Penn State Recruiting Mailbag: developments on defensive front, Florida attempting to flip 5-star QB Justin Fields
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. Ask questions by contacting us on Twitter or reaching out during Tyler’s weekly Facebook Live show (8 p.m. Thursdays).
Penn State’s football recruiting efforts are relentless, so we always have plenty to address. Let’s get started…
Kelvin, you nailed it from an offensive perspective. Penn State may boast college football’s most impressive talent haul on that side of the football in the 2018 recruiting cycle.
It’s a group headlined by 5-star QB Justin Fields, 5-star RB Ricky Slade and top-10 positional prospects in WR Justin Shorter and TEs Pat Freiermuth and Zack Kuntz. Throw in three recent commits on the offensive line — headlined by top-10 tackle Nana Asiedu — and there is cause for optimism beyond the era of Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley.
Now that we’ve covered the brilliant work of Nittany Lions coaches in putting these pieces together, let’s address Kelvin’s question. He wants to know about the defensive front seven, which is composed of linemen and linebackers.
Penn State presently claims three pledges at linebacker — Charlie Katshir, Jesse Luketa and Nick Tarburton. Each member of this trio attends high school in Pennsylvania, though Luketa is a native of Ontario, Canada.
The thought here is that James Franklin and his staff will bring in another prospect at the position. They may look behind enemy lines to accomplish this goal.
Brian Asamoah, a Columbus, Ohio, resident, received an offer in October. Penn State saw fellow Ohio standout and target Dallas Gant, considered a top-five outside linebacker in 247Sports’ 2018 composite rankings, commit to the Buckeyes earlier this month, likely bumping Asamoah up the board.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior at St. Francis De Sales High School visited Happy Valley for the spring game on April 22. Asamoah, listed No. 38 among outside linebackers, told Land of 10 last week he intends to return this summer.
— Brian Asamoah (@b_moah211) April 22, 2017
Asamoah’s travel itinerary for the coming months could include another half-dozen schools, with Cincinnati, Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, UCLA and West Virginia among possible destinations.
Asamoah earned linebacker MVP honors at The Opening’s Cleveland regional camp this spring. If the door is open for him to leap into Penn State’s class, it’s an opportunity he make take soon.
While we believe Asamoah is the most likely fit for a fourth linebacker spot in this cycle, there are others to monitor. Those options include Jack Lamb of California and Shayne Simon of New Jersey.
In the trenches, things look even more promising for Penn State. Despite the de-commitment of 5-star edge rusher Micah Parsons in April, Franklin is in solid shape to assemble an outstanding defensive line class.
Anoma and Oweh are basketball players-turned football prospects, and both carry major potential despite limited reps. We caught up with the latter one day after his trip, which resulted in a very positive outlook.
“Penn State has always been up there,” Oweh said. “Right now they’re like top two. The second would probably be Ohio State, Notre Dame or Wisconsin.”
Wisconsin is actually recruiting him at tight end, along with Pittsburgh. The 6-foot-5, 236-pound Blair Academy product spent much of Saturday alongside Mustipher and Tarburton, the aforementioned committed linebacker.
“Nick was recruiting us just as hard as the coaches,” Oweh said. “I would definitely like to play together [with Mustipher] in college. It would be crazy for us to line up next to each other at defensive tackle and defensive end.”
Oweh is unanimously projected to sign with Penn State by the 247Sports crystal ball, while Mustipher’s crystal ball reads 77 percent in favor of the Nittany Lions after 10 such predictions since May 20.
— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) May 22, 2017
Good news continued to roll in for Penn State defensive line coach Sean Spencer this week, as four 4-star defensive tackles placed the Nittany Lions on “top” lists. Though these collections of contenders ranged from seven to 15 universities, it’s nice to be in the mix.
Though it didn’t produce any pledges, this was a great week for the development of Penn State’s defensive front seven class. So good timing on your part, Kelvin.
Now let’s turn our attention to a common topic in these parts — what’s going on with Fields?
It remains to be seen how much focus the 5-star quarterback is placing on the Gators, but one thing is undeniable: Florida is all-in with this recruitment, and don’t expect those efforts to end this summer.
Our coverage team, including SEC Country reporter Chris Kirschner, was on the field last Friday for Fields’ spring game. The Harrison (Kennesaw, Ga.) High playmaker shared some interesting recruiting nuggets, which we expanded on for a Monday column.
Fields said “at least five” Florida coaches text him every day, including multiple messages each week from head coach Jim McElwain. The Gators made SEC title game appearances in 2015 and 2016, but passing game woes have cost this team dearly since the departure of Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.
“They’re mainly saying that they’re just looking for a quarterback,” Fields said. “They have all the pieces to the puzzle.”
It’s a strong sales pitch, and one that doesn’t exactly bode well for current Florida quarterbacks who have long-term ambitions in Gainesville. In contrast, Penn State starter Trace McSorely is eligible through 2018, with spring game MVP Tommy Stevens and incoming 4-star prospect Sean Clifford primed to compete for opportunities behind him.
“The most appealing thing at Florida is probably the quarterback room,” Fields said. “I guess you could say that would help them.”
The Gators are hardly alone as a program attempting to end a Penn State commitment that dates to last December. Fields also received visits from Auburn, Georgia and LSU last week, though Nittany Lions assistants were in attendance Friday for the spring game.
They witnessed him toss 3 touchdowns and add another score on the ground, all in one half.
Fields remains on board with Penn State and hasn’t set any visits elsewhere. He spent time at State College last month, calling the spring game experience “great” and referring to the fan base as “awesome.”
His father, Ivant, summarized the situation well during his conversation with Kirschner.
“I think when you’re a young man, and you have your whole life, a lot of times you just second-guess whether this is the right decision and things of that nature,” he said. “We’re letting him work that out within himself. It’s part of being a man — evolving. He’s a young man on the brink of being a man, so he has to figure that out.”
As always in the case of a coveted quarterback recruit, stay tuned…
It’s been fun, folks! Thanks for the questions and keep them coming all year long!