Penn State recruiting: Lions building impressive target board for efforts beyond National Signing Day
Plenty of focus among Penn State fans is being placed on upcoming National Signing Day developments. The Nittany Lions aim to assemble final pieces in a 2018 recruiting class projected to finish top-10 overall in composite rankings for the first time in 12 years.
Despite what lies directly ahead of James Franklin and his staff — National Signing Day is Feb. 7 — attention always is paid to long-term goals on the recruiting trail. Franklin explained in September that Penn State already had shifted to directing at least 60 percent of its recruiting resources toward prospects beyond the 2018 cycle, so consider how things are now distributed four months later, with 22 high school seniors already signed.
The Nittany Lions, coming off a second straight 11-win season and a Fiesta Bowl victory, have stockpiled an impressive collection of young talent. Penn State signed three 5-star recruits in December, welcomed four of Pennsylvania’s top 10 high school seniors to campus this month as early enrollees, and can count on a group of 18 rising redshirt freshmen to increase competition across the depth chart.
Land of 10 recently detailed the Nittany Lions’ 2019 target board for offensive recruits and defensive prospects. Now we turn our attention toward 2020 standouts, who’ve started to capture Penn State’s attention at a higher rate.
These high school sophomores are only midway through their prep football careers, but several already claim dozens of scholarship offers. Here’s an early look at the potential future Nittany Lions you need to know, along with insight we’ve gathered from observations and discussions.
Quarterback (1): Drew Pyne (New Canaan, Conn.)
Drew Pyne’s recruiting process actually predates high school, as multiple Power 5 programs — including Penn State, Florida State and Alabama — offered him before his freshman season. He’s been an impact player while validating early hype, collecting 5,405 total yards and 61 touchdowns through two seasons. Pyne traveled to Happy Valley for the Michigan game in October, telling Land of 10 afterward “the offense certainly fits my style of play.”
Drew Pyne Sophomore Year
Running back (4): Jalen Berger (Ramsey, N.J.), Mookie Cooper (St. Louis), Daijun Edwards (Moultrie, Ga.), Chris Tyree (Chester, Va.)
Jalen Berger and Chris Tyree both received Penn State offers last June following campus visits. Berger, the latest priority prospect in New Jersey who also impresses as a pass target, has added offers from Alabama, Florida, Nebraska and Ohio State since December. Tyree, considered the No. 1 running back in 247Sports 2020 rankings, visited multiple Nittany Lions games in 2017 and his father, Richard Tyree, told Land of 10 last week the family has appreciated how Franklin handled staff changes this winter.
Daijun Edwards, who gained more than 2,200 yards from scrimmage as an underclassman, could be hard to pry away from Georgia after Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart placed his program in the mix last spring. Mookie Cooper is a Trinity Catholic High School teammate of two 2019 Penn State receiver targets: Marcus Washington and Isaiah Williams.
Receiver (2): Julian Fleming (Catawissa, Pa.), Porter Rooks (Charlotte, N.C.)
Julian Fleming entered his sophomore season considered America’s No. 1 receiver prospect in 247Sports 2020 rankings. He responded by catching 69 passes for 1,462 yards and 20 touchdowns for unbeaten Southern Columbia High School. Many of his family and friends will push for Penn State, but Alabama offered last weekend and this recruitment should rapidly expand.
Porter Rooks, an early top-10 overall talent like Fleming, landed a Penn State offer last week. He caught 66 passes for 810 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2017, according to MaxPreps, and is one of two Providence Day School sophomores on this list.
Offensive line (3): Anton Harrison (Washington, D.C.), Paris Johnson (Cincinnati), Chris Morris (Memphis, Tenn.)
Paris Johnson, a former St. Xavier High School teammate of Penn State freshman quarterback Sean Clifford, added a Nittany Lions offer last week. Notre Dame entered the pursuit only one day earlier, while recent offers from Clemson, Michigan and Ohio State indicate he will be among the Midwest’s most coveted recruits in this class. The 6-foot-7, 275-pound athlete has top overall prospect potential. There is also plenty of Power 5 competition for Anton Harrison and Chris Morris, who claim more than 20 combined offers.
Defensive line (4): Chris Braswell (Baltimore), Bryan Bresee (Damascus, Md.), Jacolbe Cowan (Charlotte, N.C.), Tre Williams (Oakdale, Conn.)
Bryan Bresee was identified as the initial No. 1 overall recruit in 247Sports 2020 rankings. He traveled to Beaver Stadium in October and watched Penn State defeat Michigan. He referred to the atmosphere as “awesome” during a post-game conversation with Land of 10, and the Nittany Lions look like a legit contender in a recruitment that features Alabama, Florida State, Michigan and Ohio State. New England continues to be a key area of concentration for Franklin, and Connecticut tackle Tre Williams picked up a Penn State offer prior to his sophomore season. Jacolbe Cowan, a 6-5, 250-pound defensive end, is a tremendous pass rusher and plays alongside 2020 Nittany Lions receiver target Porter Rooks at Providence Day School.
Linebacker (2): Justin Flowe (Upland, Calif.), Mekhail Sherman (Washington, D.C.)
Penn State joined programs such as Oklahoma, UCLA and USC in offering Justin Flowe after his first high school season. He certainly didn’t disappoint as a sophomore, securing 119 tackles and 6 sacks, and new offers have since arrived from Florida, Nebraska, Ohio State and Tennessee. Mekhail Sherman is a scintillating 6-3, 235-pound edge rusher who could grow into a defensive end. Sherman was one of three St. John’s College High School players to earn a Nittany Lions offer while in town for a June camp, and he told Land of 10 the program presents a “wonderful environment.”
Defensive back (2): Maleik Faust (Charlotte, N.C.), Luke Hill (Washington, D.C.)
Penn State and South Carolina led the early charge for Maleik Faust, who is one of three 2020 Nittany Lions targets who attends high school in Charlotte. Penn State staff members stopped by Harding University High School to check in last week, according to Adam Friedman of Rivals.com. Luke Hill, who shares the defensive huddle with Sherman at St. John’s, is the most recent addition to this list. The Nittany Lions jumped into his recruitment Jan. 25, joining Boston College, Maryland, South Carolina and Virginia Tech, among other schools.