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Penn State signee Ricky Slade aiming for more talent in 2018 class
Ricky Slade spent the last week in paradise, journeying to Honolulu for the annual Polynesian Bowl. His stay in the South Pacific featured beach trips, island tours, tutelage from accomplished coaches Terry Donahue and Dick Vermeil, and time on the field with fellow blue-chip prospects.
Solomon Enis is among those with whom he shared the experience. The 4-star receiver recruit, who is being pursued by several Pac-12 programs and Penn State as National Signing Day (Feb. 7) nears, used an official visit in Happy Valley for the Nittany Lions’ final home game of 2017.
Enis, a senior at North Canyon (Phoenix, Ariz.) High School and the son of former Penn State running back Curtis Enis, caught 110 passes for 1,964 yards and 18 touchdowns as an upperclassman. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound prospect has remained rather mum about which way this recruitment might be leaning, but Slade feels confident about his ultimate destination.
“We’re looking really good with him,” Slade said.
RELATED: 2018 Penn State recruiting big board
A new factor to monitor with Enis is the reported departure of Nittany Lions receivers coach Josh Gattis, who is expected to join the Alabama Crimson Tide staff. Penn State signed three receivers — Justin Shorter, Jahan Dotson and Daniel George — in December, and verbal commit Shaquon Anderson-Butts plans to push that total to four in February.
Rasheed Walker also remains a priority Penn State target on offense.
The 6-6, 300-pound North Point (Waldorf, Md.) High School standout used an official visit at Ohio State this past weekend, days after receiving an in-home visit from Nittany Lions staff members. This shapes up as a battle between Big Ten rivals, though it’s worth noting Virginia Tech remains in the mix and welcomed him to campus for an official visit last month.
Slade, from familiar recruiting territory in Woodbridge, Va., explained that members of the Penn State class are in consistent contact with Walker. He intends to do his part in hopes that the 4-star lineman eventually opens rushing lanes for him at Beaver Stadium.
“We’re talking to him, texting him, all of that,” Slade said. “With him being so close to me, I can just go up there and chill with him. He’s only like an hour away from me, so I think I’m going to make the trip. I’m definitely already in his phone, though.”
Slade savored chance to shine in All-America Game
The Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year, Slade did not participate in Polynesian Bowl action due to a slight neck tweak suffered Jan. 4 during the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando, Fla. It wasn’t a serious injury, but he opted to proceed with caution while preparing for his arrival in Happy Valley.
Since he didn’t suit up in Hawaii, it means the nationally broadcasted All-America Game was his final prep football showcase. Slade, who starred at C.D. Hylton High School, displayed the versatility in Orlando that warrants him a No. 1 ranking among all-purpose backs in 247Sports 2018 composite rankings.
Considered a 5-star recruit and top-30 overall prospect, Slade secured more offensive touches (11) than any other All-America player. He collected 23 rushing yards, 26 receiving yards and caught 1 touchdown pass.
You'll be seeing a lot of this from Ricky Slade these next few years. pic.twitter.com/ETdizjAhSP
— Onward State (@OnwardState) January 5, 2018
Slade expects to see time in the backfield and slot at Penn State, while also pushing for a returner role on special teams.
After competing against premier peers for snaps in Orlando, Slade viewed his high target volume as a compliment from the coaching staff. Team Spotlight was led by former San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci.
“It means the coaches believed that I could make big plays,” Slade said. “They told me they were going to put the ball in my hands, and they did.”
Bond continues to grow between Penn State class members
Oweh sent his letter of intent to Penn State during the early signing period but didn’t go public with a decision until midway through the All-America Game.
“Yeah, we knew,” Slade admitted. “Jayson is still new to football since he’s only been playing for a couple of years, so for him to be this good already I can only imagine what Penn State is going to turn him into. It’s a great get for us.”
This group enjoyed spending a few days together during game preparation.
“We just bonded and got a little taste of what it’s going to be like at PSU, especially me and Justin since we roomed together,” Slade said. “It was definitely a perfect opportunity to get to know those guys even more.”
— RS3⛏ (@TheSlade_Era) January 3, 2018
Penn State signees began arriving in Happy Valley for early enrollment one day after the All-America Game. The six freshmen, underway with classes and offseason conditioning, have kept their classmates in the loop about what to expect this summer.
“They’re telling us the dos and don’ts,” Slade said. “Like don’t be late, or this going to happen. They’re telling us to work out before we get there because it’s going to be crazy, and to get scooters to ride to classes. Basically giving us helpful hints before we get there with them.”
Relationship building begins with Lions RBs coach David Corley
Slade dealt with a late alteration in his recruiting process when Penn State running backs coach Charles Huff followed Joe Moorhead to Mississippi State. Despite this staff vacancy, he never wavered in wanting to sign with the university.
Franklin described his message to Slade during an early signing period media session.
“You just have to trust that I’m going to hire someone that’s not only going to be a great fit for Penn State but also going to be a great fit for you,” Franklin said. “It makes no sense for me to bring you here and not have a coach you’re going to be able to identify with and work with. You liked the last coach I had, you like the rest of the coaches on our staff, you’ve got to trust.”
Along the way, Franklin and newly promoted Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne did their best to keep Slade updated.
“Coach Franklin and Coach Rahne gave me some hints but they didn’t give me any names,” he said. “I had the feeling it was going to be a good coach, but I didn’t know who it would be exactly.”
Penn State formally announced Huff’s replacement Jan. 12, introducing David Corley as running backs coach. He most recently served on staffs at Army and Connecticut.
Corley traveled to Virginia last week, arriving at the Slades’ home shortly after Ricky landed in Honolulu.
“They sent him to my house to meet my parents. They sent him to my high school to talk with my coach,” Slade said.
He spoke on phone with Corley soon after his hiring, and they’ve continued communication via text messages.
“He seems pretty chill,” Slade said. “I just can’t wait to actually sit down with him in person.”
Corley will welcome the promising playmaker to campus in June. Slade is coming off a senior season in which he totaled more than 2,700 all-purpose yards and 40 touchdowns. He earned first-team all-state honors at both running back and kick returner.
Watch his 2017 highlights here:
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