Penn State suffered a significant recruiting loss April 23 when 5-star DE Micah Parsons ended his 14-month verbal pledge to the program. The departure of this in-state standout – considered the No. 3 overall prospect in 247Sports’ 2018 composite rankings – created a need at edge rusher for the Nittany Lions.
Parsons, who can attack the backfield from a 3-point stance or stand-up role, may still return to strengthen the Big Ten’s top-ranked recruiting class. However, during a recent discussion with Land of 10, he explained a “fresh start” for his recruitment became necessary.
“I had an amazing [time at the April 22 Penn State spring game] but just wasn’t 100 percent sure I wanted to [sign],” Parsons said. “People were bashing me for taking visits [elsewhere], so I decided to take my time.”
Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Nebraska and Ohio State – the new 247Sports crystal ball favorite – are among the universities he mentioned as potential destinations. Parsons is unlikely to announce another commitment until winter, so Penn State must be proactive in efforts to possibly replace his presence with another prospect – or two.
That’s no easy task since the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Harrisburg High School junior is such a dynamic talent. He collected 190 tackles — 47 for loss — and 32 sacks as an underclassman, according to MaxPreps, and continues to develop during an offseason set to include a trip to The Opening finals in Beaverton, Ore., at Nike’s world headquarters.
“I have the ability to speed rush, dominate my opponent and hold down my side of the field,” Parsons said.
Final three reps of the day for 5-star edge rusher @Micah_parsons23.
Penn State definitely still in mix, but so is every school in county. pic.twitter.com/q0YHUcBHXy
— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) April 30, 2017
The Nittany Lions are unlikely to locate his duplicate this recruiting cycle but several compelling edge defenders are in play for Penn State. Here’s a breakdown of possible 2018 pickups who could help stabilize things at the position.
High School: St. Frances Academy (Baltimore)
247Sports composite ranking: No. 3 weakside DE; No. 47 overall; 4-star prospect
Prospect Analysis: Eyabi Anoma is the first crossover athlete from the basketball court we’ll cover in this piece, but won’t be the last. He burst onto the national scouting scene in 2016 by racking up 24 sacks in his debut high school season, according to Josh Barnett of USA Today.
A speed rusher who displays excellent pursuit for a newcomer to the field, Anoma has plenty of room to expand on his 6-5, 230-pound frame. He already shows willingness to hold down the perimeter in run coverage, and should enter the conversation for 5-star status with more progression.
Recruitment Update: Anoma’s game film circulated across college football offices soon after his breakout campaign. Scholarship offers flowed to St. Frances soon afterward. Earlier this week, he told Taylor Hamm of 247Sports that 90 schools have offered, and mentioned potential long-distance trips to Texas A&M and Oregon during that conversation.
Alabama already hosted him, while the in-state Terrapins clearly identify him as a prized target on home turf. Penn State boasts plenty of momentum in the Mid-Atlantic region, and lining up an official visit with Anoma would be a major move forward.
High School: Don Bosco Prep (N.J.)
247Sports composite ranking: No. 28 strongside DE; No. 675 overall; 3-star prospect
Prospect Analysis: Marcellus Earlington is also a Division I basketball prospect, and claims a multisport scholarship offer from Temple. He draws interest at defensive end and tight end, where he incorporates desirable lateral movement and presents a 6-4, 260-pound target.
It’s hard to tell where his highest upside lies, but if Earlington opts to play offense at the next level, State College likely isn’t the landing spot. Defensively, he could develop into a stout 5-technique or perhaps slide inside with collegiate strength training. Earlington doesn’t possess the pass-rushing prowess of Parsons or Anoma, but he did record 10 sacks and 19 tackles for loss last season, per 247Sports.
Recruitment Update: Penn State is a 100 percent favorite in the 247Sports crystal ball. Last month, he traveled to Happy Valley alongside fellow 2018 Nittany Lions defensive line target Tyler Friday and promising 2020 athlete Jalen Berger.
Multiple visits to campus since his February offer from Penn State coach James Franklin set the stage for an eventual pairing here, though other options are in the mix on both ends of this relationship. Michigan State, Pittsburgh and in-state Rutgers are among his alternative choices.
THE BIG 3 L-R Marcellus Earlington TE/DE, Jalen Berger TB, and Tyler Friday OL/DL from Don BOSCO on visit to Penn St pic.twitter.com/BwrY0pwC2e
— Fred Mariani (@FMariani68) April 21, 2017
High School: Paramus Catholic (N.J.)
247Sports composite ranking: No. 6 strongside DE; No. 143 overall; 4-star prospect
Prospect Analysis: Dorian Hardy hasn’t been quite as productive as previous members of this list from a statistical standpoint (37 tackles – 8 for loss – and 3.5 sacks in 2016, according to Joe Malfa of The Left Bench). However, long-term projection of how he can impact a defense is special, and his 6-5, 245-pound physique features an impressive wingspan that erases space.
Hardy emerged as a top Garden State talent at St. Joseph (Montvale) Regional High School, and the spotlight will shine even brighter following his transfer to fellow New Jersey powerhouse Paramus Catholic. The program’s defensive front recently produced No. 1 overall 2016 recruit Rashan Gary (Michigan) and 2017 Penn State signee Corey Bolds.
Recruitment Update: Hardy told Land of 10 that Alabama, LSU and Tennessee may receive visits this summer, while Ohio State and Rutgers are in line for return trips. Penn State is a longtime contender in this pursuit and placed itself near the top of his list by making a strong impression last month.
“It was amazing to see fans come out for a spring game like that,” Hardy said. “[The atmosphere] was just like a regular game, and I’m not really used to that. It was crazy.”
— Dorian Hardy (@dtheillest1) May 20, 2016
High School: West Forsyth (N.C.)
