Tyler Donohue/Land of 10
Micah Parsons (No. 23) returns to Penn State this weekend.

Penn State Recruiting Mailbag: The latest with top DE targets Jayson Oweh, Micah Parsons and Tyreke Smith?

Tyler Donohue

Have Penn State football recruiting questions? We’ve got answers. Join us every Thursday for the Land of 10 Penn State recruiting mailbag to discuss Nittany Lions recruiting. This week, we discuss a trio of top defensive end targets, and where things stand with each.

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

So folks, if you haven’t heard by now, 5-star edge rusher Micah Parsons plans to be on campus Saturday for Penn State’s game against Georgia State. The Harrisburg (Pa.) High School standout revealed this intention Monday evening, fresh off his first official visit.

Parsons, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound prospect who previously spent 14 months committed to the Nittany Lions, traveled to Ohio State last weekend. Though he initially expressed plans to use an official visit in Columbus for the Buckeyes’ Oct. 28 matchup with Penn State, his decision to bump things up pushed Ohio State to the front of his in-season itinerary.

As my Land of 10 colleague Jeremy Birmingham noted Sunday, Parsons’ social media comments about replacing Buckeyes starting quarterback J.T. Barrett with redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins left some in the Ohio State locker room “pissed.” His weekend in Columbus included an introduction to Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George and time on ESPN’s College GameDay set. Still, it was Parsons’ take on the team’s offense that ultimately resonated on social media deep into this week, as other premier 2018 prospects have chimed in with agreement.

It’s caused a strange, albeit probably brief, state of turmoil for a Buckeyes recruiting department currently carrying college football’s No. 1 class. Now Parsons heads back to Happy Valley, alongside Harrisburg teammate and Nittany Lions receiver commit Shaquon Anderson-Butts.

Circling back to Tom’s question, this is expected to be an unofficial visit. The next official visit — a multi-day stay during which expenses are handled — is publicly slated for Oct. 7 at Nebraska. Parsons told me after his Aug. 26 season opener he also wants to use an official visit at Alabama, while Penn State could welcome him into town for a postseason official visit.

Other programs he’s mentioned among possibilities include Florida State, Georgia, Miami and USC. Parsons said Sunday a top-4 list is “coming soon,” so we should gain a clearer understanding of which schools are truly contenders for his commitment. That will need to happen by early January if he follows through with ambitions to enroll early at the college of his choice.

He has four more official visits to implement if he’d like, and this upcoming trip to Happy Valley won’t impact the total.

Given the developments of this week, I’m not surprised we have another Parsons topic to address…

This is an interesting question, Craig, and ultimately I think things sort themselves out here. As I just addressed, Parsons can’t drag a decision-making process deep into winter if early enrollment remains his desired outcome. His Jan. 7 appearance in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl may be the absolute latest he could announce, and then Parsons would be on a campus just days afterward.

We already know Jayson Oweh will take a similar approach; the 4-star defensive end is set to commit Jan. 4 during the Under Armour All-America Game. The 6-5, 236-pound Blair Academy (Blairstown, N.J.) senior also spent last weekend at Ohio State, and although the Buckeyes might hold a slight edge at this stage, his Nov. 18 official visit to Penn State looms large.

*Update: Oweh shared Thursday afternoon he will attend Sept. 16 game at Penn State.

Notre Dame is also in the mix for Oweh, but my sense is the Fighting Irish are now an increasingly distant third option. So, I think one of two outcomes occur here:

  1. Parsons commits to Penn State or elsewhere prior to Jan. 4. If it’s Penn State, this would force the Nittany Lions to further assess scholarship availability, but even with Parsons on board, it’s hard to imagine defensive line coach Sean Spencer shutting the door on Oweh. Sometimes in recruiting you go the extra mile to make things work and, in my opinion, Oweh is the kind of untapped talent and motivated young man who is worth it.
  2. Parsons determines he will announce at the All-American Bowl. Drawing attention back to Craig’s question, even if the Nittany Lions staff thinks there’s better than a 50-50 shot for Parsons, Oweh plays for the Nittany Lions if that’s his decision on Jan. 4. Then, copy and paste what I wrote above about finding a way to make it work with Oweh, but apply those thoughts to Parsons if he picks Penn State.

Lastly, I still see the Parsons-to-Penn State scenario as a less than 50 percent probability. If things go sour with Ohio State, Nebraska may be the team to watch closest in this recruitment.

And remember, beyond Oweh and Parsons, Penn State remains in excellent position for a 4-star Cleveland defensive end who we now turn attention toward…

Joseph references a notable new wrinkle in the recruitment of Tyreke Smith, a 6-3, 260-pound Cleveland Heights High product who carries more than 40 scholarship offers. His teammate, defensive back Zaire Webb, revealed Wednesday morning he received an opportunity to join the Penn State football program as a preferred walk-on player.

It didn’t take long for Smith to react on Twitter:

Webb carries offers from Air Force, Army and Navy, according to 247Sports. To be honest, I have no idea how close these teammates are, and how much their relationship may extend off the field. That’s obviously key here if we want to attach substantial significance to how this could impact Smith’s recruitment.

Smith, who lists Penn State in a top-5 list featuring Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon and USC, certainly has greater collegiate opportunities than Webb. The selection of a university is an extremely personal decision, and one that can impact a player and his family for decades. Therefore, I’m always hesitant to go all-in on any kind of “package deal” talk because it simply is unfair to discount a single prospect’s unique perspective.

However, this certainly won’t hurt the Nittany Lions chances. Smith is set to visit Penn State twice this fall, according to Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.

The Nittany Lions will host him for an unofficial visit when Michigan comes to town Oct. 21, while he’ll return to campus for an official visit Dec. 8. It’s also worth noting he’ll see Penn State in action Oct. 28, when he uses an official visit at Ohio State.

Like Oweh, Smith is scheduled to announce his commitment Jan. 4 at the Under Armour All-America Game. Penn State will have multiple opportunities to impress before then.

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.