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Prized prospect Brandon Smith sets another visit to Happy Valley
State College has been a frequent destination for 5-star linebacker Brandon Smith during his extensive travels. And the Louisa County (Mineral, Va.) High School junior is returning to town yet again in April, his father told Land of 10.
“It will be our family, plus my brother who goes with us on visits,” Rico Smith said. “Looking forward to getting back up.”
Penn State hosted this group, along with Smith’s grandparents, last July for a weekend that featured Lasch Bash festivities and team-run camp action. Nittany Lions coach James Franklin personally offered Smith a scholarship last April when the 2019 prospect visited Happy Valley for the second time in three weeks.
The Smith family also attended Penn State’s Sept. 9 victory against Pittsburgh, adding a Beaver Stadium experience to their well-established rapport with the program. This latest trip is set for Saturday, April 7, and it will be an unofficial visit.
Smith, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound talent, is listed first among inside linebackers and 19th overall in the 247Sports composite rankings. Though some college programs, and his own high school squad, have given serious consideration to Smith’s potential at defensive end, he expects to compete at linebacker if he ends up at Penn State.
The Smiths have embraced this recruiting process with a “village” approach, weighing pros and cons as a group after spending time on each campus. Another stop in State College provides further opportunity for research.
“Just meeting with the coaches and seeing where Brandon would fit in their system with the players they have and are bringing in.” Rico said. “Watching practice and seeing the flow of the team that’s there now.”
Smith is among the most active recruits in his class with respect to on-campus experience. He visited more than a dozen schools last offseason, and another busy stretch lies ahead next week.
Smith will take advantage of spring break, journeying to Penn State, Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State. Each of those are unofficial visits, though one official visit is scheduled for April 20-22 at Texas A&M.
That would leave Smith with four more official visits to utilize if he chooses to do so. Smith has consistently expressed interest in announcing a college choice before his senior season.
An all-state performer last fall, he led Louisa County to a 14-1 record and Virginia’s Class 4A championship game. Smith totaled 117 tackles — 18 for loss — and 6 sacks in 2017, according to 247Sports.
Other notable Nittany Lions targets at linebacker in the 2019 recruiting class include Lance Dixon (West Bloomfield, Mich.), Shane Lee (Baltimore) and Andre White (Harrisburg, Pa.). Penn State is searching for its first verbal pledge at the position.
Watch Smith’s highlights here:
Penn State battling SEC programs for QB Garrett Shrader
Penn State hosted 2019 quarterback recruit Garrett Shrader earlier this week and indications point toward long-term contention for the program in his recruitment. The Nittany Lions previously welcomed him to town for an Oct. 21 win against Michigan and a July 2017 camp in which he impressed while working under the tutelage of former offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead.
Moorhead is now among the college coaches attempting to beat out Penn State for Shrader’s signature. His Mississippi State program stands out as a top option, along with the Nittany Lions and another SEC squad, according to SEC Country’s Hale McGranahan.
McGranahan spoke with Garrett’s father, Tracey Shrader, on Tuesday. He provided some insight after recent trips to Penn State and West Virginia.
“Not knowing the order, but I think South Carolina, Mississippi State and Penn State are all in [the mix],” he said.
Shrader, a junior at the Charlotte Christian School (N.C.), sees a fit in the Nittany Lions offense. But it’s worth noting the principal architect of this attack now resides in Starkville, Miss., where Shrader will arrive Wednesday, per McGranahan.
“[Garrett] developed a relationship with Coach Moorhead and he really likes him,” Tracey said. “His offense fits him. Seeing [Penn State quarterback] Trace McSorley, he runs and he throws and Garrett’s bigger than him and he runs faster than him. That kind of intrigues [Garrett] a little bit.”
Shrader, a 6-5, 200-pound playmaker, is considered the No. 13 dual-threat quarterback in composite rankings. The Nittany Lions carry a commitment from Taquan Roberson, a DePaul Catholic (Wayne, N.J.) High School standout who is No. 11 on that list.
It’s become apparent Penn State is open to signing a pair of quarterback prospects next winter. Taisun Phommachanh, another coveted dual-threat recruit who visited Happy Valley last weekend, told Land of 10 on Monday night he won’t shy away from that scenario and Shrader seems to share this sentiment. We’ll have more here on Phommachanh in our recruiting notebook later this week.
Shrader completed 66 percent of pass attempts during the last two seasons, according to MaxPreps, collecting 4,866 yards and 53 touchdown tosses. He added 1,406 rushing yards (7.9 per carry) and 15 scores on the ground during this span.
Beyond his upcoming trip to Mississippi State, Shrader will attend South Carolina’s spring game this weekend.
Watch his 2017 season highlights here:
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