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Penn State RB target Jordan Houston rebounds from injury, rises as a recruit
It’s been four months since I chronicled the early high school journey of running back Jordan Houston, who received a scholarship offer from Penn State in July 2016. His ensuing sophomore season at The Flint Hill School (Oakton, Va.) ended abruptly, as he suffered a fractured left fibula in the opener.
Houston, whose mother and uncle are Penn State graduates, spent months rehabbing from the injury. He recovered to deliver a strong offseason camp circuit, earning offers from Boston College, Old Dominion, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. Now two games into his junior campaign, the rebound is complete and Houston appears more impressive than ever.
Through two games, he’s collected 370 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns. This production shines even brighter considering Houston sat out the second half of a blowout victory last Saturday.
His return — a 159-yard, 3-score effort against Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) — confirmed the completion of an arduous comeback. It also provided him with confidence to build on this fall.
“I was really excited to get back out on the field,” Houston said. “I was kind of nervous at first, but once I started getting into the flow of things, I started to feel really good and have a lot of fun with it. I ran as fast as I could and played as hard as I could.”
The last time he played a full schedule, Houston erupted for 1,846 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns in 10 games as a freshman. He was approximately 5-foot-8, 155 pounds during a dominant 2015 season.
Houston now attacks opponents with a 5-10, 178-pound physical frame. Meanwhile, his speed continues to increase.
— Fast Track Recruits (@FTRreport) June 28, 2017
Following his 2017 season opener, Houston heard from a familiar figure. Penn State running backs coach Charles Huff texted him shortly afterward, curious about the outcome.
“He was impressed and definitely happy to hear how things went for me,” Houston said.
They reconnected one week later when Houston returned to Happy Valley for Penn State’s game vs. Pittsburgh. Huff and several members of the Nittany Lions staff, including head coach James Franklin, showed him significant attention throughout the afternoon.
He spent time speaking with 2018 Penn State pledges Jesse Luketa and Justin Shorter, who previously shared conversations with him during Lasch Bash festivities on July 15. Houston and fellow 2019 Nittany Lions target Keaton Ellis also engaged in discussion, during which the local cornerback shared a secret.
“Keaton told me he was going to commit after the game,” Houston said. “He was like ‘What doesn’t this place have? Plus, this is home for me.’ I understood, too. Penn State does have everything and he’s right from that area.”
Ellis, a State College High School standout, became the first member of Penn State’s 2019 recruiting class following a 33-14 Nittany Lions victory. Like Houston, he is the son of a graduate from the university.
Naturally, attention shifted toward who would be the second building block for this next collection of Penn State prospects. Based on the longevity of his recruitment and family ties to the school, Houston is an obvious candidate in the eyes of fans.
“People on Twitter were saying I’m next, but I’m definitely going to wait it out,” he said.
This strategy makes sense since Houston just recently saw his recruiting process resume after a long pause that followed the leg injury. Suitors have begun to form a line, and there’s an obvious sense this crowd will grow, especially given Houston’s outlook toward his development.
“The start of the season wasn’t that bad for my first time back but I’m definitely trying to do better than that for the rest of the season,” he said.
In May, Houston told me the goal for 2017 is 2,000 rushing yards.
DeJuan Ellis Sr., a sports performance trainer in Fort Washington, Md., who has worked with Houston for a few years, saw him bounce back strong during physical rehabilitation. He anticipated a healthier and hungrier version of the playmaker who lost his sophomore season.
“Whatever he sets his mind to accomplish, Jordan will do it,” Ellis said. “That’s just how he is — incredible work ethic and focus. No one is going to set a limit for Jordan. If someone tells him he’ll only rush for 2,000 yards this season, Jordan will go run for 2,010 yards.”
Ellis’ son, DeJuan Ellis Jr., is a Virginia Tech commit. He accompanied Houston to the Hokies’ 2017 opener vs. West Virginia, a game played at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. Virginia Tech is encouraging Houston to attend a matchup in Blacksburg this season.
Coach Fuente pulled the trigger! Honored to say I've received my 5th offer from Virginia Tech! What a great day❗️ pic.twitter.com/LD59ia9AwT
— Jordan Houston (@usmigo) July 23, 2017
The only college game he specifically mentioned targeting as a visitor during our conversation is an Oct. 21 showdown between Penn State and Michigan in Happy Valley.
This situation could quickly change if other options emerge. Houston noted Houston, Rutgers and Wake Forest are among programs that have increased contact this month. However, it’s another Big Ten team that has especially grabbed his attention.
“I’m hearing a lot from Ohio State,” he said.
Houston attended a June camp in Columbus, where he finished the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds.
“Coach [Urban Meyer] and [running backs coach Tony] Alford were very impressed with me at their camp,” he said. “Since then, I’ve been on their radar pretty heavy. They’re recruiting me pretty hard.”
Houston returned to Ohio State on July 21 for the Buckeyes’ Friday Night Lights event. He received texts from three Ohio State coaches Sept. 1, when contact between collegiate staffs and high school juniors expanded. Buckeyes coaches have continued to reach out through early stages of the season, while Ohio State mail consistently arrives at his home.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones reaches out “like every day,” according to Houston, while there is also frequent communication from Volunteers running backs coach Robert Gillespie.
Expect Houston’s offer list to swell this season if he remains on track. While competition increases for his commitment, Penn State placed itself in an enviable position by pursuing him first.
“That was a great day for me,” he said. “My mom and I literally cried when Coach Franklin offered me in his office. They offered me after my freshman season when I was only like 5-8, 160 pounds with no other offers. Their belief in me was amazing and it definitely means a lot.”
Penn State sends another offer to the Peach State, targeting CB Warren Burrell
Penn State continues to stay active across various regions in its pursuit of 2019 prospects, and the latest offer from Franklin reinforces this trend. The Nittany Lions, who’ve offered just one high school junior in the state of Pennsylvania thus far, added defensive back Warren Burrell to the target board Wednesday.
The 5-11, 175-pound North Gwinnett (Suwanee, Ga.) junior shared news of his latest offer on Twitter:
— 4️⃣ (@_warrenb153) September 21, 2017
Considered a top-40 cornerback recruit in 247Sports 2019 composite rankings, Burrell has begun to blow up on the national recruiting landscape this month. Along with the Nittany Lions, he’s landed offers from Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio State and Rutgers in September.
These new additions augment an offer sheet that already features schools such as Alabama, South Carolina and Virginia. Burrell is a high school teammate of fellow 2019 cornerback D.J. Turner, who secured a Penn State offer last season.
Burrell recorded 8 tackles, 3 pass breakups, 2 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries during the first four games of his junior campaign, according to MaxPreps. Check out his highlights from these contests here:
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