It’s the midseason point in college football and a bit later than that when it comes to high school football schedules. Members of the 2018 recruiting class are now faced with the final stretch of their prep careers, primed to make a major leap next year.
Since releasing our preseason Pennsylvania prospect rankings on Land of 10 in August, I’ve continued to evaluate senior standouts across the state. If you missed our September edition, check it out here.
Game-day evaluation has helped with assessments, along with fresh online film review as the fall progresses. Dating back to my three-year tenure with a Power 5 recruiting department, I’ve been involved in the evaluation of recruiting classes since 2006, and it’s always interesting to see which recruits continue elevating their play as seniors, long after the bulk of their scholarships arrived.
As stated in the first two editions of these rankings, this is far from an exact science…
I’ve scouted 3-star players who became millionaires and Super Bowl champions. I’ve scouted 5-star talents who fizzled out before making any significant impact in a college game. There are no sure things in recruiting, but it won’t prevent us from projecting which young athletes warrant attention and scholarship offers as the college football recruiting scene gains increased notoriety and includes more viewpoints than ever before.
Based on what I’ve seen, and through discussions with players, scouts and peers, here is the October edition Land of 10’s 2018 Pennsylvania prospect rankings. The top two spots have remained unchanged since the summer, while Penn State linebacker commits Jesse Luketa and Nick Tarburton are among those who’ve moved upward.
Stay tuned for a mid-November update. Here’s how players stack up now, in one analyst’s opinion.
Five on the bubble: WR Darryle Simmons (St. Joseph’s of Philadelphia; Virginia Tech commit), DE Noah Palmer (Thomas Jefferson; Pitt commit), ATH David Martin-Robinson (Hempfield; Temple commit), OL Justin Johnson (Imhotep Charter; Oregon commit), LB Jordan Mosley (Haverford; Maryland commit)
20. OL Blake Zubovic (6-4, 310) – Pittsburgh commit
High School: Belle Vernon
Blake Zubovic uses brute force to control matchups, and he knows how to finish plays. Pitt adds a formidable piece to its offensive front, and I see him competing for a quick rise up the depth chart at tackle or guard depending on what the Panthers’ needs dictate. He implements a powerful punch at the onset of snaps, rarely sacrificing leverage as a blocker in pass protection. Expansion of his range as a blocker will ultimately dictate how formidable he can become.
19. CB Aaron Gethers (5-11, 185) – Boston College commit
High School: Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg)
The Eagles found an under-the-radar force at cornerback in June when Aaron Gethers announced his college decision. He competes through the whistle, wearing down receivers and breaking through blocking attempts. Gethers seems to play angry, and there’s a level of violence to his game that helps a defense set an authoritative tone. He shadows opposing receivers consistently and cleanly, displaying an excellent sense of timing for disrupting pass attempts. His ability to counter the sudden movement of opponents really stands out, and Gethers doesn’t allow himself to surrender strides in downfield coverage.
18. WR Julian Major (6-1, 185) – Michigan State commit
High School: Penn Hills (Pittsburgh)
It seems in every recruiting cycle, I find myself admiring Michigan State’s ability to locate and land talent at receiver. The Spartans struck again July 29 by securing a commitment from Julian Major, who also holds offers from Arkansas, Wisconsin and Virginia. He uses physicality to create space entering routes, displays strong hands and consistently powers through tackles for tough yards after the catch. Major, who caught 7 touchdowns as a junior, extends for the football with confidence, and I could see him cracking the Spartans receiver rotation next season.
17. S Nasir Peoples (6-foot, 185 pounds) – Virginia Tech commit
High School: Archbishop Wood (Warminster, Pa.)
Like several players on this list, Nasir Peoples contributes in a variety of roles for his prep squad. He has been impressive as a running back in 2017, including a 3-touchdown performance Sept. 29 vs. division rival Archbishop Ryan, but the greatest upside here is at safety. He’s an engaged defender in run support and flashes excellent range downfield to close gaps. Whether he’s playing offense or defense, Peoples appears to have a strong feel for game flow and looks smooth handling his job on the field. He began the season at No. 20 on our list, but warrants a bump.