247Sports composite ranking: No. 2 weakside DE; No. 18 overall; 5-star prospect
Prospect Analysis: Another basketball standout — are you noticing a theme here? — the 6-5, 235-pound Henry is fresh off a dominant effort at The Opening’s Charlotte, N.C., regional. Like Parsons, he punched his ticket for The Opening finals after manhandling highly touted offensive line recruits such as 2019 Florida State commit Wanya Morris.
Henry quickly gains separation from blockers with brute force upon his initial punch, and flashes evolved hand work to disengage and disrupt the offensive backfield. He secured 54 tackles — 24 for loss — 13 sacks and 4 blocked kicks last fall, according to the Associated Press.
Recruitment Update: When Penn State appeared on Henry’s top-10 list April 5, the Nittany Lions didn’t have much reason to feel confident because of his unfamiliarity with Happy Valley. That outlook could soon change, as he told Land of 10 a visit will occur before his commitment.
Alabama, Clemson and Georgia are among notable competitors for this pledge, but Henry is fond of Franklin’s approach, and that could keep things interesting.
“He was one of the only head coaches to really step out of that title and be real with me, be cool with me, I guess,” Henry told my colleague Hale McGranahan of SEC Country on Sunday. “I definitely want to show him that same respect and definitely go visit up there.”
— Craig Haubert (@CraigHaubert) May 7, 2017
High School: DeMatha Catholic (Md.)
247Sports composite ranking: No. 37 weakside DE; No. 690 overall; 3-star prospect
Prospect Analysis: John Morgan isn’t quite the physical presence as other prospects on this list, checking in at 6-2, 235 pounds, but he carved out a key role on the defensive line perimeter for Maryland powerhouse DeMatha Catholic last season. He typically takes on opponents with proper level and developed improved upper-body technique during his junior campaign.
Morgan may be best suited to attack from a stand-up position, and he’s also attracting attention at tight end. The departure of former 5-star DeMatha Catholic DE Chase Young — a 2017 Ohio State signee — placed added pressure on him to elevate snap-by-snap standards as a senior.
Recruitment Update: Nittany Lions fans should fondly recall the recruitment of 2016 DeMatha Catholic DE Shane Simmons, a former blue-chip prospect now entering his redshirt freshman season at Penn State. Morgan lauded an April visit to Virginia Tech, while Maryland and West Virginia are among other schools to monitor.
Ultimately, this looks like a winnable recruitment for Franklin following multiple trips.
“It’s really a wonderful place,” Morgan told Brian Dohn of Scout.com after a February stay in State College. “They really want to put you in a position where they want you to succeed, and where it is hard to fail, if I decide to come here.”
I'm only chasing that check. 💲 pic.twitter.com/VIrrduwH8q
— John J. Morgan ™ (@K1NG__JAY) April 19, 2017
High School: Blair Academy (N.J.)
247Sports composite ranking: No. 23 strongside DE; No. 609 overall; 3-star prospect
Prospect Analysis: I profiled this 6-6, 239-pound prospect Wednesday, focusing on his transition from basketball player to football prospect. There’s a lot to dissect with his game after he tallied 42 tackles — 5 for loss — and 7 sacks during last fall in his high school debut.
Some teams are enamored with his potential at defensive end, and he enjoyed an in-depth discussion with Nittany Lions defensive coach Sean Spencer this spring. However, he turned heads at tight end during The Opening’s New Jersey regional and is expected to play a larger offensive role at Blair Academy as a senior.
“To be so early in his maturation process at tight end, and doing some of those things we saw, the sky is the limit for when a Division I program brings him in and shows him the nuances of what it takes to succeed at this position at the next level,” said Ronny Torres, The Opening’s director of player personnel for tight ends and receivers.
Recruitment Update: Oweh suddenly finds himself at the center of one of college football’s most frenzied recruitments. He put on a football uniform last fall for the first time since fifth grade, and that one season has resulted in 20 scholarship offers since late February.
Nearby Rutgers was first to offer, while schools such as Boston College, Georgia, North Carolina and Pittsburgh also entered the pursuit this spring. Penn State defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Brent Pry and defensive line coach Sean Spencer presented him with an in-person offer in April, one month after a successful family trip to State College.
Oweh sounds like he’s bought into Franklin’s message, though the outcome here may be determined on his defined roster fit.
“[The option to play either tight end or defensive end is] definitely an interesting part of this process,” he said. “I’m looking for the school that allows me to explore which position I want to do when I get there. I’m confident about what I can do at either position, but flexibility is important.”
— Clout J (@JaysonOweh) March 25, 2017
High School: Cleveland Heights (Cleveland)
247Sports composite ranking: No. 8 weakside DE; No. 148 overall; 4-star prospect
Prospect Analysis: Tyreke Smith is yet another target who entered high school with basketball ambitions but discovered his lottery ticket on the football field. The 6-3, 260-pound prospect hasn’t produced a ton of varsity film but his promise is hard to miss.
A college-ready physique matches with outstanding read-react coordination that routinely eludes players with far more experience. His ability to track down run plays laterally is special, and a future at 3-technique isn’t out of the question.
Recruitment Update: This is another prospect who saw collegiate interest explode during the winter, as offers arrived in abundance. Smith posted a top-12 list April 28, including Big Ten contenders Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State.
The inclusion of Alabama, Notre Dame and USC highlight this wide-ranging recruitment. The Buckeyes are in strong position because of proximity, staff relationships and the 2017 signing of former Cleveland Heights teammate Jaylen Harris (4-star receiver).
Penn State pulled the trigger on a scholarship ahead of most schools, which won’t be forgotten as Smith narrows down options.
“They offered me before I got film for football so I know they believed in me from the start,” he told Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports in April. “The 2018 class for Penn State right now is definitely big-time.”