Penn State coaches have invested considerable time, effort and travel miles searching for premier 2019 prospects. The Nittany Lions’ target board for this recruiting cycle includes nearly 100 athletes, with all but two high school juniors residing beyond Pennsylvania borders.
Coach James Franklin solidified most of Penn State’s 2018 class during the early signing period (Dec. 20-22), sealing the deal with 22 players. Though now focused on finding final pieces for one of the program’s finest classes this century, Nittany Lions staff members also are able to dedicate increased resources toward further assessment of the next wave of talent.
We’re placing a spotlight on prospects who’ve landed on Penn State’s 2019 board so far. Last week we featured a breakdown of offensive recruits, but now shift the spotlight to defensive standouts who’ve caught the Nittany Lions’ attention.
A few notes before our positional breakdown:
- The list is based on known scholarship offers extended by Penn State, according to 247Sports.
- Several targets already have announced commitments to other schools. We’re still including them here.
- Prospects labeled “athletes” are listed with the position they’ve been told Penn State wants them, or based on our assessment.
- Statistical references for players are courtesy of MaxPreps or acquired directly by Land of 10.
Defensive tackles (10)
On the Board: Antonio Alfano (Rahway, N.J.), Jowon Briggs (Cincinnati), Rashad Cheney Jr. (Ellenwood, Ga.), Tyler Davis (Apopka, Fla.), Joshua Harris (Roxboro, N.C.), Rodas Johnson (Columbus, Ohio), Jacob Lacey (Bowling Green, Ky.), Mazi Smith (Grand Rapids, Mich.) Ishmael Sopsher (Amite, La.), Faatui Tuitele (Honolulu)
Committed to Penn State: None
Committed Elsewhere: Cheney (Georgia), Lacey (Notre Dame)
Need-to-Know Info: Ishmael Sopsher, the No. 1 defensive tackle recruit in the 247Sports 2019 composite rankings, told Land of 10 earlier this month his mom “loves” Penn State and he is considering a visit to campus. Faatui Tuitele follows him at No. 2 in rankings and is the latest addition to this target board, receiving an offer Jan. 22. Fellow 5-star Antonio Alfano initially planned to announce a commitment in December with the Nittany Lions firmly in contention, but he postponed his search for the right college fit. The pursuit of Rodas Johnson is interesting, as he resides in Ohio State’s backyard but has yet to receive a Buckeyes offer.
Defensive ends (12)
On the Board: Joseph Anderson (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), Khris Bogle (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Steven Faucheux (West Chester, Ohio), Zach Harrison (Lewis Center, Ohio), Derick Hunter (Fort Myers, Fla.), Savion Jackson (Clayton, N.C.), George Karlaftis (West Lafayette, Ind.), Bill Norton (Memphis, Tenn.), Zacch Pickens (Anderson, S.C.), Noah Potter (Mentor, Ohio), Billy Sonnier (Lafayette, La.), Joseph Weté (Washington, D.C.)
Committed to Penn State: None
Committed Elsewhere: Karlaftis (Purdue)
Need-to-Know Info: Zach Harrison, considered a top-5 overall prospect, is the top-ranked player on the board at this position. Multiple visits to Happy Valley indicate legitimate reciprocated interest but it will be a battle to beat out the Buckeyes. Steven Faucheux and Noah Potter are other Ohio standouts who’ve expressed excitement about Penn State. Savion Jackson, who recorded 40 tackles for loss and 15 sacks during the past two seasons, logged a couple of trips to Beaver Stadium in 2017.
On the Board: Marcel Brooks (Flower Mound, Texas), Lance Dixon (West Bloomfield, Mich.), Ge’mon Eaford (Deerfield Beach, Fla.), Kevin Harris (Loganville, Ga.), Nick Henrich (Omaha, Neb.), Shane Lee (Baltimore), Owen Pappoe (Loganville, Ga.), Brandon Smith (Mineral, Va.), Cade Stover (Mansfield, Ohio), Andre White (Harrisburg, Pa.)
Committed to Penn State: None
Committed Elsewhere: None
Need-to-Know Info: Penn State is in excellent shape at this position with prospects from near and far. White competed at Harrisburg High School in 2017 alongside Penn State signee Micah Parsons and Nittany Lions verbal commit Shaquon Anderson-Butts, while former Cougars standout Damion Barber is a freshman defensive end on campus. Marcel Brooks, Shane Lee and Brandon Smith each have each identified the Nittany Lions as a long-term contender. Brooks, who has roots in Virginia, has said he views Penn State as his “dream school.” At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, Smith is the kind of athlete who ultimately might blossom into a defensive end.
— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) July 16, 2017
On the Board: Myles Bell (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Warren Burrell (Suwanee, Ga.), Jeffery Carter (Aledo, Texas), Jaden Davis (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Keaton Ellis (State College, Pa.), Tyus Fields (Cornelius, N.C.), Nyquee Hawkins (Orange, N.J.), Sheridan Jones (Virginia Beach, Va.), Cam’Ron Kelly (Chesapeake, Va.), Derek Stingley (Baton Rouge, La.), DJ Turner (Suwanee, Ga.), K.J. Wallace (Atlanta), Marquis Wilson (Avon, Conn.)
Committed to Penn State: Ellis
Committed Elsewhere: Carter (Oklahoma)
Need-to-Know Info: Keaton Ellis is the lone Nittany Lions commit on defense in this recruiting cycle. He is a Penn State legacy who plays his home high school games approximately 2 miles from Beaver Stadium. Nyquee Hawkins has been on James Franklin’s radar since 2014, received an offer before his sophomore season and recently told Land of 10 he feels “at home” in Happy Valley. Sheridan Jones, formerly the top-ranked 2020 cornerback, reclassified in January and will return to Penn State in the near future.
On the Board: Litchfield Ajavon (Alexandria, Va.), Lewis Cine (Everett, Mass.), Jalen Catalon (Mansfield, Texas), Steele Chambers (Roswell, Ga.), Jeremiah Gray (Charlotte, N.C.), Daxton Hill (Tulsa, Okla.), Ronnie Hickman (Wayne, N.J.), Khalid Martin (Kernersville, N.C.), Quinten Johnson (Washington, D.C.), Tyler Rudolph (Oakdale, Conn.), Kenyatta Watson (Loganville, Ga.), Brian Williams (Dallas), Raymond Woodie III (Eugene, Ore.)
Committed to Penn State: none
Committed Elsewhere: none
Need-to-Know Info: Lewis Cine, considered a top-5 prospect at the position, told Land of 10 last week that Penn State leads his recruitment. Fellow New England playmaker Tyler Rudolph presents options at safety, cornerback and receiver. Quinten Johnson is one of three St. John’s College High School juniors with a Nittany Lions offer. Kenyatta Watson de-committed from Florida State earlier this month. Ronnie Hickman helped lead DePaul Catholic High School to a 2017 New Jersey state title alongside Penn State quarterback commit Taquan Roberson.