Penn State Recruiting Mailbag: Looking toward the future for 5-star recruits Justin Fields and Micah Parsons
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 question 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…
It seems Matt shares a common thought with several Penn State fans: How locked in is 5-star QB Justin Fields (Harrison/Kennesaw, Ga.) with the Nittany Lions at this point?
Part of this panic is a direct result of 5-star DE Micah Parsons‘ April decommitment. Even if his decision wasn’t a complete shock — he visited Ohio State the previous weekend and expressed further travel plans — it still stung.
I heard a comment on the camp circuit last month that probably resonates with people such as Matt right now.
If Penn State lost a local kid who was committed for more than year, how confident can fans be about keeping the top dual-threat quarterback in America from 800 miles away?
The only thing you can do is place trust in Nittany Lions coach James Franklin and his offensive staff to reach the finish line with Fields on board. He’s clearly a prospect fellow Penn State pledges admire, and those friendships are also an important part of the process.
The important thing to remember is Fields has a full high school season ahead of him and another 40 scholarship offers on the table.
Will other programs pursue him with vigor? Yes, of course. That’s what happens with 5-star quarterbacks.
Will he flip? It’s entirely possible, but the same could be said about any of the team’s 13 current commits.
Recent movement in the 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions also have resulted in questions regarding Fields. The past four predictions for his collegiate landing spot pointed toward Florida.
Despite back-to-back SEC title game appearances, Florida has struggled with the passing attack. Gators quarterbacks combined for 18 touchdown tosses and 15 interceptions last season, and the program previously parted ways with former prized prospect Will Grier, who now is at West Virginia.
Meanwhile, standout Nittany Lions starter Trace McSorley could remain under center in State College through 2018. Behind him, 2016 spring game MVP Tommy Stevens and 2016 Elite 11 finalist Sean Clifford should provide serious competition for reps.
This could be a factor when Fields and his family calculate college plans. So could the fact that he is likely to enroll at Penn State alongside a 5-star running back (Ricky Slade), two top-25 offensive tackle recruits (Nana Asiedu and Antwan Reed), at least one elite wide receiver (Justin Shorter) and a pair of top-10 tight end prospects (Zack Kuntz and Pat Freiermuth).
Search throughout college football this recruiting cycle, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better supporting cast.
Alright, that’s enough speculation about Fields’ future for now. Surely we can move on from decommitment discussions…
And here we are again.
This is probably the question I’ve been asked most in May, and Dave did a pretty good job answering his own inquiry. But let me expand on that a little more.
Is Parsons gone for good? I can’t say with certainty if he’ll spend three or four years of his life in Happy Valley, but I’m confident that mutual interest remains in place on both ends of this recruitment.
His proximity to campus — Harrisburg High School is less than a two-hour drive from State College — certainly helps maintain ties with the coaching staff. And remember, Parsons told us April 30 he had “an amazing time” at Penn State’s spring game.
As for Dave’s 50/50 prognostication? I’m not so sure.
Ohio State isn’t the only contender here, and upcoming potential visits to schools such as Alabama, Clemson, Florida and Nebraska could continue to shuffle the deck among his top-tier options. Parsons plans to use all five official visits before determining a college destination near or on National Signing Day (Feb. 7).
It’s safe to assume Ohio State and Penn State are the primary players as spring seeps into summer, but the next few months could feature the emergence of multiple legitimate suitors.
Parsons, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound prospect considered the No. 1 defensive end in 247Sports Composite rankings for 2018, has a busy offseason ahead. Along with campus visits, I expect him to validate the hype at The Opening finals, scheduled for June 28-July 3 in Beaverton, Ore., at Nike’s world headquarters.
A dominant performance would further intensify efforts from other parts of the country. Ultimately, I still feel Penn State gets an official visit and has at least a 40 percent chance of signing Parsons.
Alright, let’s switch gears one more time here. Bring on the next question.
— Cody McGovern (@cmcg926) May 11, 2017
Cody wants to know the same thing as every Nittany Lions fan: Who is next?
If you’re searching for a commitment wave, check the rear-view mirror. We witnessed Penn State secure three offensive line pledges between April 22 and May 6, which was an exceptional way for Franklin’s staff to respond to the April 21 decommitment of in-state OL Chris Bleich.
The Nittany Lions have stayed busy this month, sending assistants across America to reinforce relationships with 2018 commitments and targets, and extend offers to promising members of the 2019 class. Looking ahead, July could provide another major recruiting stretch in State College.
The program hosts its Underclass Showcase Camp on July 16 at Beaver Stadium. Expect most pledges to return to town for that event, along with several uncommitted recruits from beyond the region.
There should be a few first-time visitors in Happy Valley that day. Penn State should be well-represented just two weeks before then at The Opening finals, where players work to sell others on committing to mutual schools.
Aside from being high school football’s premier camp event, it’s essentially a networking platform for elite recruits. If Fields advances beyond Elite 11 finals, he will join at least Slade in Beaverton, and I expect at least another future Penn State player or two to warrant an invitation as the event roster is filled this month.
So let’s circle the first half of July as a potential “recruiting wave” moment.
Who could be riding that wave? Keep close tabs on 4-star WR Jahan Dotson (New Jersey), 4-star S Isheem Young (Philadelphia), 4-star OT Rasheed Walker (Maryland) and on-the-rise DE Jayson Oweh (New Jersey).
It’s been fun, folks! Thanks for the questions and keep them coming all year long!