I'm still not entirely set on a name for these updates, but I am still 100% in the mindset that a permanent name needs to be established. Keep suggesting names in the comments.
That being said I have some fun recruiting updates for you today, and it's been awhile so I'll make them worth your while (wink wink).
- Roquan Smith (LB) (Montezuma, GA)- I spoke with Roquan a while back (When he received his Penn State offer. Shut up, I've been busy), and he offered me a lot of interesting quotes on Penn State and his recruitment. Since then, a lot of things have changed as he is looking more and more like a lock to attend either Georgia or Auburn and Penn State looks to have its main targets at linebacker. However, no harm in sharing some of what Roquan told me. He is looking to commit sometime around the end of the summer, so Penn State still has some time to force themselves back into the discussion should that be their goal. Roquan was excited to receive his Penn State offer, and was originally planning to visit sometime in the summer. He said that "it's a great group of coaches up there and great academics." He also is a big fan of James Franklin, and he thinks his SEC experience will be a major advantage for him in the Big Ten. Roquan remains a longshot for the staff, but it was nice to hear his interest wasn't all smoke and mirrors.
- Richie Petitbon (OG) (Washington DC)- The Gonzaga offensive lineman may not be as high on the new staff's board as the old one, but he is still a major target nonetheless. There is a need for guards on the roster, and Petitbon is one of the best in the country. He is currently in lacrosse season, so he doesn't have any certain dates picked out for a visit, but he knows he is planning on getting up to State College in the spring. He has continued to pull in more offers, but assured me that Penn State is still one of his top options.
- Brandon McIlwain (2016 QB) (Newtown, PA)- Brandon is one of Franklin and Co's top targets for the 2016 cycle, and an important recruit to focus on now considering his desire to enroll early at whatever school he chooses. Brandon recently received an offer from Cal to add to his already extensive list. Brandon is visiting Penn State this weekend with his baseball team to check out a Penn State baseball game (nothing like Penn State baseball in March!), but will also be stopping by the football building(s) to check in there. While it's not an official football visit, it could be an important one, as there will be a plethora of other top recruits in State College this weekend.
- Irvin Charles (WR) (Haddonfield, NJ), Jordan Whitehead (CB) (Monaca, PA), Manny Bowen (LB) (Barnegat, NJ) and Steven Gonzalez (OG) (Union City, NJ)- All four of these top 2015 targets for the Nittany Lions will be on campus this weekend. Bowen is still waiting for his Penn State offer, but it would be a shock if he did not leave Happy Valley with one after this weekend. Whitehead will be an interesting visit to track, as his interest in Penn State remains high and is surely being recruited by the rest of #TeamDominateTheState. Gonzalez is currently favored to become an Ohio State Buckeye, but a good visit this weekend could help get Penn State back on level footing. Irvin Charles could be the most interesting visitor, though; with the addition of Brandon Polk this week, the 2015 class stands at 2 receivers. While outside of the staff no one truly knows how many receivers are going to be picked up in this class, the betting man would most likely say three. With Juwan Johnson and Polk in the fold already, there is likely only one receiver slot available. Charles surely knows this, and with Van Jefferson still lurking as a Penn State possibility, he may be tempted to pull the trigger this weekend to secure his spot in the class.
- Chris Green (LB) (Toledo, OH)- I spoke with Chris recently, and although he was offered by Bill O'Brien and staff back in September, he had yet to be contacted by the new staff. He sounded noticeably disappointed by this, as he was very excited about receiving the Penn State offer. As Franklin, Pry, and Co's eyes are seemingly focused on Darrin Kirkland Jr. for the linebacker spot right now, Green may continue to hear deafening silence from the Penn State side. I'll keep you updated on Green, though, because he is still a fantastic player.
- Chris Clark (TE) (Avon, CT)- If you missed it, Chris Clark committed to North Carolina on March, 16th. While the destination is not necessarily a surprise to me (UNC was always one of his top choices), the timing certainly was. After preaching to me and multiple other analysts about how he was going to take all of his visits and gradually cut down his list, it was shocking to see him commit so soon. Chris is still planning to take visits, though, so he could still potentially be an option for the Lions. I wonder what happened during that visit to Chapel Hill...
- Austin Clark (OT) (Lexington, VA)- Austin was part of the large group that visited State College last weekend, and I caught up with him about it. He told me that this visit was an important one for him, and he was very excited to get up to State College to see what Coach Franklin has been doing. He was told that he is welcome back anytime, and will probably make his way back up again in the summer. Next on his list of visits are South Carolina this weekend, and then Ohio State some time in April. While he was here he spoke with a few of the 2014 commits that were Vanderbilt flips, which I see as a major positive. Hearing from guys who were willing to follow a coach from the SEC to the Big Ten can do nothing but positive things for Penn State in Austin's recruitment. He also walked me through his visit a bit...
