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Penn State set to host two top-5 prospects in 2020 class Saturday
The game Saturday against Georgia State may not be the marquee matchup of Penn State’s 2017 schedule, but it’s shaping up to be a major recruiting event. There are several developments to discuss in our notebook, but let’s begin with news regarding the youngest Nittany Lions targets.
Penn State is set to host receiver Julian Fleming and running back Chris Tyree — two of the top-5 overall recruits in 247Sports 2020 rankings — this weekend. Both players shared their travel plans this week during discussions with Land of 10.
Fleming, an in-state standout at Southern Columbia (Catawissa, Pa.), will attend his first game as an official Nittany Lions target. However, he’s been to Beaver Stadium several times in the past.
“Pretty much everyone in my family is a Penn State fan,” said Fleming, who will make the trip with his mother and maybe an aunt.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound prospect earned a scholarship offer from Penn State coach James Franklin while on campus June 17 for a 7-on-7 tournament. He returned to State College on July 15 for Lasch Bash festivities, and projects as one of the most impressive players to develop in Pennsylvania this decade.
Fleming, who qualified for four events in the state track and field championships as a freshman, quickly burst onto the college football recruiting scene with 956 receiving yards and 15 total touchdowns in his debut season, according to MaxPreps. Now through three games as a sophomore, he has 13 receptions for 292 yards and 6 touchdowns.
“I want to top every game from last year, improve on each of those performances,” Fleming said.
A few weeks ago, Fleming told me he hoped to visit Penn State for the team’s Oct. 21 matchup with Michigan. This is no longer the case, as Fleming explained he is “almost 100 percent” certain he will attend the Notre Dame-USC game in South Bend, Ind., that day.
Penn State prioritized Fleming early and he would become a monumental building block for the 2020 class if he opts to commit early.
“I’ve built a pretty strong relationship with Coach Franklin,” he said. “He’s a really nice guy and you can tell he really cares about all his players and winning big games.”
Tyree, listed one spot ahead of Fleming at No. 4 overall in 247Sports rankings, will travel from Virginia alongside his parents. Considered the nation’s premier running back prospect among high school sophomores, he landed more than a dozen scholarship offers by the end of his freshman year.
The 5-10, 172-pound playmaker posted 40-yard dash times of 4.44 and 4.46 seconds during a June 11 camp at Penn State, where he secured a Nittany Lions offer.
“[Franklin] told me it’s going to be hard to say ‘no’ because of how much interest they’ll be showing me,” Tyree said.
He’ll likely pay close attention to star Penn State running back Saquon Barkley on special teams. Tyree views his kick return abilities as a major asset, and it seems to be something he wants to do in college.
Tyree and Penn State running backs coach/special teams coordinator Charles Huff have already established a solid rapport.
“I’ve been talking to Coach Huff probably more than anybody else,” he said. “I feel like he’s a really cool, down-to-earth person, but when it’s time to work he’ll push you. I saw that when I went to camp for just one day, and I think that’s why the running backs there are so successful.”
Tyree started his sophomore season with a 197-yard, 2-touchdown performance on 7 carries, according to MaxPreps. You can watch highlights from that game here:
5-star DT Antonio Alfano will return to campus for Georgia State game
Franklin said Wednesday his staff is now investing about “60 to 70 percent” of recruiting efforts toward cycles beyond 2018. Penn State secured its first 2019 commitment Saturday when local cornerback Keaton Ellis pledged after watching the Nittany Lions defeat Pitt.
Ellis will now attempt to help Penn State build momentum with other high school juniors as the season progresses. Remember, blue-chip 2018 prospects such as Pat Freiermuth, Zack Kuntz and Justin Shorter each pledged to the Nittany Lions by the end of their junior campaigns.
Antonio Alfano, a 5-star defensive tackle from Rahway, N.J., reached out Wednesday afternoon to inform me he will be on campus this weekend. A longtime Penn State target, he earned an offer from the Nittany Lions in June 2016.
This will be his third game day visit to Penn State, and this summer he explained the program will “definitely” be on a list of top schools he creates after the 2017 season.
“Love the campus, downtown, football facilities, coaches and history,” Alfano said. “Oh, and the creamery, of course.”
The 6-5, 280-pound prospect carries more than 20 offers, including Alabama, LSU, Ohio State and Tennessee. He is listed No. 23 overall in 247Sports 2019 composite rankings.
Alfano said he wants to prove himself as the No. 1 recruit in the 2019 class, though this mission must wait. He will sit out the first four games of his junior season due to New Jersey transfer rules following his move from Bergen Catholic to Rahway, according to Jeremy Schneider of NJ.com.
Penn State! pic.twitter.com/ZslVKvOPDc
— Antonio Alfano (@Antonioalfano99) September 1, 2017
Fresh off Ohio State visit, 4-star DE Jayson Oweh heading back to Happy Valley
Just three days after Micah Parsons shared plans to visit Penn State on Saturday, fellow blue-chip defensive end Jayson Oweh added himself to the attendance list. He dropped a significant piece of news for Nittany Lions fans Thursday afternoon on Twitter:
Two fingers up if you're going to be in Happy Valley this weekend….✌🏾
— Clout J (@JaysonOweh) September 14, 2017
Oweh, a 6-5, 236-pound senior at Blair Academy (Blairstown, N.J.), already announced his intention to use an official visit in Happy Valley for Penn State’s final home game against Nebraska. Apparently, he wasn’t content with only one game day experience.
This will be his fourth trip to campus since March. Oweh has journeyed to Ohio State twice since he was last in town for a mid-July camp, most recently attending the Buckeyes’ home opener. He used his first official visit last weekend in Columbus, where Oklahoma picked up a convincing road win.
Ohio State holds a slight advantage in his recruitment, Oweh told Todderick Hunt of NJ.com after the experience.
“But that’s just fresh off an OSU visit,” Oweh said.
Now, Penn State will have at least two in-season opportunities to surpass the Buckeyes. Notre Dame is under consideration, but remains behind two Big Ten title contenders.
Like Oweh, 4-star Cleveland defensive end Tyreke Smith also plans to visit Penn State twice before his final decision. Both players plan to commit Jan. 4 during the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando, Fla. Parsons hasn’t yet discussed a commitment timeline, though his ambition to enroll early means the choice must be made by early January.
There are a lot of moving parts here but it has become clear Penn State is in contention for each of these defensive end recruits.