16. LB Charlie Katshir (6-3, 198) – Penn State commit
High School: Cumberland Valley (Mechanicsburg, Pa.)
I consistently hear the same phrase when speaking with coaches and opponents about Charlie Katshir: athlete. He’s been a workhorse for Cumberland Valley this season, contributing greatly as a rusher, receiver and defender. Katshir is currently kind of a hybrid on defense, predominately filling the role of a safety. His reaction to play development is outstanding, and it’s clear he loves to fight for individual wins on each play. Katshir is one of thee Nittany Lions linebacker commits featured in the top 20 here.
15. TE Kyle Pitts (6-5, 235) – Florida commit
High School: Archbishop Wood (Warminster)
Kyle Pitts is far from a finished product, but his progression makes you wonder if he can become an All-SEC tight end. Florida beat out 19 other teams for his commitment July 20, picking up a prospect who continues to add good weight while maintaining the athleticism that makes him such an intriguing weapon. He has the ability to shrug off defensive backs, then outrun linebackers. That combination helped lead to 394 receiving yards and 6 touchdown catches on a state title winner in 2016, according to Daniel Gallen of PennLive.
14. OL Chris Bleich (6-6, 305) – UCLA commit
High School: Wyoming Valley West (Plymouth)
Chris Bleich initially pledged to Penn State as a sophomore but de-committed April 21 and landed in UCLA’s class two months later. He does diligent work as a run blocker and should continue to gain strength in that department during his time in Los Angeles. An aggressive approach in the trenches sets the tone for his team’s offensive efforts and surely wears down those opposite of him. Bleich has seen significant time at both tackle and guard during his high school career, and the Bruins’ roster needs may dictate his initial landing spot in college.
13. WR Shaquon Anderson-Butts (6-0, 202) – Penn State commit
High School: Harrisburg
— Ryan Snyder (@RivalsSnyder) August 26, 2017
Shaquon Anderson-Butts bolstered Harrisburg’s passing attack last season en route to the first state championship game appearance in school history. He is again a key cog in those efforts for an unbeaten Cougars squad, while turning in his best effort thus far as a defensive back. Anderson-Butts is a confident route-runner and displays solid body control while adjusting for passes. Continued speed development will help him become an increasingly balanced receiver as he progresses through a collegiate training system. This is a competitor who comes down with difficult catches.
12. S/LB Kwantel Raines (6-3, 200) – uncommitted
High School: Aliquippa
Kwantel Raines is among the more compelling defensive prospects in this class nationwide. His physical frame suggests a full-time transition to outside linebacker could be special, while his range also may motivate a staff to make safety his permanent home. A dynamic athlete, he also starts at quarterback for Aliquippa. Raines remains a bit of tweener, creating some difficulty in evaluation. Dependent on which coaching staff signs him, his first college camp could feature auditions in more than one role. He is expected to commit Oct. 30, likely choosing between hometown Pitt, Penn State, Florida and West Virginia.
11. CB Marcus Hooker (6-0, 185) – Ohio State commit
High School: New Castle
Marcus Hooker welcomed a modest number of Power 5 offers following his junior season, but dynamics changed in late July when the Buckeyes entered this recruitment and he didn’t wait long to commit. The younger brother of former standout Buckeyes defensive back Malik Hooker, Marcus already possesses a college-ready build and mentality. He is an all-around playmaker at quarterback for New Castle, and he’ll have a chance to wreak havoc in college anytime the ball comes his way. I really enjoy watching Hooker patrol the secondary, as he takes ownership of his coverage area.
