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Despite staff changes, 5-star RB Ricky Slade stuck with commitment
By the end of his freshman year of high school, Ricky Slade held scholarship offers from an impressive collection of Power 5 programs. Clemson, Ohio State, Iowa and Virginia Tech identified him as a target by Halloween 2014. Penn State joined North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia Tech in the hunt by Christmas.
Far before the spotlight shifted to 2018 recruits, the C.D. Hylton (Woodbridge, Va.) star was a national name to know in his recruiting class. More than three years after collegiate coaching staffs began to give chase, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound running back officially sealed his fate as a future Nittany Lions player.
Slade, a 5-star prospect, sent in his letter of intent Dec. 20 during the first day of college football’s early signing period. He is one of three top-25 overall talents in 247Sports composite rankings who elected to sign with Penn State, headlining a marquee class.
Hours after Slade’s college plans became official, Nittany Lions coach James Franklin expressed sincere appreciation for the trust Slade showed in his future team. Penn State lost running backs coach/special teams coordinator Charles Huff shortly after the regular season, as the highly respected assistant followed Joe Moorhead to Mississippi State.
Franklin made Slade one of his first 2018 targets, extending an offer Dec. 5, 2014. With the help of Huff, he secured a verbal commitment from the coveted playmaker Feb. 3, 2017.
Only weeks shy of sealing the deal, it would’ve been understandable if Slade needed to take a step back due to a key coaching change. Instead, he stood firm with the pledge. Long-established rapport played a pivotal role.
“We had a really good relationship with Ricky, and his family, and his high school coaches,” Franklin said Dec. 20. “We were very transparent, open and honest about what we were thinking and how we were handling it. At the end of the day, he felt comfortable saying, ‘I want to go to Penn State because I love Penn State, I love the guys on the team, I really like the coaching staff and I think coach is going to hire someone really good that’s going to help me develop and help us win a bunch of games.’ … That really goes back to Ricky, to Ricky’s coach, to Ricky’s mom and dad trusting us.”
RELATED: 2018 Penn State recruiting big board
Slade, an Under Armour All-America Game selection and first-team performer at The Opening, never wavered in his ambitions to join the Nittany Lions.
“Penn State is the only school I really wanted to go to,” he told Dave Fawcett of Inside NoVa. “The whole coaching staff could leave, but if Coach Franklin is there, I’m not leaving anywhere. Even if he did leave, I fell in love with the school itself. So, I could be a student at Penn State and not play football and still love it.”
Franklin summarized a conversation they shared about his search for Huff’s replacement during an early signing period media session.
“Look, this is not the ideal situation, I had our 10th coach [Phil Galiano] who was going to be our special teams coordinator, so it made sense to get us back to whole as quick as possible, put that guy on the road recruiting, and wait on the running back position,” he told Slade.
“You just have to trust me that you see the type of men that I surround myself with, the other coaches that him and his family have developed a relationship with, and you just have to trust that I’m going to hire someone that’s not only going to be a great fit for Penn State but also going to be a great fit for you. It makes no sense for me to bring you here and not have a coach you’re going to be able to identify with and work with. You liked the last coach I had, you like the rest of the coaches on our staff, you’ve got to trust.”
— RS3⛏ (@TheSlade_Era) December 16, 2017
Franklin then revealed some details about Penn State’s upcoming staff plans, maintaining the back-and-forth respect between both parties.
“I’ve also shared some information with Ricky and his family that I haven’t shared with anybody else about some of my thoughts and some of the directions that we’re going to go,” he said. “They were comfortable with that. I haven’t shared that with anyone else, but I wanted them to be as comfortable as they possibly could be. … We’re going to make some decisions on this here pretty soon.”
Slade could quickly thrust himself into contention for reps as a freshman when he arrives in Happy Valley next summer. Assuming Saquon Barkley departs early for the NFL draft, Miles Sanders looks like the next man up in Penn State’s backfield. But volume may be spread.
The newcomer’s versatility will likely help his case.
Slade earned Gatorade’s Virginia Player of the Year honor after tallying more than 2,700 all-purpose yards and accounting for 40 touchdowns in 2017. He rushed for 5,540 yards and 72 scores in high school.
Penn State signee Micah Parsons suffers apparent ankle injury
Penn State fans have been counting down to Micah Parsons’ arrival on campus since Dec. 20, when he spurned programs such as Georgia, Nebraska and Oklahoma by re-committing to the Nittany Lions. Parsons then signed with the team and revealed his plans to enroll early, placing him on campus in January.
The 6-3, 245-pound Harrisburg (Pa.) High School star, a top-10 overall talent in the 2018 recruiting class, is just a couple of weeks away from becoming a Penn State student-athlete. He is expected to compete for middle linebacker duties that will be left vacant upon the departure of senior Jason Cabinda.
Despite his impending leap into collegiate competition, Parsons continues to represent the Harrisburg athletic department as a member of the Cougars basketball squad. He scored 15 points Wednesday night, but the biggest takeaway was an apparent ankle injury.
— Brian Linder (@SportsByBLinder) December 28, 2017
Parsons was injured when he landed on an opponent’s foot, according to Brian Linder of PennLive. The ensuing scene of him using crutches with an ice-wrapped ankle is obviously concerning for Penn State supporters.
Pray for me 🙏🏽 https://t.co/0ZY4LPYBwK
— BLESSEDMVP (@Micah_parsons23) December 28, 2017
Linder reported further evaluation of the injury was expected Thursday. Parsons expressed optimism that it’s merely a short-term setback.
“It’s going to be fine,” he told Linder. “This is just a sprain. Nothing is broke.”
If his initial sentiment proves true, that’s a major relief for Parsons and the Nittany Lions. We’ll continue to monitor the situation at Land of 10.
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