Stay updated as Penn State rises toward the top of the recruiting rankings! Don’t miss the coverage from Tyler Donohue, who brings a decade of experience as a national college football reporter and recruiting department staff member with a Big Ten program. Read his daily notebooks here at 7:20 p.m. ET Monday through Friday and follow us on Twitter for the latest Nittany Lions recruiting news.
2019 QB Max Duggan appreciates being an early Penn State priority
The dominant college football recruiting news Wednesday centers on a 2018 quarterback, and we’ll address that story a little later here, but let’s start with early program endeavors with 2019 passers. As we noted in our Monday notebook, the Nittany Lions extended scholarship offers over the weekend to a pair of high school juniors: Max Duggan of Iowa and Garrett Shrader of North Carolina.
Both players claim several collegiate opportunities through just two prep seasons. Duggan, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound prospect from Lewis Central (Council Bluffs, Iowa) High School, added another offer Monday from fellow Big Ten member Nebraska.
Though he is presently occupied with baseball season, Duggan found time to visit Penn State this past weekend. He flew east alongside his mother and spent much of his time at an on-campus Nittany Lions camp under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead.
“Coach Moorhead was with us the whole time and Coach Franklin also maneuvered around all day,” Duggan said. “Coach Moorhead was helping me with the little things that I can fix moving forward, whether it’s throwing motion or mechanics stuff. He had great things to say though.”
The son of former South Dakota QB Jim Duggan, he prides himself as a student of the position. Though the highlight of his Happy Valley experience was undoubtedly the moment Franklin revealed an offer, Duggan savored a study session with Penn State’s play caller.
“Coach Moorhead and I got to watch film together for about an hour,” he said. “We went over their philosophy and what they look for in a quarterback. I’m similar to the quarterbacks Penn State has right now. What they do in the offense — RPOs (run-pass option), extending plays with mobility and throwing the ball downfield — is everything that’s in my game.”
Duggan battled for the starting job at Lewis Central and earned it outright by the end of his freshman season. He returned in 2016 as an unquestioned starter, tallying 1,651 passing yards, 592 rushing yards and 29 total touchdowns, according to 247Sports.
“I can sit back and throw all the intermediate and deep passes,” Duggan said. “I’ll also use my feet to gain some yards, get out of the pocket and throw on the run.”
Duggan, considered the No. 5 pro-style quarterback in 247Sports’ 2019 composite rankings, didn’t necessarily expect an offer from Penn State during his first time on campus. His goal was to make a positive impression, and pick up some vibes about the program.
“I just wanted to go out there to check things out, compete the best I could and then see what happens,” he said.
Franklin and Moorhead saw enough to feel confident about putting Duggan on the 2019 target board. Both were in the room, along with Max’s mother, when things became official.
“Getting a chance to spend some time with Coach Franklin and see his personality was a great experience and I loved it,” he said. “It’s a great honor for them to believe in me as a person and player for their program.”
Duggan hopes to return to State College sometime this year, perhaps for a game, but his schedule remains tentative. Aside from Penn State, his past university visits include Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota and Nebraska.
At this stage, there is no time frame for a collegiate commitment. That’s probably a wise choice considering more offers are likely to pour in this summer.
In-star OL Blake Zubovic includes Nittany Lions in his final 5
Penn State carries three offensive line commitments in the 2018 recruiting cycle, and sights are set on several other blockers to add to an impressive group. Blake Zubovic, a product of Belle Vernon High in Pennsylvania, is among those to monitor.
The 6-5, 310-pound prospect announced his five finalists Monday, revealing a list with three Big Ten programs and two in-state schools:
TOP 5🚨🚨🚨 pic.twitter.com/YsBlgp8tiF
— Big Z🎒 (@blake_zubovic66) June 5, 2017
Zubovic, a 3-star talent and the No. 42 offensive tackle in 247Sports’ 2018 composite rankings, placed Penn State in a group of contenders that features Maryland, Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech.
The Nittany Lions entered this pursuit in March. He visited campus multiple times in the spring, including a trip to Happy Valley for the April 22 spring game.
— Big Z🎒 (@blake_zubovic66) March 25, 2017
Zubovic looks like a candidate to slide inside at the next level, though his future could also include snaps at tackle dependent on roster needs. Earlier this week, he shared some thoughts on the Nittany Lions with Mike Vucovcan of Pittsburgh Sports Now.
“I like [offensive line coach Matt] Limegrover. He’s one of my top two favorite coaches so far,” Zubovic said. “He’s a really great guy and he knows what he’s doing. It’s a big-time football town, 107,00 fans, a ton of support. Plus, it’s closer to home which is a plus.”
Zubovic grew up a Pitt fan and the 247Sports crystal ball points unanimously toward a future in a Panthers uniform.
Fallout from Justin Fields de-commitment could lead to new 2018 QB offers
Earlier Wednesday, we explored the ramifications of 5-star QB Justin Fields’ decision to de-commit. The Harrison (Kennesaw, Ga.) High play maker is back on the open market with schools such as Auburn, Florida, Georgia and LSU giving chase.
Fields didn’t rule out a return to the Nittany Lions class but we rarely see reconciliation after these developments on the recruiting trail. Penn State must likely look in another direction to fill its slot for a quarterback in the 2018 cycle.
It may find some options in the 2017 Elite 11 class that Fields joined Monday. In our Wednesday column, we brought up two names in particular that warrant attention as the Nittany Lions staff makes its next move: Quincy Patterson of Illinois and Devin Leary of New Jersey.
Both prospects are pledged elsewhere — Patterson to Virginia Tech and Leary to North Carolina State — but Penn State is coming off a spectacular offensive season in which program passing records fell. Considering that success and a strong supporting cast that includes top-10 2018 prospects at offensive tackle, wide receiver, running back and tight end (two), there’s a lot to like about this opportunity for a young passer.
Patterson, from the Chicago area, already holds a Nittany Lions offer. Leary, who set New Jersey records for single-season passing yards (3,688) and touchdowns tosses (48) last fall, is a candidate to land on Franklin’s board.
The South Jersey sniper doing what he does. NC State commit and Elite 11 finalist @DevinLeary1 delivers a laser.
— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) May 21, 2017
The coach followed Leary on Twitter at some point since Tuesday, as did multiple Nittany Lions assistants and committed players. Reading the tea leaves, this all points toward a shift in focus for Penn State toward the Garden State quarterback who lit it up last weekend during Elite 11 finals in Los Angeles.
“Devin is supremely talented,” Elite 11 coach Quincy Avery told Land of 10. “He was spitting nothing but fireballs out his arm the whole entire time. You walked away from his pro-day performance [Leary posted the best score among 25 competitors] and knew exactly why he was there. It was impressive to watch.”
If Franklin opts to start fresh with new quarterback offers, look for Leary to be among the first beneficiaries. It’s worth noting the top two players atop Penn State’s depth chart — Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens — initially committed somewhere else before enrolling at State College.