10. DT Christian Barmore (6-5, 290) – uncommitted
High School: Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia)
Christian Barmore is a recruit on the rise, and that’s reflected on this list as he makes a major leap into the top 10. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Miami and Syracuse have each offered this former Temple commit since the start of October. He provides an explosive presence for one of a currently unbeaten Neumann-Goretti program. Barmore attacks opponents from tackle and end, though his frame suggests a permanent slide inside at the next level. He moves well laterally, consistently penetrates the offensive backfield and pursues the ball even as a play extends beyond the trenches. I’m especially intrigued about Barmore’s long-term potential at guard and wonder if that may be where his greatest upside lies. However, it’s clear he loves life on the defensive line.
9. LB Matthew Bauer (6-2, 222) – Notre Dame commit
High School: Cathedral Prep (Erie)
Matthew Bauer has the makings of another outstanding inside linebacker at Notre Dame, where he pledged prior to his junior season. Bauer is an absolute wrecking ball in Cathedral Prep’s attack, flashing elite read-and-react instincts. His quickness and pad level make it extremely difficult for blockers to stall him on a blitz, and he seems to play the game wire-to-wire with pure adrenaline. Bauer has surpassed 300 tackles in his prep career and his development as a pass rusher is notable, as he’s collected 16.5 sacks since 2016, according to MaxPreps.
8. S Isheem Young (5-10, 200) – Penn State commit
High School: Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia)
— Coach Cleezy (@EdOBrienScout) August 28, 2017
I started hearing from folks in the Philadelphia area about this hard-hitting safety in 2015, and Isheem Young has justified the early hype. Big collisions are his calling card, but coaches are really excited about his development as a complete defensive back. Young still will dish out devastating hits but increasingly balances intimidation with emerging skills in pass coverage. Young is becoming more comfortable and effective well beyond the box, and that’s a big step toward potential stardom at Penn State. While attending his senior season opener, I loved seeing Young compete with sustained passion and pride despite facing an insurmountable deficit on the scoreboard. Highly respected among his peers, he should be a quality addition to the Nittany Lions locker room as soon as he steps on campus.
7. WR Jahan Dotson (5-11, 165) – UCLA commit
High School: Nazareth
Among the most dangerous slot receivers in this recruiting class, Jahan Dotson suffered two broken bones in his right leg last October, ending what was shaping up to be a sensational junior season at Peddie School (Hightstown, N.J.). He transferred back to Nazareth this summer, returning to the school where he earned multiple state track-and-field championships and recorded a 1,000-yard receiving season in 2015. Dotson is up to his old tricks, lighting up opponents with a blend of quickness and lateral agility. Despite his lack of elite size, he can excel as a high-volume target in the passing game and is particularly special in space. Dotson also has the skill set to push for reps as a special teams returner.
6. LB/DE Nick Tarburton (6-4, 242) – Penn State commit
High School: Pennridge (Perkasie)
Nick Tarburton is an energetic leader who creates matchup issues for opponents due to his size at inside linebacker. Now approaching 250 pounds, he won’t be bullied by offensive linemen and ditches lead blockers with ease. While watching film from his junior season and an early sample size of his 2017 efforts, I can’t help but imagine the impact he could make as a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end. I see him making an impact at Penn State within two years of enrollment. Tarburton is approaching 300 tackles and 20 sacks since 2015, according to MaxPreps. He is the kind of fiery, penetrative front-seven defender who helps set a tone for his defense. Tarburton continues his ascension on our list after starting the season at No. 8.
5. OL Fredrick Scruggs (6-3, 270) – Penn State commit
High School: Cathedral Prep (Erie)
Fredrick Scruggs is an enforcer on both sides of the ball, doing damage at defensive end and left tackle for Pennsylvania powerhouse Cathedral Prep. He is expected to slide inside moving ahead, vying for collegiate reps at center or guard. Nittany Lions running backs will love this guy because of his ability to reach the next level in a hurry and become a battering ram who paves paths toward big gains. Scruggs doesn’t carry any bad weight, which is a huge edge for an offensive linemen transitioning to college. Penn State coaches will focus on building him up to prepare for the rigors of a full Big Ten schedule, and he’s already well underway with those efforts. I can envision Scruggs in a starting role for potentially three seasons, and evaluate him as Pennsylvania’s premier offensive lineman.
