Penn State recruiting mailbag: Focus on official visits, Nittany Lions targets for National Signing Day
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 2018 signees who could make an immediate impact and remaining targets beyond the early signing period.
Penn State recruiting efforts are relentless, so we always have plenty to address here. Let’s get started.
This question from Dave came during our weekly Facebook Live show, which you can join here at 8 p.m. Wednesdays. There will indeed be a pair of prospects on campus this weekend, but unlike typical January official visits, these are devoid of recruiting drama.
Penn State signees Jahan Dotson and Fredrick Scruggs are set to spend time in State College, as first reported by Sean Fitz of 247Sports. These are two of the 22 high school seniors who finalized plans to attend the university Dec. 20 during college football’s early signing period.
Both players are considered top-10 talents in the 247Sports composite Pennsylvania prospect rankings. The Nittany Lions signed six such athletes in December, including four — tight end Zack Kuntz and linebackers Jesse Luketa, Micah Parsons and Nick Tarburton — who enrolled earlier this month.
Scruggs, assessed among America’s premier projected interior offensive linemen, pledged to Penn State on Aug. 4. A two-way standout for Erie powerhouse Cathedral Prep, he’ll join at least Nana Asiedu and Bryce Effner as new additions along the Nittany Lions offensive front.
Dotson spent his senior season at Nazareth High School committed to UCLA. A change in leadership with the Bruins opened the door for him to explore other opportunities, and a lengthy relationship with the Penn State staff paid off as he formally flipped his pledge to the Nittany Lions during a signing ceremony.
“Wanna thank my family , friends , and teammates . Couldn’t have done it without you . I will be taking my talents to Happy Valley”
— Jahan Dotson (@H55ZY) December 20, 2017
While many view official visits as an opportunity for programs to push for and/or solidify commitments, that’s not necessary with Dotson and Scruggs. This weekend will be more about progressive acclimation into the university and team culture, along with increasing their families’ comfort level with the coaching staff and academic advisers.
Since David threw a couple of questions our way, let’s look at his second inquiry regarding Rasheed Walker.
The 6-foot-6, 300-pound offensive tackle used an official visit last weekend at Ohio State. This trip followed December official visits at Virginia Tech and Penn State, and these are believed to be the three contenders for his signature.
Walker, a U.S. Army All-American who attends North Point (Waldorf, Md.) High School, doesn’t put much out for public consumption regarding his recruitment. That includes social media and interviews, leading to plenty of speculation about which way he may be leaning less than two weeks prior to an anticipated National Signing Day (Feb. 7) announcement.
Walker did, however, provide some insight during a recent discussion with Adam Friedman of Rivals.com. Prior to his trip to Columbus, which featured a relatively intimate official visit setting with Buckeyes coaches, he welcomed members of the Penn State staff to his home last week.
“My in-home visit with Penn State on Thursday went really good,” Walker told Friedman. “That wasn’t the first time they came over so everybody was laughing, talking, and eating. It was pretty good. Most of the time when I talk to them it’s not about recruiting or anything like that.”
That’s usually a good sign. Walker, his family, James Franklin and his assistants have built a strong rapport, and that’s been apparent since last offseason.
The thinking here is if Walker didn’t return home from Ohio State sold on signing with the Buckeyes, Penn State is in solid shape entering the final stretch. Potential Nittany Lions teammates, including Maryland defensive tackle PJ Mustipher and Virginia running back Ricky Slade, have been applying peer-recruiting tactics for months.
Slade didn’t rule out making an in-home visit of his own.
“We’re talking to him, texting him, all of that,” he told Land of 10. “With him being so close to me, I can just go up there and chill with him. He’s only like an hour away from me, so I think I’m going to make the trip. I’m definitely already in his phone, though.”
Let’s turn our attention to another Nittany Lions target on offense.
Well, Roger, I see you’re a straightforward guy who knows what he wants. So let’s jump right into this one, though no one can say for certain at this point whether Solomon Enis will end up in a Nittany Lions uniform.
The 6-4, 190-pound North Canyon (Phoenix) receiver has considered several Pac-12 suitors throughout a widespread recruitment. Last week, he told Blair Angulo of 247Sports that Utah is the team pushing Penn State hardest in this pursuit.
Nearby Arizona State, under new leadership, also is attempting to make late inroads. The Herm Edwards hiring may be baffling for some, but the new Sun Devils coach certainly knows how to sell his vision for a team and passion for football.
Enis traveled to Happy Valley twice in 2017, attending Penn State’s spring game and home finale vs. Nebraska. On both occasions, he was joined by his father: former star Nittany Lions running back Curtis Enis.
Slade, who spent last week in Honolulu alongside Enis during Polynesian Bowl preparation, expressed optimism that Penn State is on the verge of adding yet another promising piece on offense.
“We’re looking really good with him,” he said.
This recruitment features a late wrinkle that could impact the process. Josh Gattis, who visited Phoenix multiple times, departed his post as Penn State receivers coach this week for a role with Alabama. He was replaced Thursday by David Corley, who initially joined the staff this month as running backs coach but now moves to receivers following the hiring of former Florida Gators assistant Ja’Juan Seider.
It’s logical to assume one of Corley’s initial duties was to establish communication with Enis. Every college football staff in America will tell recruits to commit to a university, but there’s no denying the impact of relationships between prospects and coaches.
Penn State signed three blue-chip receiver recruits in December: Justin Shorter, Jahan Dotson and Daniel George.
Stay tuned on Enis. This seems to be a decision that will go down to the wire.
Meanwhile, there’s another name to know as Penn State attempts to fill its remaining 2018 class slots…
Our Tuesday recruiting notebook (they appear here at 7:20 p.m. ET every week day) focused on the re-emergence of Florida cornerback Ken Montgomery in Penn State’s plans. Though the 6-2, 160-pound prospect told Land of 10 that dialogue has remained open with the Nittany Lions since his July 27 pledge to UCLA, his name hasn’t surfaced much during conversations about what could lie ahead.
That changed this week when Montgomery shared plans to use an official visit in State College during the first weekend of February. This would place him on campus less than 72 hours before signing day, when Montgomery will make his college choice known.
This Hillsborough (Tampa) High School standout, considered the No. 30 cornerback and a top-300 overall recruit in 2018 composite rankings, will visit Maryland this weekend. Montgomery, who de-committed from UCLA in October, also lists Louisville and Nebraska as contenders.
Penn State signed three defensive backs in December but displayed interest in adding another earlier this month by offering 4-star California safety Julius Irvin. Though it started as a long shot, that no longer seems to be a potential match since Irvin used his final official visit at Alabama last weekend.
If the Nittany Lions manage to sign Enis and Walker, the possibility of a fourth defensive back could be nullified. If Penn State were to miss on one or both of those priority targets, perhaps the dynamics would be much different.
“Penn State started recruiting me in the beginning of my junior year and was always in contact with me even when I was committed,” Montgomery said Tuesday. “I feel like there would be a spot for me because of the relationship we have.”
I’ll manipulate Mike’s question a bit here by stating the odds of Montgomery signing with Penn State are directly correlated with the odds of either Enis or Walker heading elsewhere.
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