Penn State recruiting mailbag: Julian Fleming worthy of hype; will Lions target another 2018 DB?
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 a potential commitment flip target and a premier in-state prospect.
Penn State recruiting efforts are relentless, so we always have plenty to address here. Let’s get started.
Is Julian Fleming that good, or is the competition lacking? I believe he is that good.
— Bryan Eckhart (@bry_eck1984) December 6, 2017
Yes, Bryan. Yes. Yes. Yes. And one more time for the people in the back … yes. Julian Fleming is indeed “that good” if you’re basing the initial outlook off early assessment of the 2020 recruiting class.
Fleming, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound sophomore at Southern Columbia (Catawissa, Pa.) High School, is considered the No. 1 receiver and a top-5 overall prospect in 247Sports 2020 rankings. That designation came in August, providing an early glimpse at premier players in his class.
Often the hype surrounding young recruits is built upon raw potential more than production. Both apply to Fleming, who secured a Penn State scholarship offer June 17. His offer sheet also includes Michigan, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
Fleming finished his freshman season with 36 receptions for 956 yards and 13 touchdowns, according to MaxPreps. Interest from collegiate coaching staffs arrived soon afterward, as he went on to lead the Southern Columbia basketball team in several statistical categories and wrapped up his first high school year by qualifying for multiple events in 2017 spring track and field state championships.
Fleming wasn’t satisfied.
“I didn’t expect to have any offers, honestly,” he told me last offseason. “I didn’t think my freshman season was that amazing, and I feel like I can do a lot better.”
Fleming set a goal to improve on his 2016 statistical output each week, and it’s been mission accomplished. Through 15 games this season, he has 63 catches for 1,389 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Through 30 high school games, Fleming is averaging 23.7 yards per reception with 32 touchdown catches.
Southern Columbia is 15-0 and plays in the Class 2A state championship game on Saturday. Over the summer, I saw this squad make a deep run in Penn State’s 7-on-7 tournament with Fleming spearheading those efforts.
I broke down Fleming’s skill set during a September edition of my “TD’s Take” scouting report.
I have a hard time recalling an underclassman receiver who performed over the last five years at this level during every game and camp appearance. A lack of route refinement and general inconsistencies in capping off a completion often plagues young players at the position. Those simply aren’t issues for Fleming, who is also comfortable in each phase of a passing attack. He can fight for space across the middle, glide downfield to beat single-man coverage deep and takes ownership of 50-50 balls in traffic.
Get used to hearing Fleming’s name a lot on the national recruiting trail, especially when it comes to Penn State. Watch his 2017 season highlights here:
Let’s bring this conversation from the future to the present, as Penn State aims to close strong in a busy 2018 recruiting cycle…
Rumbling on Kwantel Raines?
— Brandon Tobias (@btobias56) December 6, 2017
The Nittany Lions no longer carry a commitment from 4-star Philadelphia safety Isheem Young, resulting in ramifications I detailed Tuesday. We won’t get into the details again here, but following a Dec. 1 arrest he is in serious legal trouble with charges related to a July robbery in his home city.
It’s a troubling development for Young and his support system, and reaction was heavy on empathy among Nittany Lions commits during this past week. However, the stark reality is Penn State must now move on with recruiting efforts as a pivotal stretch of this 2018 cycle approaches.
The first early signing period (Dec. 20-22) is only two weeks away, while the traditional National Signing Day (Feb. 7) also looms large.
It remains to be seen whether James Franklin will lean toward allotting this newly vacated scholarship slot with another safety or if he’ll look elsewhere. If Penn State does opt to actively pursue another defensive back, Kwantel Raines makes plenty of sense.
The 6-3, 200-pound Aliquippa (Pa.) High School senior is presently pledged to West Virginia, announcing that decision on Oct. 30. So, as Brandon noted in his question, are there “rumblings” of a potential commitment flip effort by the Nittany Lions?
Though I’m not aware of any recent direct contact between Nittany Lions staff members and Raines, it’s easy to connect the dots between these two parties. Penn State fans clearly recognize that, as this is one of several questions I received regarding possible renewed interest in the 4-star defender.
Raines received a scholarship offer from the Nittany Lions as a sophomore and routinely visited campus during the course of his recruitment. He most recently returned to State College for an October matchup in Beaver Stadium.
That visit occurred during the final lead up to his decision, and Penn State was listed among his final options. At the time, there was speculation regarding whether the Nittany Lions ― then carrying four defensive backs in a 22-player class ― actually had room to add Raines. West Virginia secured his commitment, and he remains on track to play for the Mountaineers next season.
Raines is undoubtedly a different kind of athlete from Isheem Young. He is approximately 5 inches taller and there has been talk among college staffs about using him in a hybrid role that routinely utilizes his talents near the line of scrimmage.
Penn State appears primarily focused on finishing this cycle with a flurry of marquee commitments in the trenches. Based on relationships and proximity, Raines is a probable reach-out if focus shifts toward the defensive backfield.
Check out what he brings to football field here:
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