Stay updated as Penn State rises toward the top of the recruiting rankings! Don’t miss the coverage from Tyler Donohue, who brings a decade of experience as a national college football reporter and a recruiting department staff member with a Big Ten program. Read his daily notebooks here at 7:20 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, and follow us on Twitter for the latest Nittany Lions recruiting news.
Penn State commits lead high school teams to state titles
Penn State has flourished on the recruiting trail in New Jersey. You need only examine standouts on the 2017 Nittany Lions roster to appreciate this impact, as linebacker Jason Cabinda, receiver Juwan Johnson and tight end Mike Gesicki are among several New Jersey natives.
This trend is set to continue as the Garden State continues to be fertile territory for James Franklin. Penn State presently holds a pair of commitments from premier prospects in the state: Taquan Roberson and Justin Shorter.
Shorter, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound receiver, is a 5-star prospect and the top-rated New Jersey recruit in 247Sports 2018 composite rankings. Roberson, a 6-foot, 185-pound dual-threat playmaker, is considered the state’s most coveted quarterback in the 2019 class.
Along with their verbal pledges to Penn State, these talented athletes now have another thing in common. Both wrapped up the 2017 season holding state championship trophies.
Roberson and Shorter helped lead their respective high school teams to New Jersey titles last weekend.
RELATED: 2018 Penn State recruiting big board
Shorter completed another fantastic season by delivering his finest performance of 2017 in a Group 5 final hosted by Rutgers University. The South Brunswick senior recorded a season-best 7 receptions for 86 yards and 1 touchdown, coming up big throughout an 18-14 victory over Manalapan.
South Brunswick attempted only 75 passes through its first 12 games leading into the championship matchup. Shorter still managed to catch 36 balls, and finished his senior season with 44 receptions, including 8 scores.
His highlight play in the state championship game didn’t produce points, but it sustained a drive for South Brunswick and provided pivotal momentum:
Video: Watch replay of @GoSBVikings WR and Penn State commit, @JustinShorter15 make this amazing catch in first qtr against @MHSBravesSports in CJ Group 5 Championship. #njfootball pic.twitter.com/9v3qTD3t7n
— GMC Gridiron (@gmcgridiron) December 2, 2017
It’s been a tremendous year for Shorter, who also contributed as a defensive back and rusher this season. He climbed more than 100 spots in composite recruit rankings, entered 5-star territory, routinely won reps against elite opponents on the national camp circuit, and ultimately entered the conversation when analysts discussed who deserves the No. 1 ranking among 2018 receivers.
Shorter’s championship game performance serves as a proverbial cherry on top.
He figures to compete for substantial reps as a Nittany Lions freshman next season. Penn State will lose its all-time receptions leader in DaeSean Hamilton, and Shorter could create a formidable duo in terms of physicality while lined up alongside fellow 6-4 pass target Juwan Johnson.
We won’t see Roberson in a Nittany Lions uniform until 2019, but early indications are that Franklin and newly anointed offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne landed a special talent. He took over as a first-year full-time starter at DePaul this season, slaying defenses while dealing with one of the most difficult schedules in New Jersey.
Roberson delivered again Saturday in the Non-Public Group 3 title game, playing in front of an audience that featured Franklin. His first-half touchdown pass made the difference in a 7-3 slugfest vs. St. Joseph Regional. This low-scoring affair was a slight surprise considering Pittsburgh quarterback commit Nick Patti was on the opposite sideline.
Roberson threw for 151 yards in the matchup, according to MaxPreps. He also inflicted significant damage as a runner, gaining 93 yards on the ground. His ability to beat opponents in a variety of ways, while effectively operating option looks, is reminiscent of current Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley. Roberson proved his value to the Nittany Lions staff this summer by earning an offer after a camp on July 16.
He certainly validated the growing excitement entering his junior season. Roberson completed 67 percent of pass attempts for 2,466 yards and 30 touchdowns. He rushed for 573 yards and 4 scores.
Watch his junior-season highlights here:
Penn State coaches stay busy recruiting across country
During the last two weeks we’ve documented the widespread travels of Nittany Lions staff members. Since the conclusion of regular-season action, this group has remained undeterred in recruiting efforts even as coaching changes occurred.
Penn State coaches spent a lot of time posing for pictures in front of Christmas trees on Wednesday. We’ll let the smiles in the photos do the talking.
Here’s a rundown of where Franklin and his Nittany Lions assistants ventured most recently.
CB Jordan Miner (Tampa, Fla.)
WR Justin Shorter (Monmouth Junction, N.J.)
— Justin Shorter (@JustinShorter15) December 6, 2017
QB Will Levis (Middletown, Conn.)
— Will Levis (@will_levis) December 6, 2017
WR Solomon Enis (Phoenix, Ariz.)
— Solomon. (@SolomonEnis) December 7, 2017
TE Zack Kuntz (Camp Hill, Pa.)
Had an unbelievable evening last night with my future coaches and future teammate! The future looks bright for the blue and white🦁🔵⚪️ pic.twitter.com/L0yfodAJgb
— Zack Kuntz (@zackkuntz_717) December 5, 2017
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