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Penn State picks up first piece of 2019 class after beating Pitt
Saturday was a strong day for the Penn State football program, on and off the field. The former came in the way of the 33-14 Nittany Lions win against visiting Pitt in front of the largest home crowd since 2009 — 109,898.
The latter related to who was among those fans: several high school prospects who saw the action up close. An impressive group of committed recruits spent the afternoon in State College, and that collection became even larger when evening arrived.
And one of those prospects, local standout Keaton Ellis from State College Area High School, pledged to Penn State during his latest game day visit.
Committed to the family🦁‼️ pic.twitter.com/Qb01hSgJ8z
— Keaton Ellis (@_keatonellis) September 9, 2017
“I feel I have a very strong connection with the Penn State coaching staff,” Ellis explained in his social media announcement. “I know they are going to help make me a better player and person on and off the field.”
The 6-foot, 168-pound cornerback received a scholarship offer from James Franklin on June 16 following his performance at a Nittany Lions camp. Ellis completed his 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds that evening, marking the fastest finish he’s ever recorded in the event.
“I wanted to go there, work hard, do the best I possibly could and earn that offer.” Ellis told Land of 10.
He quickly became a primary candidate to lead the way for Penn State’s 2019 recruiting class. Ellis plays his high school football games less than three miles away from Beaver Stadium, is the son of former Nittany Lions receiver Bruce Ellis, and hasn’t been shy expressing excitement about the possibility of playing in a Penn State uniform.
“It’s been a dream my whole life to play at Penn State and to get the opportunity really hit home. It’s just a blessing,” he said.
I covered his junior-season opener from the State College sideline and, although his time on the field was abbreviated due to a large lead, it quickly became clear why Franklin made him the focal point of in-state recruiting efforts for the 2019 cycle.
Ellis is a disruptive defender against both the pass and run. There is nothing passive about his approach, and he’s made obvious strides from a physical standpoint since his sophomore year. Continued growth and maintained passion for excelling at the position could put him in position to contend for early playing time at Penn State.
— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) September 4, 2017
Ellis expressed a desire to explore options beyond his hometown during our Sept. 1 discussion, citing interest from programs such as Northwestern, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Instead, he opted to become a class catalyst with the Nittany Lions.
Expect Ellis to be a frequent visitor to Nittany Lions facilities and Beaver Stadium during these next two seasons. He attended games against Akron and Pitt, and plans to show up as often as he can the remainder of this fall. His presence could provide a boost in the pursuit of other top 2019 recruiting targets, as Penn State aims to build another talented class.
Nittany Lions latest Power 5 program to offer Indiana DE George Karlaftis
Penn State didn’t wait long to move on toward other ambitions in the 2019 recruiting cycle following Ellis’ announcement. The Nittany Lions added defensive end George Karlaftis to the offer list Sunday:
— George Karlaftis III (@TheGK88) September 11, 2017
Karlaftis, a 6-5, 260-pound junior at West Lafayette High School in Indiana, is among the most widely targeted 2019 linemen in Big Ten territory. Louisville also offered last week, but several suitors emerged during a busy summer.
Alabama, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame and Tennessee are among programs Penn State must compete against for his commitment, while in-state Indiana and Purdue naturally entered this recruitment early.
Karlaftis, considered the No. 16 strongside defensive end and a top-200 overall prospect in 247Sports 2019 composite rankings, delivered a breakout campaign last year. He racked up 113 total tackles — 15 for loss — and 11 sacks in 13 games as a sophomore, according to MaxPreps.
His 2017 season is off to a similarly dominant start. Through four games, Karlaftis has collected 34 tackles — 5 for loss — and 2 sacks. Karlaftis reveals his football mentality in a Twitter bio featuring this note: “Eat QBs for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
Nittany Lions defensive line coach Sean Spencer is always hunting for “Wild Dogs” and Karlaftis certainly seems to fit the description. Other top 2019 targets on the defensive line include 5-star DT Antonio Alfano of New Jersey, 5-star DE Zach Harrison of Ohio and 4-star DE Savion Jackson of North Carolina.
View highlights from Karlaftis’ 2016 season here:
Lopsided loss, drama take center stage during Ohio State visit for top Lions targets
Reality didn’t exactly match the hype in Columbus on Saturday night, as a 3-3 halftime tie between Ohio State and Oklahoma turned into a second-half onslaught for the Sooners. Oklahoma emphatically beat the Buckeyes, 31-16, and quarterback Baker Mayfield proceeded to celebrate a massive road victory by planting a Sooners flag at midfield.
Baker Mayfield just did that. pic.twitter.com/Qo2Aw1pPE8
— ESPN (@espn) September 10, 2017
This was obviously a major topic of discussion late Saturday night and into the early stages of the week, but drama also came in the form of a tweet from former Penn State pledge Micah Parsons.
Parsons, who used his first official visit at Ohio State for the Oklahoma game, responded to a tweet from Patrick Murphy of 247Sports by stating he believes the Buckeyes may be better off if redshirt freshman quarterback Dwayne Haskins replaces veteran starter J.T. Barrett:
Meyer said he would not consider a change at quarterback.
— Patrick Murphy (@_Pat_Murphy) September 10, 2017
— BLESSEDMVP (@Micah_parsons23) September 10, 2017
Parsons apologized for essentially calling out Barrett with another tweet Sunday, stating “I was just in my feelings last night about the game.” Still, as Land of 10 Ohio State recruiting analyst Jeremy Birmingham wrote Sunday, the situation could impact an established relationship between the Buckeyes and this 5-star edge rusher.
That, in a nutshell, is part of the Micah Parsons recruitment conundrum. Parsons is an elite-level talent, but his excitability — and in some ways lack of maturity — make recruiting him a Catch-22. You just don’t know what you’re going to get. What happened Saturday night is just a teenager making a bad decision and according to sources in Columbus, players in the Ohio State locker room were “pissed” about them. Does that mean Ohio State will stop recruiting Parsons? I doubt it. But it’s another significant red mark against him.
That’s an interesting take from Birm, who has his finger on the pulse of Buckeyes recruiting strategy more firmly than anyone in the business. Parsons has dealt with some highs and lows that come with a constant spotlight, including some ugly social media backlash after his April 23 de-commitment from Penn State.
Parsons plans to reveal a top-4 list soon, trimming down college options while on track to enroll early. Alabama, Florida State, Nebraska, Ohio State and Southern California are among programs he’s mentioned as possible destinations.
Meanwhile, fellow Nittany Lions target Jayson Oweh also spent the weekend at Ohio State. His official visit was a third trip to Columbus since May, and probably his last leading up to a Jan. 4 commitment announcement at the Under Armour All-America Game.
Oweh will use an official visit at Penn State for the team’s Nov. 18 game against Nebraska. He has become extremely tight with Buckeyes defensive line coach Larry Johnson and the Nittany Lions face a battle to keep him closer to his home in New Jersey.
Ultimately, an Ohio State victory and ensuing celebration could’ve made an impact during his decision-making process, but instead his final in-person assessment included a difficult moment for the program.
“Things were a little off after the game,” Oweh told Birmingham. “Guys were a little bummed out. The facilities were pretty gloomy and Urban Meyer was pretty distraught, as well. But, they assured me, they’ll be back.”