches. I really liked that place. They just grew on me.”
Gant added he’s formed a solid relationship with Pry. Ultimately, though, this looks like a recruitment we’ll look back on and view the Nittany Lions as also-rans.
Ohio State consistently has drawn him to Columbus. Despite the departure of linebackers coach Luke Fickell — now coach at Cincinnati — Gant quickly embraced his replacement, Billy Davis.
Before joining the Buckeyes staff, Davis spent 24 seasons in the NFL as a top defensive assistant. Prized prospects such as Gant typically dream about heading to the league after college, so even though this change is a notable transition for Davis, it certainly doesn’t hurt in the eyes of recruits.
“I think all his NFL experience outweighs it,” Gant told Eleven Warriors in January.
Last fall, Notre Dame also dealt with major defensive staff changes — defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was fired after the fourth game — during a disastrous 4-8 season. When assessing this situation strictly in terms of staff stability during the course of Gant’s recruitment, it’s hard to top Penn State.
Still, Penn State coaches probably are braced for the seemingly inevitable outcome here. If Gant announces he has picked the Buckeyes on Tuesday afternoon, don’t expect any gasps at the football facilities in State College.
Franklin carries three linebacker commitments in the 2018 recruiting cycle: Charlie Katshir, Jesse Luketa and Nick Tarburton. Though Tarburton is considered a composite 4-star prospect, no member of this trio presently cracks the top 300 overall composite rankings.
That is subject to change with continued evaluation. Luketa appears to warrant consideration for a substantial bump.
Other names to know at linebacker for the Nittany Lions’ recruiting efforts include another pair of Ohio products, Brian Asamoah (Columbus) and Xavier Peters (West Chester).
Asamoah, from St. Francis De Sales High School, attended the Penn State spring game in April.