FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Attention is nothing new for 4-star defensive back Isheem Young. College recruiting departments, opposing high school coaches and media members have targeted him throughout his high school career.
“It was crazy and exciting at the same time when this all first started,” he said. “Now it’s normal.”
The 5-foot-11, 201-pound prospect claims nearly 30 scholarship offers four months shy of his senior season at Imhotep Institute Charter High School in Philadelphia. Many of those opportunities — at marquee universities such as Alabama, Michigan, Penn State and Florida State — arrived before the end of his sophomore year.
Young, sitting on the turf and displaying a calm demeanor moments before action began Sunday at The Opening’s New Jersey regional camp at New York Jets headquarters, is both soft-spoken and confident.
“I think I’m just different from everyone else,” he said.
That applies to his even-keel attitude off the field and aggressive approach on the field.
Young, listed No. 9 among safeties and No. 90 overall in the 247Sports composite 2018 rankings, is an enforcer at the back end of the defense. Long before he discovered the intricacies of pass coverage schemes or zone assignments, his reputation was built on thunderous collisions.
“I’ve always been a big hitter since I was younger,” Young said. “I’ve never cared who has the ball or how big he is, that’s my mentality.”
It’s a trait that quickly becomes apparent while analyzing his junior season film.
Young is smooth and instinctive while shadowing receivers downfield, and does his finest work in run support. He identifies the flow of a rushing play with precision, lines up a proper angle of pursuit and fires downhill toward the ball with excellent speed and violent intentions.
These elite read-and-react skills are reminiscent of a few standout college safeties, but Young pinpointed a 2017 NFL Draft pick as his primary comparison. He looks to former LSU standout Jamal Adams, the No. 6 overall selection.
“That’s me. That’s my game,” Young said.
Adams enters the next level of his career this year on New York Jets practice fields, which is exactly where Young went to work Sunday.
The Opening camps don’t involve full contact, so he couldn’t produce any highlight hits. However, the event provided an excellent opportunity for him to showcase burgeoning coverage skills.
Young earned DB MVP honors at the camp. Penn State commit Justin Shorter provided further testimony of an impressive performance.
The camp’s WR MVP, who received an invitation to The Opening finals this summer at Nike’s world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., admitted that Young was the only DB in attendance against whom he lost more reps than he won.
Shorter, who stands 5 inches taller than Young, viewed the final tally as 2-to-1 in favor of the Philly product.
Potential Penn State teammates working against each other here?
— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) April 30, 2017
These battles further increased Shorter’s desire to add Young to the Nittany Lions class.
“It would be great to go up against him every single day in practice,” Shorter said. “My dad always says ‘iron sharpens iron’ and I believe that would be the case for both of us as we develop at Penn State. He’s a tremendous defensive player and I hope to be a great offensive player, so we’ll make each other work hard and that would make the team better as a whole.”
Young attended the April 22 spring game in Happy Valley alongside Shorter and several other Penn State pledges.
“They’re all really cool guys and I knew that before the spring game,” he said. “We chat here and there, but getting to spend that personal time with them during that day was something I enjoyed very much. I love it up there. They’ve been great experiences. The coaches are very cool, and they’re actually like your friends. You can joke around with them, and it’s just a very comfortable place.”
Each pledge who spoke with Land of 10 afterward identified the DB as a priority target.
“I’ve been talking with him, trying to see where his mind is at with maybe committing to Penn State,” Shorter said. “I know he wants to wait a while longer just to see his other options, but he would be a huge addition to our Penn State family.”
Young isn’t sure when he wants to announce his college plans. He didn’t rule out a summer decision, but there’s an internal struggle due to his desire to use all five official visits. If Young opts to avoid pledging until after those trips, it may lead to a National Signing Day decision in February.
Several programs should have an opportunity to host him on campus in the upcoming months. He’s visited Maryland, Penn State and Temple to this point, but expect that to change soon.
Young expressed travel intentions to Alabama, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Ohio State and West Virginia, though he’s yet to nail down any specific dates.
Along with college coaches, Young shared that multiple committed blue-chip prospects routinely pursue him. He mentioned 5-star DT Taron Vincent (Ohio State), 5-star CB Anthony Lytton (Florida State) and 4-star receiver commit Brian Hightower (Miami) among the most persistent.
Perhaps more importantly, Young can lean on a pair of former Philadelphia prep stars for inside information on two of his top 12 options.
Penn State redshirt sophomore Shareef Miller, a George Washington High School product who was named Nittany Lions Defensive MVP of the spring game, is a crucial resource.
“We talk almost every day,” Young said. “He always tells me [Penn State] is a place where you grow, on and off the field. He definitely wants me to come up there and ball out with him.”
Shortly after receiving his spring game award, Miller mentioned the importance of a pipeline between Happy Valley and Philly during a discussion with Land of 10.
“We definitely take pride in it,” he said. “A lot of guys in Philly don’t even really get recruited — especially in the public schools — so to get a scholarship and play [Division I football] is a dream come true because it’s hard.”
Florida State sophomore tight end Naseir Upshur is a former Imhotep Institute teammate.
“That’s my guy,” Young said. “He wants me to get down there for a visit with him and see for myself how life is at FSU.”
Young should anticipate plenty of travel requests for the duration of a whirlwind recruitment. He is, after all, a prospect who was compared to legendary Miami Hurricanes and Washington Redskins S Sean Taylor by former Imhotep head coach Albie Crosby — before his junior season.