Land of 10/file photo
Jayson Oweh, shown here at an Ohio State camp in July, will pick the Buckeyes or Penn State on Thursday night.

Penn State recruiting mailbag: Confidence in Jayson Oweh, Tyeke Smith commitments; future battles vs. Ohio State

Tyler Donohue

Have Penn State football recruiting questions? We have answers. Join us every Thursday for the Land of 10 Penn State recruiting mailbag to discuss Nittany Lions recruiting. This week, we discuss 2018 signees who may make an immediate impact and remaining targets beyond the early signing period.

Penn State recruiting efforts are relentless, so we always have plenty to address here. Let’s get started.

These two recruits have been the center of attention among Penn State football followers since college football’s early signing period concluded. The Nittany Lions, now operating with a 2018 class that includes 22 athletes, have prioritized both top-10 defensive end prospects while looking to fill a spot at the position.

Penn State signee Micah Parsons, though considered an elite defensive end talent in recruiting rankings, will begin his collegiate career at middle linebacker, according to coach James Franklin. The Nittany Lions leader enthusiastically stressed a need for defensive end talent moving beyond the early signing period, and I’ve consistently stated either Jayson Oweh or Tyreke Smith will end up in Happy Valley.

Entering the 2017 season, Ohio State seemed to be a leader for Parsons, Oweh and perhaps Smith, but each recruitment evolved in its own way. Gradually, it became clear Penn State had a realistic chance of landing at least two out of the three. Though some even expressed optimism in a clean sweep for the Nittany Lions, that was really more of a dream scenario that’s hard to imagine coming to fruition for any college football program.

Tom alluded to my 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions for Smith and Oweh. At one point, I projected Smith to sign with Penn State and Oweh to join Ohio State, but that thought process has shifted and today those picks are opposite. I’m quite confident this will ultimately be the outcome when both prospects announce college plans Thursday night during the Under Armour All-America Game, which will air on ESPN2 at 6 p.m.

Smith expressed plenty of admiration for the environment at Penn State, and there’s no doubt the Nittany Lions gave him plenty to consider. Still, I foresee the Cleveland standout staying close to home as a member of the Buckeyes.

During All-America media day last weekend, Smith told us he silently committed to the team of his choice a few weeks ago. This would time pretty closely with his return from a Dec. 8-10 official visit in Happy Valley.

Smith formally will enter his announcement with five finalists ― the others are Alabama, Oregon and Southern Cal ― but he shared this decision really came down to three universities. Rest assured, Ohio State and Penn State were front and center in his decision-making process.

Oweh has  acknowledged publicly for months that the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions led a crowded pack of contenders for his commitment. Schools such as Alabama, Florida, Michigan and Notre Dame attempted to make inroads at different stages this autumn, but they fell short in those attempts and this was truly a two-team race.

Ohio State and Penn State exchanged plenty of jabs in this battle, both hosting him for on-campus showcase events and official visits. James Franklin, Urban Meyer and their respective top assistants paid visits to Blair Academy (N.J.) leading up to a decision.

Despite a tremendous push from the Buckeyes, I believe Oweh will wear a Nittany Lions uniform in college. His relationship with Sean Spencer has really developed during the course of a fast-rising recruitment, and I get a strong sense he feels like a member of the family with players who’ve already signed with Penn State.

We’ll find out the outcome Thursday night. Smith will reveal his choice after the opening coin toss, while Oweh enters the spotlight after third-quarter action.

It’s always good to win recruiting battles against a conference rival, and more of them lie ahead in the next cycle…

Good timing on this question, considering we caught up with several premier 2019 prospects Wednesday during media day for Under Armour’s Future 50 event. Ohio State and Penn State annually identify common targets, setting the stage for key showdowns that help shape both rosters.

Based on what we’ve witnessed these past two seasons the margin for error is very small when these two teams match up, so you never know which player ultimately may make the difference in future games. Beyond Oweh and Smith, both staffs are still chasing top-10 2018 offensive tackle recruit Rasheed Walker of Maryland.

Beyond high school seniors, there is already substantial competition for 2019 talent. Conversations Wednesday further solidified this reality as blue-chip prospects who described strong interest in both included top-ranked offensive tackle Devontae Dobbs (Belleville, Mich.), top-ranked inside linebacker Shane Lee (Baltimore) and 5-star receiver Isaiah Williams (St. Louis).

Others who figure to take a long look at both programs include safety Ronnie Hickman (Wayne, N.J.), receiver Marcus Washington (St. Louis), defensive tackle Antonio Alfano (Rahway, N.J.) and edge rusher Brandon Smith (Mineral, Va.).

Sustained competition, and a fair share of recruiting victories vs. Ohio State, is a major indication of Penn State’s program trajectory. Meyer is among the all-time great closers on the recruiting trail, and Franklin is doing great work to match strides.

Have a question about Penn State recruiting? Tweet us @Landof10PSU and we’ll try to answer it in a future mailbag. Check to see if your issue already was addressed by reading previous Penn State recruiting mailbags here.