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Penn State is in pursuit of more than 100 recruits in the 2019 class, including 5-star defensive end Zach Harrison.

Penn State recruiting: Top Nittany Lions targets in next class

Penn State completed a successful 2018 recruiting cycle Wednesday, adding a 23rd player to its incoming group of freshmen. The class finished No. 5 in national composite rankings to set a new National Signing Day mark in Happy Valley.

While James Franklin and his staff earned a moment to bask in this impressive outcome, the forward momentum of college football recruiting doesn’t allow for much down time. Penn State invested in efforts beyond Signing Day 2018 long ago, shifting “60-70 percent” of resources to the 2019 class and beyond by September, according to Franklin.

The Nittany Lions welcomed six 2018 signees to campus in January, the rest will enroll this summer, and Penn State’s search for its next wave of talent continues. Land of 10 detailed the program’s entire 2019 target board last month, breaking down the list on defense and offense.

Now that we’ve officially turned the page to a 2019 recruiting cycle that started years ago in form of scholarship offers for freshmen and sophomores, let’s readdress where things stand for the Nittany Lions.

Penn State presently carries a pair of verbal commitments from New Jersey quarterback Taquan Roberson and local State College cornerback Keaton Ellis. A flurry of 2019 offers across America in January send the Nittany Lions’ 2019 target total surging well past 100 prospects.

Now, perhaps more than ever, Penn State is in excellent shape to establish an increased national recruiting footprint. Perception surrounding the program and Franklin have greatly evolved since his January 2014 arrival, contributing toward a team-best finish on Signing Day that featured prospects from 11 different states.

Combine that with a limited volume of in-state offers to high school juniors so far and it’s apparent Penn State plans to pluck top talent from various regions.

“If you look, it hasn’t been as many offers going out in our state, not just from Penn State but just from around the country,” Franklin said Wednesday. “There’s going to be years where the state is really strong, and you’re going to be able to sign 12, 15 players from a state, and there’s going to be years where you sign three or four or five. So you have to be able to broaden your nets so that you’re able to handle that. You’re able to overcome what may be a down year in the state or a down year in the region.”

Instead of listing each offer like we did in January, here’s a rundown of the top-rated targets based on 247Sports composite rankings at each position and which prospects especially warrant attention.


Committed to Penn State: Taquan Roberson (Wayne, N.J.)

Top-ranked targets: Max Duggan (No. 6 dual-threat QB), Taisun Phommachanh (No. 8 D-T QB), Garrett Shrader (No. 9 D-T QB)

In-state offers: None

Keep a close eye on: Shrader. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Charlotte (N.C.) Christian standout wowed during a July 16 camp in Happy Valley days before receiving an offer from Alabama. It wouldn’t surprise to see Penn State take two quarterbacks in this class, and Shrader has reciprocated interest along the way.

Running back

Committed to Penn State: None

Top-ranked targets: Noah Cain (No. 3 RB), Devyn Ford (No. 7 RB), Jordan Houston (No. 39 RB)

In-state offers: None

Keep a close eye on: Ford. He listed Penn State among favorites last week and plans to announce a commitment in June, according to Taft Coghill Jr. of the Free Lance-Star. Running behind North Stafford (Va.) teammate and 2018 Penn State tackle signee Nana Asiedu, Ford tallied 2,056 yards and 32 touchdowns as a junior.



Committed to Penn State: None

Top-ranked targets: Frank Ladson (No. 5 WR), David Bell (No. 12 WR) Isaiah Williams (No. 1 athlete; PSU targeting him at receiver)

In-state offers: None

Keep a close eye on: John Metchie. Though he spent recent seasons at the St. James School in Hagerstown, Md., Metchie may continue Penn State’s pipeline to Ontario, Canada, where his family resides. He’s been a frequent visitor to State College since receiving an offer in July, including the Feb. 3 junior day, but upcoming reclassification will open the door for new offers, and recent additions to his list include Michigan, Mississippi State and Notre Dame.


