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Penn State in excellent shape on eve of National Signing Day
Penn State spent years laying the groundwork for a successful 2018 recruiting class. Those efforts enter their final phase Wednesday as the Nittany Lions apply finishing touches to an impressive group of prospects.
Penn State enters National Signing Day with plenty to feel positive about. James Franklin secured top-25 classes on each of his first four Signing Days in Happy Valley, and the Nittany Lions currently sit at No. 4 nationally in 247Sports’ composite team rankings.
Other programs may surpass Penn State on that list Wednesday, but a top-10 class should be comfortably assured. It would be the best Nittany Lions result on Signing Day since 2006.
Let’s set the stage for Penn State fans by pointing out key Signing Day storylines.
The Nittany Lions class is nearly complete
Penn State took advantage of college football’s new early signing period, securing letters of intent from 21 high school seniors on Dec. 20. Jayson Oweh, a 4-star defensive end, then privately signed with the program on Dec. 22.
This new addition to the college football recruiting calendar created a vastly different setting in January and early February. Previously, players couldn’t sign with the university of their choice until the first Wednesday of February, resulting in speculation and surprises as winter progressed.
Instead, the Nittany Lions staff was able to focus on key uncommitted targets while also spending time with signees during in-home visits. Penn State extended only one new offer to a 2018 recruit after the early signing period. That went to Anaheim (Calif.) safety Julius Irvin, who then opted to use his final official visit at Alabama before committing to Washington.
Franklin used a mid-summer commitment spree to load up his 2018 class in advance of the 2017 season. Penn State added Dec. 20 pledges from 5-star linebacker/defensive end Micah Parsons and 4-star receiver Jahan Dotson, a former UCLA commit.
“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
Parsons is one of three 5-star recruits who signed with Penn State, along with receiver Justin Shorter and running back Ricky Slade. This trio is among a collection of 11 players considered top-10 prospects at their respective position, including a pair of tight ends (Pat Freiermuth and Zack Kuntz), tackle Nana Asiedu, defensive tackle PJ Mustipher, linebacker Jesse Luketa and defensive end Jayson Oweh.
The Nittany Lions welcomed six member of this class to campus last month as early enrollees: Luketa, Kuntz, Parsons, linebacker Nick Tarburton, cornerback Trent Gordon and safety Isaiah Humphries.
Though some Signing Day intrigue remains, Penn State put nearly all of its pieces in place six weeks ago.
Is Shaquon Anderson-Butts in or out?
Penn State signed all but one of its existing commits in December. Shaquon Anderson-Butts, a receiver from Harrisburg, Pa., was the exception.
A close friend and high school teammate of Parsons, he pledged to the program July 15 while on campus for the Lasch Bash barbecue. He helped Harrisburg finish the 2017 regular season unbeaten, catching 10 touchdown passes and contributing at defensive back.
Anderson-Butts, considered a 3-star talent in composite rankings, would become the third Harrisburg student to sign with the team since 2017, joining Parsons and freshman defensive end Damion Barber.
Last month, while in Orlando, Fla., for Under Armour All-America Game festivities, Anderson-Butts told Land of 10 he needed to handle some academic testing. However, a Monday evening report from Ryan Snyder of Blue White Illustrated indicates he is unlikely to land in Happy Valley.
Snyder notes academic eligibility may remain an issue, and Anderson-Butts traveled to Marshall for an official visit last weekend. It would be a disappointing outcome, but the impact he made as a peer recruiter with Parsons and others should be valued by Nittany Lions fans regardless of his collegiate destination.
Penn State signed three receivers in December, and another on the target board announces Wednesday.
Priority targets could provide final boost for Lions class
Beyond the early signing period, two names rose as priorities for Penn State: receiver Solomon Enis and tackle Rasheed Walker. We’ll learn where both are heading to school Wednesday.
Enis is expected to announce his decision at approximately 1 p.m. ET, while Walker will reveal a choice at 11:15 a.m., according to Bill Kurelic of 247Sports. These declarations represent the end of lengthy recruitments that have featured multiple trips to Happy Valley and recent in-home visits with Nittany Lions staff.
Walker, a 6-6, 300-pound U.S. Army All-American, is concentrated on Penn State, Ohio State and Virginia Tech. His most recent campus trip occurred in Columbus, but indications are the Nittany Lions approach Signing Day feeling pretty good about this situation. He would give Penn State four offensive linemen in the class, pairing with fellow top-10 tackle Nana Asiedu.
Enis, the son of former Penn State running back Curtis Enis, is also considering Pac-12 programs. Arizona State attempted to make a late push with its new coaching staff, while Utah is seemingly the greatest threat to keep him away from State College.
The 6-4, 190-pound playmaker caught 110 passes as an upperclassman, and his addition would further solidify what may be college football’s finest incoming collection of freshman receivers. Key determining factors here figure to be his comfort level with the possibility of moving far from his Arizona home and how he’s responded to the recent departure of Nittany Lions receivers coach Josh Gattis.
On the eve of Signing Day, Walker looks like the better bet to pick Penn State.
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