We got there around 8:30, and I got to sit in on the team meeting and O-Line meetings. I got to watch spring practice, a little bit of a scrimmage, and then they just took us on a tour through the campus, the academics, the facilities, everything. Then I got to sit down and talk to Coach Franklin and Coach Hand a lot after.
- Brandon Polk (WR) (Ashburn, VA)- In case you live under a rock, Brandon Polk committed to Penn State earlier in the week. I know Cari pretty much filled "The Outlook" portion with my quotes, but I have a few more things to add on him. First off, it needs to be re-emphasized how huge this commitment was for not only the roster, but the whole recruiting world. Brandon Polk is someone who was essentially not on the radar at all for Penn State until his offer on February 5th. In that time, he fell in love with and committed to the Nittany Lions. Normally, recruiting is really a two year process. Coaches begin talking to their top targets during their sophomore year (or sooner). The fact that this staff has been at Penn State for less than a quarter of a year, and has already managed to land the crazy amount of talent currently committed for the 2015 cycle, is simply amazing. Polk's commitment is far from the tip of the iceberg, as there are numerous other top commits who could end up as Nittany Lions, but it is arguably the most notable to date (alongside Juwan Johnson's pledge).
Finally, since I have regrettably not been able to do a Recruiting Roundup recently, I thought I'd share my current 2015 Big Board, which I have officially renamed to reflect my twitter handle.
The Real Overall 2015 Big Board
1. Sterling Jenkins (OT) (Pittsburgh, PA)
2. Jerome Baker (LB) (Cleveland, OH)
3. Minkah Fitzpatrick (CB) (Jersey City, NJ)
4. John Reid (CB) (Philadelphia, PA)
5. Brandon Wimbush (QB) (Jersey City, NJ)
6. Jordan Whitehead (CB) (Monaca, PA)
7. Brady White (QB) (Newhall, CA)
8. Josh Adams (ATH) (Washington, PA)
9. Richie Petitbon (OL) (Washington, DC)
10. Darrin Kirkland Jr. (LB) (Indianapolis, IN)
11. Austin Clark (OL) (Lexington, VA)
12. Manny Bowen (Barnegat, NJ)
13. Irvin Charles (Haddonfield, NJ)
Other Names to watch: Trenton Thompson (DT), Grant Newsome (OT), Josh Barajas (LB), Van Jefferson (WR), Darius Fullwood (DE), Steven Gonzalez (OL), Tim Settle (DT)
If you'll notice, I didn't want to stop at 10 names. Sterling Jenkins leads my personal big board for a few reasons. First, gaining his pledge would mean that Penn State kept Pennsylvania's top talent inside the borders of the Keystone state. This is essential if Franklin is going to prove he can and will #DominateTheState for years to come. Penn State has rocketed to the top of Jenkins' Crystal Ball page on 247Sports, and with good reason. His last visit to the school was reportedly fantastic, and he has officially been on commit watch ever since. Earning a verbal commitment from Jenkins would mean that Penn State beat out Michigan and Ohio State to do so. This is a big one.
Jerome Baker sits at number two on my list, also with some extra meaning behind his outstanding on field play. Picking up Baker in the 2015 class would mean that Penn State snatched one of Ohio's top players away from Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. This would be a monumental pickup for the roster, as well as for sending a message to the rest of the Big Ten and the country.
Minkah Fitzpatrick is at number three for me. While his commitment to Penn State is very unlikely at this point, a verbal from his high school teammate, Brandon Wimbush, could prove to be noteworthy in Minkah's mind. Of course, this could also work in the opposite direction, if Fitzpatrick decides to commit before Wimbush (highly unlikely). Although he is a longshot for the Lions, Fitzpatrick's elite level talent merited this spot on the board.
I have Brandon Wimbush at five, and Brady White at seven. This is probably an area where I stand alone from most other analysts, but I am comfortable with my rankings. While Wimbush is the top and most realistic target for James Franklin and Ricky Rahne, something about Brady White just jumps out at me. He has everything you need as a quarterback. He has great arm strength, solid accuracy, surprising athleticism, and commands the offense well. However, the most interesting point about White for me, is that he is naming the Nittany Lions as one of his top schools. We're talking about a California kid who has yet to even be on campus. Ranked as the number four pocket passer in the country, Brady White would be a huge pickup for the Nittany Lions. While Wimbush is the likely commit at the QB position (and his commitment would likely lead White to set his sights on Cal or Arizona State), Brady White is an incredibly intriguing option for me.
The rest of the board is pretty self-explanatory. You'll notice that I included Trenton Thompson in the Names to Watch section. Until he makes it up to campus and names a top group that does not include the Nittany Lions, I will continue to hold out a glimmer of hope for Thompson's commitment. And I don't need to tell you how unbelievable that would be.
Also in recruiting and board related news, I've managed to slide my way into the Top 25 rankings for the 247Sports Crystal Ball Expert Rankings. I'm currently at #22. So make sure to appeal to the NCAA that this SEC bias in the rankings is getting ridiculous, and that I should be ranked higher.
That's all for today. Here's to a weekend capped off by at least 2 commits.