Tight end

Committed to Penn State: None

Top-ranked targets: Hudson Henry (No. 1 TE), Patrick Herbert (No. 10 TE), Jahleel Billingsly (No. 13 TE)

In-state offers: None

Keep a close eye on: Billingsley. Henry and Herbert have close family ties to other Power-5 programs in the Arkansas Razorbacks and Oregon Ducks, respectively, while a fourth Penn State tight end target (Austin Stogner) committed to Oklahoma last offseason. Billingsley, who attends Phillips Academy in Chicago is within striking distance in Big Ten territory and he attended the Nittany Lions’ junior day earlier this month.


Offensive line

Committed to Penn State: None

Top-ranked targets: Devontae Dobbs (No. 1 T), Darnell Wright (No. 3 T) Xavier Truss (No. 6 T), Caedan Wallace (No. 5 G)

In-state offers: None

Keep a close eye on: Wallace. Yet another New Jersey product in Penn State’s cross-hairs, this Hun School (Princeton) lineman is former teammates with Nittany Lions freshman defensive tackle Fred Hansard. His offer sheet seems to grow by the day, but Franklin made a major early impact with Wallace and his family. His consistent trips to campus are noteworthy.


Defensive line

Committed to Penn State: None

Top-ranked offers: Ishmael Sopsher (No. 1 DT), Zach Harrison (No. 2 DE), Antonio Alfano (No. 5 DE but likely to play DT), Joseph Weté (No. 8 DE)

In-state offers: None

Keep a close eye on: Harrison. Is this the next big-time collision between Ohio State and Penn State, who clashed over multiple marquee recruits during the 2018 cycle? The 6-6, 240-pound prospect attends high school less than 30 miles north of Columbus, Ohio, but he’s shown genuine interest in the Nittany Lions. It’s a huge challenge for Franklin and defensive line coach Sean Spencer, but that shouldn’t deter a persistent pursuit.



Committed to Penn State: None

Top-ranked offers: Shane Lee (No. 2 ILB), Marcel Brooks (No. 7 OLB), Brandon Smith (No. 4 DE but likely to play OLB)

In-state offers: Andre White (Harrisburg, Pa.)

Keep a close eye on: White. The connections here are obvious, as White played alongside 5-star Penn State signee Micah Parsons at Harrisburg High School. The Nittany Lions landed Harrisburg defensive end Damion Barber in the 2017 class, and this is a pipeline Franklin should be encouraged to sustain. Overshadowed by the hype surrounding Parsons, White led Harrisburg with 87 total tackles in 2017.

Brandon Smith (right) earned MVP honors while working at linebacker at a 2017 camp run by NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis. (Brandon Smith/courtesy)




Committed to Penn State: None

Top-ranked offers: Daxton Hill (No. 2 S) Lewis Cine (No. 3 S), Ronnie Hickman (No. 11 athlete but likely to play S)

In-state offers: None

Keep a close eye on: Cine. The Everett (Mass.) High School star recently told Land of 10 that Penn State is his leader. This is likely to become a highly competitive recruitment, particularly since he also said the goal is to use all five official visits. Penn State was the only program to host him on campus during the 2017 season.



Committed to Penn State: Keaton Ellis (State College, Pa.)

Top-ranked offers: Josh Sanguinetti (No. 4 athlete but likely to play CB), Sheridan Jones (No. 15 CB), Nyquee Hawkins (No. 20 CB)

In-state offers: Ellis

Keep a close eye on: Jones. Previously considered the No. 1 cornerback among 2020 recruits, he elected to reclassify this winter and accelerate this process. He traveled to Happy Valley in October, watching the Nittany Lions defeat Michigan, and intends to get back to campus soon. Chased by premier Power-5 schools since eighth grade, Penn State can be a long-term contender here.

Keaton Ellis committed to Penn State on Sept. 9. (Tyler Donohue/Land of 10)

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