4. TE Zack Kuntz (6-8, 221) – Penn State commit
High School: Camp Hill
— Coach Cleezy (@EdOBrienScout) September 4, 2017
If you went into a laboratory and designed an ideal tight-end prospect, the result probably would look a lot like Zack Kuntz. Standing 6-8, he glides downfield with coordination and agility that wouldn’t seem to match his size. Kuntz earned a state track-and-field championship in hurdles this past spring, further exhibiting the long strides that allow him to pick up significant chunks of yardage in short time. His catch radius is unfair for defensive backs, creating an elite red-zone target for quarterbacks. His wingspan and basketball athleticism allow him to feast on intentionally-placed high passes, and he’s also a threat to break out for big gains while attacking linebackers on seam routes. Kuntz plans to enroll early at Penn State, which is huge for physical development toward becoming a complete college tight end. He surpassed 2,000 career receiving yards this season, and is averaging 24 yard per catch through seven games in 2017.
3. LB Jesse Luketa (6-3, 238) – Penn State commit
High School: Mercyhurst Prep (Erie)
I’ve bumped Jesse Luketa up one spot here, and consider him the state’s No. 2 defensive prospect. He is noticeably faster this season, roaming the field in a variety of roles. Luketa secured 69 tackles and 4 interceptions — returning 2 for touchdowns — in 9 games as a junior, according to MaxPreps. His presence in pass defense is again apparent in 2017, and it’s a key reason why I project him as an every-down linebacker in college. The Nittany Lions land a player who provides leadership on and off the field, and he’s candid about a goal to become one of the greatest linebackers to play this game. A lot of prospects say stuff like that, but Luketa is clearly invested in his long-term success, while also creating big plays as a receiver and rusher for Mercyhurst Prep. Luketa transplanted himself from native Ottawa (Ontario, Canada) early in high school for a shot at scholarship offers, and he’s earned more than 30 of them.
2. QB Phil Jurkovec (6-5, 215) – Notre Dame commit
High School: Pine-Richland (Gibsonia)
I first saw Phil Jurkovec in May 2016 during an Elite 11 camp in Columbus, Ohio. The event featured a few 2017 quarterback recruits who are now college freshmen, including Penn State newcomer Sean Clifford. Despite their presence, Jurkovec was the most impressive player on the field that day. He suffered a thumb injury on his throwing hand last season, ending his 2016 campaign early, but he’s rebounded in a big way. Jurkovec has completing 78 percent of pass attempts for 2,284 yards and 21 touchdowns while tossing only 4 interceptions through nine games as a senior, according to MaxPreps. He also commands respect as a runner, which is pretty scary considering his formidable frame. Jurkovec has 12 touchdowns on the ground this season and more than 2,000 rushing yards in his career. The Fighting Irish are set to add a complete package at quarterback.
1. DE/LB Micah Parsons (6-3, 235) – uncommitted
High School: Harrisburg
Micah Parsons remains the clear No. 1 prospect in our Pennsylvania rankings. A high-profile recruitment receives abundant attention, but don’t let it overshadow his accomplishments and consistency on the field. Parsons is the catalyst for a powerhouse program that appears primed to reach its second straight state championship game. He overwhelms opponents while attacking from linebacker and defensive end, adding to the more than 40 sacks and 60 tackles for loss Parsons recorded through his first three prep campaigns. A compelling athletic skill set also makes him a high-impact running back, and there’s a case to be made for him as the state’s premier player at that position, too. He should easily surpass 20 touchdowns this season, and considering the exceptional receiving performances he’s posted on the 7-on-7 circuit, some college programs could be tempted to create an offensive role to supplement his defensive work. Parsons says Penn State is among the those who’ve discussed the possibility. Along with the potential for a return to the Nittany Lions recruiting class, contenders here include Georgia, Nebraska, Ohio State and Oklahoma.