Stay updated as Penn State rises toward the top of the recruiting rankings! Don’t miss the coverage from Tyler Donohue, who brings a decade of experience as a national college football reporter and a recruiting department staff member with a Big Ten program. Read his daily notebooks here at 7:20 p.m. ET Sunday through Thursday, and follow us on Twitter for the latest Nittany Lions recruiting news.
Penn State prospects impressed by NFL combine results
Perception — of both the good and bad variety — plays a pivotal role in college football recruiting. Penn State picked up some positive points throughout the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, entering the national narrative as program producing exceptional athletes.
The Nittany Lions sent eight players to this annual showcase, which serves as a high-stakes job interview for those looking to earn a professional football paycheck.
Linebacker Jason Cabinda and cornerback Christian Campbell didn’t take part in on-field workouts, though both will have an opportunity to impress March 20 during Penn State’s pro day event. Safety Marcus Allen and receiver DaeSean Hamilton will wait for that date to deliver a 40-yard dash, though both four-year Nittany Lions starters were active in a variety of drills.
The other four participants, led by running back Saquon Barkley, helped Penn State finish No. 1 in the NFL combine medals count, which rewards individual first-, second- and third-place performances with gold, silver and bronze medals, respectively.
The Nittany Lions’ 13 total medals and seven-medal margin atop this leaderboard — N.C. State, Oklahoma and UCLA each tallied six medals — established a new record through three years of tabulation.
— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) March 5, 2018
These results captured the attention of several Penn State prospects, including 2019 cornerback commitment Keaton Ellis.
“It really does show you how the PSU coaching staff gets you prepared for the next level,” he told Land of 10.
Barkley gave the Cleveland Browns plenty to consider at No. 1 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. Tight end Mike Gesicki may have solidified himself as a first-round selection after dominating tight end testing. Cornerback Grant Haley and safety Troy Apke were among the fastest defensive backs in attendance.
Along the way, Nittany Lions director of performance enhancement Dwight Galt received plenty of praise.
“Let’s face it — Penn State has lit this combine up,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said during the broadcast.
Penn State quarterback signee Will Levis feels this is the expectation in his future locker room.
“It was incredible how they all performed, but I don’t think anyone from the team was all that surprised,” he said. “The way those guys have worked throughout their careers with the strength and conditioning program got them to this point. Coach Galt is amazing, and he obviously gets players to their peak athletic ability. Seeing all the guys kill the combine makes me so excited to get in the weight room and on the field running with him and his staff so that they can turn me into the best athlete they can.”
Nittany Lions defensive tackle signee Aeneas Hawkins also lauded the efforts.
Love PSU killing the combine. Where else would you go to maximize potential in every phase of being a student athlete? I see you @IronLions1
— Aeneas Hawkins (@AeneasHawkins) March 5, 2018
It’s another selling point for the program’s approach toward player development.
“I believe that Galt is the best in the business and this weekend Saquon and [others] were a testament to that,” said PJ Mustipher, a top-10 defensive tackle recruit who enrolls at the university in May.
Like other incoming freshmen, the 6-foot-5, 285-pound prospect is doing his best to prepare for the challenge.
“Since wrestling season ended, my dad and I have been doing the workouts and I think those can get anybody ready to compete at the highest level,” Mustipher said. “I’m looking forward to being in the weight room and training under the best in Coach Galt with the best in my teammates.”
Fellow top-100 overall recruit Jayson Oweh, who signed with Penn State in December, attempted to sum things up on Twitter with a hashtag.
PSU killing the combine. #WeBreedFreaks
— Jayson Oweh (@JaysonOweh) March 3, 2018
The 6-5, 240-pound defensive end, who registered a 4.46-second 40-yard dash, 4.29-second agility shuttle and 10-foot, 3-inch broad jump at a July 2017 camp in Happy Valley, fits the “freak” label himself.
Oweh is among the latest wave of Penn State talent that will encounter a high standard upon arrival on campus. That bar was further raised during the recent days in Indianapolis.
“The guys at PSU killed the combine but I’m not surprised at all,” Nittany Lions quarterback commit Taquan Roberson said. “I know that when I step foot on campus they’re going to prepare me for life and not just the next level of football. Huge reason why I’m committed.”
Former Lions commit Shaquon Anderson-Butts renews recruitment
Shaquon Anderson-Butts spent nearly seven months committed to Penn State during the 2018 recruiting cycle. He played a key peer-recruiter role in the pursuit of Harrisburg (Pa.) High School teammate and 5-star prospect Micah Parsons.
Instead of heading to Happy Valley this summer, Anderson-Butts will begin a new phase of his career at Milford Academy (New Berlin, N.Y.). Unable to sign with the Nittany Lions because of academic requirements, he explored other options late — Marshall hosted him for an official visit days before National Signing Day — before turning toward a prep option.
The 6-foot, 200-pound prospect initially elected to attend Iowa Western Community on Signing Day but altered his outlook via a Feb. 24 announcement.
“I will be attending Milford Academy for a post-graduate year,” Anderson-Butts tweeted. “My recruitment will be open to any school and I’ll pick the school of my choice and enroll in January .”
This is a quicker process than what would have awaited in junior college, and he is now starting to receive responses to this plan from potential Power 5 landing spots. Anderson-Butts reported Iowa State and Rutgers “reoffered” last week.
More than 20 programs offered Anderson-Butts during his high school career. It will be interesting to see how many reassert their interest before next season, along with whether Penn State intends to pursue him as a 2019 prospect.
Anderson-Butts, labeled a 3-star athlete and top-20 Pennsylvania recruit in 247Sports’ 2018 composite rankings, averaged nearly 18 yards per reception and caught 10 touchdowns last season. He revealed last month that the Big 33 Football Classic (a multistate high school all-star game) will be his final appearance at receiver, which presumably leads to a defensive back role in college.
Despite an unfortunate turn in his recruitment this winter, Anderson-Butts’ ambitions remain the same.
“I’ll be back because I feel like I owe my family, friends, community and the state of PA something,” he told Penn Live’s Greg Pickel on Signing Day. “In a year, y’all will see Shaquon Anderson-Butts at a big-time college.”
Miss any previous editions of our daily Penn State recruiting notebook? You can find them all here.