Penn State Recruiting Mailbag: Where do things stand with in-state DBs, and which WR could be next to join Nittany Lions class?
Join the conversation on Penn State football recruiting right here every Friday. Tyler Donohue, Land of 10’s Nittany Lions reporter, will respond to questions gathered throughout the week. You can get your questioned answered by contacting us on Twitter or ask questions during Tyler’s weekly Facebook Live show (8 p.m. Thursdays).
Penn State Nittany Lions recruiting efforts are relentless, so we always have plenty to address here. Let’s get started…
Excellent question, Todd, and thanks for the submission.
Penn State is on the prowl for top-tier defensive backs in the 2018 recruiting cycle. Coach James Franklin found a pair of 3-star prospects from Texas earlier in the process, picking up a New Year’s Eve pledge from Isaiah Humphries (Sachse High School) and following that with the late-March addition of Trent Gordon (Manvel High).
Humphries is considered a top-30 safety in 247Sports’ 2018 composite rankings, while Gordon lands at No. 37 on the list of cornerbacks in this cycle. As I addressed in last Friday’s mailbag, Gordon’s 2016 production — 81 tackles, 10 pass deflections and 2 interceptions, per MaxPreps — and recent offers from schools such as Florida, Michigan and UCLA suggest he may be slightly underrated at this stage.
Both DBs attended the Nittany Lions spring game April 22, which is huge. But considering their distance from campus, don’t be surprised if those recruitments remain interesting until a National Letter of Intent is signed. That adds increased importance to the pursuit of in-state products Isheem Young and Kwantell Raines.
I caught up with Young, a 5-foot-11, 201-pound prospect from Imhotep Institute Charter High School in Philadelphia, last weekend. He attended The Opening’s most recent regional Sunday, held at New York Jets headquarters in Florham Park, N.J.
There’s no question about it: Penn State is a major player here.
Young spent time with Humphries, Gordon, and several other Penn State pledges at the spring game. That experience may have provided another steppingstone toward an eventual career in State College.
“They’re all really cool guys and I knew that before the spring game,” he said. “We chat here and there, but getting to spend that personal time with them during that day was something I enjoyed very much.
“I love it up there. They’ve been great experiences. The coaches are very cool, and they’re actually like your friends. You can joke around with them, and it’s just a very comfortable place.”
Young, a top-10 safety recruit in composite rankings, certainly will explore alternative options. Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and West Virginia are among potential contenders worth noting.
When he ultimately sits down to dissect these options, his friendship with fellow Philadelphia native Shareef Miller may be an X-factor. Young told me he speaks with Penn State’s spring game defensive MVP “almost every day.”
As for Kwantel Raines, the 4-star Aliquippa High DB also visited Happy Valley in April. According to 247Sports, that makes three campus appearances for him since February.
Clearly this is a good sign for Franklin, and Penn State is in solid position to bag both defensive backs (each considered top-5 prospects in Pennsylvania).
Todd threw an LB label on Raines, which makes some sense since he stands 6-3 and weighs 200 pounds as a high school junior. Depending on his continued physical growth, I could envision a college coaching staff sliding him from safety to outside linebacker, but it may not happen upon his immediate enrollment.
Well we spent the first half of this mailbag focused on defenders, so let’s shift to the other side of the ball, shall we?
David presents a pretty loaded question here regarding Penn State’s recruiting efforts at receiver. As he mentioned, New Jersey WR Justin Shorter is already on board, and has been longer than any other member of the 2018 Nittany Lions class.
Yes, Shorter is the lone slot filled at this position right now, but he is a special talent. The South Brunswick (N.J.) High School standout told me he’s added approximately 15-20 pounds of muscle this offseason and weighs in at 215 pounds, while standing 6-4.
Those measurements are almost identical to Penn State redshirt sophomore wide receiver and spring camp star Juwan Johnson, a Garden State product listed at 6-4, 216 pounds in his 247Sports recruiting profile from 2015. Size aside, Shorter dominated Sunday during The Opening’s New Jersey regional, earning WR MVP honors and an invitation to The Opening finals this summer in Beaverton, Ore., at Nike’s world headquarters.
He also sprinted toward the event’s “fastest man” title by clocking a 4.50-second 40-yard dash, despite dealing with a sickness last week. On Wednesday, he added a U.S. Army All-American Bowl invitation.
Blessed to recieve an invitation to the U.S. Army All-American Game‼️🙏🏾💯 pic.twitter.com/NwMoAfG5ka
— Justin Shorter (@JustinShorter15) May 3, 2017
So yeah, it’s been a strong week for Shorter, who pledged to Penn State in August 2016.
“I need to be a leader of this 2018 group,” he said Sunday. “When I get up [to Penn State] I’ll do my best to lead by example every day — and that’s in workouts, on the field and in the classroom.”
So who may join him in that Nittany Lions WR room next year?
In his question, David mentions four possibilities: Shaquon Anderson-Butts (Pa.), Jahan Dotson (N.J.), Daniel George (Md.), and Darryle Simmons (Philadelphia).
My suspicion is Penn State ends up signing another pair of pass catchers, and at this point I’d lean toward Dotson and George.
Dotson could be the next domino to fall, as he told me there’s a strong chance he’ll be committed by mid-summer. His decision comes down to Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, setting up a three-way Big Ten battle for the shifty 5-11, 165-pound playmaker.
The 4-star prospect explained that Penn State is probably pushing the hardest among top contenders, and he feels great about his relationship with wide receivers coach Josh Gattis.
“Coach Gattis talks about getting me the ball in a lot of different ways, so that would be cool for me,” Dotson said.
The use of Dotson as a multi-faceted weapon makes sense. I could see him making an impact in the slot, on occasional rushing attempts and in the special teams return game.
Though he currently attends The Peddie School (N.J.), his prep career began in Pennsylvania at Nazareth High, where he earned early football recruiting attention and two state track titles as a sophomore.
If I’m betting on which wide receiver leaps into this class next, my money is on Dotson.
— Jahan Dotson (@H55ZY) May 4, 2017
It’s been fun, folks! Thanks for the questions and keep them coming all year long!