Jeremy Birmingham/Land of 10
Defensive ends Jayson Oweh (center) and Micah Parsons (right) remain top recruiting priorities for the Penn State staff.

Penn State Recruiting Mailbag: Nittany Lions commitment predictions; a Big 3 at defensive end?

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 where things stand with potential commitments, especially at defensive end.

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

This trio of blue-chip defensive ends is likely to captivate Nittany Lions fans for the next few months. As Justin states after his question, landing multiple members of this group would be a tremendous way to cap off an outstanding 2018 recruiting cycle for Penn State.

Dorian Hardy, a 4-star defensive end from New Jersey, joined the class June 11. Like the three prospects we’ll focus on here, he is considered a top-10 player at his projected position — strongside defensive end — according to 247Sports composite rankings.

Jayson Oweh (Blairstown, N.J.), Micah Parsons (Harrisburg, Pa.) and Tyreke Smith (Cleveland) carry approximately 100 combined scholarship offers. Now entering the final stretch of their respective recruitments, Penn State is unquestionably a contender for each.

The key word in Justin’s question is “take” because ultimately I do believe most college football programs find room for these players, regardless of current class structure. We all know the Nittany Lions are nearly maxed out with 23 commitments on board for 2018. Although I ultimately anticipate expectations for these three committing to the same school are unrealistic, it’s still difficult to envision Penn State slamming the door in one of their faces if they’re prepared to issue a pledge.

Collegiate player personnel departments are tasked with anticipating roster movement and scholarship distribution across the roster. There are so many variables that enter the conversation, ranging from injuries and transfers to early NFL draft departures and academic qualification. The public isn’t privy to the vast majority of those internal discussions, which leaves everyone else to speculate about what may lie ahead.

The key element regarding these defensive ends is timing, and we should know where each is headed more than a month before National Signing Day. If Parsons is able to follow through with his early enrollment intentions, a decision is necessary by the first week of January. That’s also when we’ll learn the fate of Oweh and Smith, who both intend to announce collegiate decisions Jan. 4 at the Under Armour All-America Game.

Perhaps the best thing I can do here is defer to Oweh, who had this to say about the potential of joining forces with Parsons and Smith at Penn State.

“It’s possible,” he told me Monday night. “We all would love to dominate, so that’d be cool if it ended up like that. I’ve talked to Tyreke a good amount of times and Micah and I [speak] every once in a while.”

ohio state-buckeyes-recruiting-tyreke smith-2018
Tyreke Smith also is considering offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon and USC. (Jeremy Birmingham/Land of 10)

It shouldn’t surprise that other readers want to discuss this situation, so let’s roll on.

First off, David, even though you’re a regular member of our weekly Facebook Live viewing audience (ahem … tune in here 8 p.m. Wednesdays) silent commits stay “silent” for a reason. Yes, I’ve received information in the past from prospects or their parents about decisions that have yet to go public, but until they are ready to make things official it’s not my right to disseminate those developments.

With that said, I have zero knowledge of any commitment intentions, silent or otherwise, from Parsons. I’ve been in this industry for more than a decade now, and I can truly say his recruitment is among the most complex I’ve covered. Needless to say, there are now interesting dynamics in place with at least Ohio State and Penn State, though Parsons told me he and Urban Meyer have cleared the air since his official visit and a return to Happy Valley last Saturday turned out to be a very positive experience.

Potential upcoming official visits to Georgia and Nebraska, along with the presence of Alabama in this process, provide more storylines to delve through.

So, as Davis asks, why did I issue a prediction for Penn State in Parsons’ 247Sports Crystal Ball this week?

There is something to be said for familiarity, especially when you consider the peaks and valleys of this recruitment. Terrence Parsons, Micah’s father, told me Tuesday afternoon the Penn State staff has “never wavered” with his son, and that’s been clear to him since a conversation Micah and James Franklin shared prior to an April 23 de-commitment from the program.

“Before he de-committed, he reached out to Coach Franklin and said, ‘If I de-commit, is my offer still on the table?’ Coach Franklin said, ‘Until you tell us you don’t want to come here, your offer is still on the table.’,” Terrence explained.

Micah Parsons encountered the Beaver Stadium crowd Sept. 16 for the first time since his de-commitment, and he felt embraced. (Tyler Donohue/Land of 10)

Based on various conversations I’ve had with people close to the situation, Ohio State has cooled off a bit in its pursuit since his Sept. 8-10 stay in Columbus. Is Georgia really going to pry him away from Big Ten territory, regardless of how great a possible official visit may be? Nebraska, it seems, may be the most viable option for Parsons beyond Pennsylvania.

He continues to express excitement for the Cornhuskers, who made a major impression on him during his visit to Lincoln this summer. Parsons is set to return Oct. 6, where he’ll watch the team take on Wisconsin alongside his parents. However, there is serious turmoil right now surrounding the Nebraska football program and athletic department as a whole, so a commitment there might require a leap of faith.

Ultimately, I think Parsons accomplished what he set out to do after backing off a 14-month verbal pledge to Penn State. He explored other options, created sustained dialogues with various coaching staffs, and will utilize multiple official visits. My sense is, following this completely warranted exploration, he’ll view Happy Valley as the preferred destination, after all.

Alright, so there’s my current take on Parsons’ commitment possibilities. I know you’ll want more…


This question comes courtesy of Tom Dincher, AKA @dinchmoney, who sent a direct message my way on Twitter. Which reminds me, the DMs are open folks. Slide on in here.

I’ve already addressed Parsons, but let’s run down a few more candidates for the final spots. Here’s how I see things now, with these outlooks subject to change as the recruiting cycle marches forward.

  • 4-star WR Solomon Enis (Phoenix): He shared plans this summer to use an official visit to Penn State for the Sept. 30 game vs. Indiana, and we’ll find out soon if that comes to fruition. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound prospect and son of former Nittany Lions running back Curtis Enis is also targeted by multiple Pac-12 schools. I’m still leaning toward a legacy commitment here, but my conviction isn’t as strong as it was before Penn State’s summer commitment spree.
  • 4-star DE Jayson Oweh (Blairstown, N.J.): Oweh made an impromptu unofficial visit to Penn State last weekend, and he’ll be back for an official visit Nov. 18 when the team hosts Nebraska. Florida and Notre Dame are also in line for official visits, while Ohio State already received one. This shapes up as a Big Ten battle between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions and, for now, I’ll give Ohio State a slight edge.
  • 4-star DB Kwantel Raines (Aliquippa, Pa.): The scholarship numbers crunch makes this tricky, especially since Penn State already has two safeties they really like on board in this cycle. From my perspective, Raines is more likely to land at Pitt if he stays in the state, while Florida and West Virginia are other notable choices.
  • 4-star DE Tyreke Smith (Cleveland): With two more trips to Happy Valley expected, I really like where the Nittany Lions stand with Smith at this stage. Ohio State is right there as well, while USC is also a major player here. Franklin has done a wonderful job making Smith feel like family, and more on-campus experiences could be enough to win him over completely. I’m leaning toward Penn State for Smith.
  • 4-star OT Rasheed Walker (Waldorf, Md.): His inclusion in the Nittany Lions class kind of felt like a sure thing this summer but as things progress, and momentum grows with blue-chip defensive linemen, you begin to wonder if Penn State will add a fifth offensive lineman. Ohio State remains in pursuit of Walker, while Maryland would love to keep him home. This recruitment is very tough to read.

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.