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Justin Shorter plans to compete for starting role as a Penn State freshman
Penn State signee Justin Shorter used the 2017 offseason camp circuit as a springboard toward increased national respect. He climbed more than 100 spots in composite 2018 prospect rankings and became a consensus 5-star recruit by dominating the field alongside, and across from, elite peers.
Shorter, who helped lead South Brunswick (N.J.) High School to a state championship during his senior season, returns to a showcase spotlight this week. He is one of four future Nittany Lions practicing in preparation for the nationally televised Under Armour All-America Game, which kicks off 6 p.m. Thursday at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla.
His most recent appearance on a national stage resulted in first-team honors at The Opening over the summer. Fellow 5-star prospect and Penn State signee Ricky Slade played on the same 7-on-7 team as Shorter during that event, which took place at Nike’s world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. These two are reunited in Orlando.
“I haven’t really seen him get stopped consistently,” Slade, a running back, told Land of 10 upon his arrival for All-America Game festivities. “He makes things really difficult for defenses, and that creates opportunities for his teammates.”
Shaquon Anderson-Butts is another of those anticipated Nittany Lions teammates. The Harrisburg (Pa.) receiver has said he plans to sign with Penn State in February and he’s looking forward to running routes with Shorter for years to come.
“He’s like [Atlanta Falcons All-Pro receiver] Julio Jones,” Anderson-Butts said. “Man, you’ve got Justin at 6-4, 220 [pounds], running a 4.4 [40-yard dash]. You don’t see that very often. He can stretch the offense downfield.”
Shorter, who collected 119 receptions for 1,908 yards and 22 touchdowns during the past three seasons in a run-dominated South Brunswick offensive attack, has ambitious plans for his freshman season in Happy Valley.
“Go in there, have my head low, work hard and practice hard — hopefully start as a freshman. …. Grinding 24/7,” he said Saturday.
RELATED: 2018 Penn State recruiting big board
Considered the No. 15 overall prospect in the 247Sports composite rankings for 2017, Shorter will arrive on campus in June surrounded by immense expectations.
“Justin Shorter is as good a high school wide receiver that I’ve ever seen, on film and in person,” James Franklin said Dec. 20 after the Garden State product signed with Penn State.
Nittany Lions receivers coach Josh Gattis explained the staff recognized his talent early, and that helped pay off as Shorter spent more time committed to Penn State than any other member of the class.
“I remember seeing his tape as a sophomore and I felt at that time he was the best receiver in the country, regardless of any recruiting rankings,” Gattis said. “I’m excited. Obviously, everyone sees the talent level that he has. He’s a phenomenal player. You know, God only blesses so many guys at his size with the speed and ball skills that he has. … I really believe he’s going to be able to blossom here at Penn State in the future.”
Shorter said he intends to blossom quickly in one of college football’s most explosive offenses. He is particularly excited about spending time with rising redshirt junior receiver Juwan Johnson, a fellow New Jersey product who emerged as a key Nittany Lions playmaker in 2017.
“Working with him is going to be cool for me,” Shorter said. “I remember when I was in like eighth grade, watching his highlights and looking up to him. Now I can put on the cleats, put on the pads and learn from him.”
— Under Armour FTBL (@UAFootball) January 2, 2018
Though Shorter said he appreciates the accolades, he is quick to point out other Penn State newcomers who will help increase competition at receiver. Along with Anderson-Butts and 4-star Maryland prospect Daniel George, the Nittany Lions landed scintillating in-state standout Jahan Dotson via a commitment flip from UCLA during the early signing period.
Shorter long had expressed admiration for Dotson, and he spoke about the possibility of them playing together dating back to his junior year. That partnership appeared unlikely as Dotson spent the 2017 season pledged to UCLA, but it’s now an impending reality.
“I think once we both get up there, if we can both play, it will be good to have me go deep and knowing he can work off any route and get open,” Shorter said.
He is also targeting another blue-chip 2018 receiver in Solomon Enis. Another 6-4 talent, Enis is a Nittany Lions legacy and roomed with Shorter during The Opening.
Penn State is on the verge of welcoming one of college football’s most impressive collections of freshmen receivers. Though he prefers to spread attention, there’s no denying Shorter is the headliner.
Watch his senior-season highlights here:
Micah Parsons operating at full speed during All-American Bowl preparation
Micah Parsons didn’t wait long to turn heads in San Antonio, where he’s spending the week preparing for U.S. Army All-American Bowl action. Nearing early enrollment at Penn State, the 6-3, 245-pound prospect has impressed during early drills, according to multiple media outlets covering practice sessions.
— Barton Simmons (@bartonsimmons) January 2, 2018
— Steve Wiltfong (@SWiltfong247) January 2, 2018
This video clip serves up more evidence of Parsons’ quickness off the edge. He spent his senior season at Harrisburg (Pa.) High School terrorizing opposing quarterbacks, and this trend continues even while working against All-American offensive linemen.
Though he attacked out of a three-point stance here, Parsons is expected to begin his collegiate career at middle linebacker. Franklin shared this plan during the early signing period, and the prized in-state signee will have his first opportunity to replace departing senior Jason Cabinda during spring camp.
Parsons is a finalist for U.S. Army All-American Bowl Player of the Year. Though he wasn’t named Pennsylvania’s Gatorade Player of the Year, he managed to send a message Tuesday morning by dishing out a big hit against the guy who did win that award — Notre Dame quarterback signee Phil Jurkovec.
Phil Jurkovec took a hard sack from 5-star Penn State signee Micah Parsons. pic.twitter.com/taxaCn2Och
— David McKinney (@BGI_DMcKinney) January 2, 2018
Parsons looks like a motivated man on a mission in San Antonio so far, and that’s great news for Penn State. He is the kind of game-changer who could help take the Nittany Lions defense to another level in the years ahead.
It’s also worth noting he’s on the recruiting trail at All-American Bowl practice, where top Penn State offensive tackle target Rasheed Walker is sharing drills:
— Greg Powers 🏟 (@GPowers247) January 2, 2018
That should bring a smile to the face of Penn State recruiting coordinator EJ Barthel, who also sent some praise toward Parsons on Tuesday.
Shout out to The Humble Beast representing out there! This kid is the best player in the nation because he's decided to out compete whoever lines up in front of him! Proud of this kid .@Micah_parsons23 take a look at the twitter! Work to do but greatness ahead! #WaitOnit pic.twitter.com/hphLecmm6C
— EJ Barthel (@CoachEJbarthel) January 2, 2018
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