With National Signing Day 2014 officially behind us, it's time to take a more focused look at 2015. I'm very much looking forward to my first full recruiting cycle's worth of coverage with all of you, and I hope to make it one of the most informative, and up to the minute we've have on BSD. I'm going to do everything I can to bring you more interviews, more offer updates, more analysis, and more predictions than ever before. If you have any suggestions for things you would like to see me do in regards to writing about the 2015 recruiting class, please feel free to shoot me an email (email@example.com), tweet at me (@TheRealNPolak), send a Facebook message to the BSD Page, or just leave a comment.
2015 is looking like it's going to be a big year for the Nittany Lions in terms of recruiting. Not only are they already in good graces with a ton of high profile players, but James Franklin and his staff seem ready to continue bringing their fire and their passion to the recruiting game. There is a lot of strong talent in the state of Pennsylvania for 2015, which will give the new staff to chance to prove right away, that they really are here to #DominateTheState. We will also get to see if the staff's time down south will help continue the trend of bringing more and more high schoolers from SEC country into Happy Valley. We will also get to see the birth of the recruiting battle between James Franklin and Urban Meyer, which will hopefully prove to be one of the fun battles to watch over the coming years.
Keep in mind that obviously these are just the first round of names to surface, and there are still plenty of players out there who will receive offers later in the game. This is just to serve as a basic guide to help get you in the loop for the upcoming year. To help navigate this page, I decide to throw some page jumps in for you. Click on any of these to jump down to a specific position. All star ratings are the 247Composite ratings, which combine the ratings for each player across all the major recruiting sites.
Brandon Wimbush (Jersey City, NJ (St. Peter's Prep)) ★★★★
Jarrett Stidham (Stephenville, TX (Stephenville)) ★★★★
Brett Brumbaugh (Mcdonald, PA (South Fayette Twp HS)) ★★★
The Notes: Under O'Brien, it seemed as if the Nittany Lions were going to target one very highly ranked QB every year. Starting with Hackenberg, and continuing with Michael O'Connor. Obviously, we'll never know if this was indeed O'Brien's plan, but knowing him and his system, I think it is a pretty good bet. James Franklin is already on his way to proving that he would like to follow a similar strategy.
Brandon Wimbush is one of the top Dual-Threat QB's in the country (#6 overall). While Wimbush had interest in Penn State before the new staff came in, but he also had interest in Vanderbilt. That puts the Lions is a nice situation, combining one of his favorite schools with one of his favorite coaches. Coach Gattis recently visited Brandon, and he will be meeting with the entire staff this weekend for Junior Day. Ohio State was previously considered the favorite to pick up Wimbush's commitment, but the Penn State coaching change seems to made things a little more difficult for Urban. Over on 247, Brandon's Crystal Ball has been trending towards the Nittany Lions recently.
Jarrett Stidham is much more of a long shot. He was only offered by the Nittany Lions on Monday (2/10), so I don't have a ton of information on his in regards to Penn State as of now. He had interest and an offer from Vanderbilt, and reports are that said interest went both ways. So the relationship between the staff does exist. Whether or not that relationship would be enough to pry him away from the likes of Texas Tech, Baylor, Alabama, and Texas A&M is yet to be seen. If Penn State is able to get him on campus, the #2 ranked Dual-Threat QB may become a more realistic option. But for now, Nittany Lion fans should keep dreaming.
Brett Brumbaugh is likely the fallback option for Penn State. The 3* Pro-Style QB holds offers from Temple and Akron so far, with interest from most Big Ten schools as well. I spoke with Brett a while back and he told me that should the Nittany Lions offer, they will definitely be near, or at, top of his list. He grew up a Penn State fan and visited for the Michigan game this past season, so he would be considered a heavy Penn State lean, should that offer come.
Andre Robinson (Harrisburg, PA (Bishop Mcdevitt)) ★★★★
Josh Adams (Warrington, PA (Central Bucks South)) ★★★★
Saquon Barkley (Whitehall, PA (Whitehall HS)) ★★★★
The Notes: During the 2014 recruiting cycle, Penn State brought three new running backs on board, with the potential for more. Mark Allen, Nick Scott, and Johnathan Thomas all have the potential to be starters at some point for the Nittany Lions. Daquan Worley was also a beast of a running back in high school, so there is the possibility that he could run the ball a little bit at Penn State. Due to all of this, I expect Penn State to take no more than two running backs in this class.
Andre Robinson is a long time Penn State target. He was being recruited heavily by the old staff, and has continued to be by Franklin and co. Robinson is one of the many elite targets from Eastern Pennsylvania in 2015, and one that the new staff needs to lock up if they are going to truly dominate the state. That being said, things are looking good for Andre and Penn State. He has already visited three times since 2012, and will likely be on campus again this weekend for Junior Day. Andre currently holds offers from Penn State, Ohio State, Pitt, and Virginia Tech. I'll have a full write up of my talk with Andre later this week.
Josh Adams is right up there with Andre Robinson as one of the top players in Pennsylvania. Hailing from Central Bucks South, Adams has great potential as a future all around back in college. He has good size for a runner at 6'2" 198lbs, and he has good speed sporting a 4.5 40 yard dash. He won't come easy to Penn State, but they're certainly off to a good start. Coach Franklin visited Adams shortly after being hired, and by all accounts the visit went well. He currently has a top group consisting of Penn State, Notre Dame, and Stanford. Josh tore his ACL shortly into his junior season, but is rehabbing now and preparing for a big senior season. Josh's Crystal Ball so far is looking very blue and white.
That leaves Saquon Barkley. Barkley is currently committed to play for Kyle Flood at Rutgers, and has been since September 7th. Barkley is on a slightly lower tier than Robinson and Adams, but is still a fine prospect in his own right. Penn State offered back in October, so he's had some time to consider the offer. Saquon currently holds offers from Penn State and Pitt, aside from the obvious Rutgers offer. I won't lie, it would be pretty fun to steal another Rutgers commit. Saquon was in town for Junior Day. I'm trying to get in touch with him for a few comments about it.
George Campbell (Tarpoon Springs, FL (East Lake)) ★★★★★
Van Jefferson (Brentwood, TN (Ravenwood)) ★★★★
Juwan Johnson (Glassboro, NJ (Glassboro)) ★★★★
Alex Ofodile (Columbia, MO (Rock Bridge)) ★★★★
Trent Irwin (Newhall, CA (Hart)) ★★★★
Brandon Polk (Ashburn, VA (Briar Woods)) ★★★★
Going into the 2014 recruiting cycle, it was assumed that Penn State would probably limit the number of receivers in the class to two or three. Well one thing led to another, and in the end, four receivers ended up signing on the dotted line to become Nittany Lions. De'Andre Thompkins, Chris Godwin, Saeed Blacknall, and Troy Apke all have bright futures for Penn State, and any of them could contribute as early as 2014. That being said, it would seem that Penn State is in position to take two receivers at the most for 2015. Obviously only the staff knows exactly what they want, but with the roster in need of depth at some other positions, it would seem that wide receiver is a spot that the staff will be content taking only a few commits.
George Campbell is one of the top recruits in all of college football. He is the number one ranked athlete (he is likely to be a receiver at the next level), and already holds offers from 35 different schools such as Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, and Michigan. He does also hold an offer from Vanderbilt, which came while Franklin was still the head coach there. This is Penn State's main (and really, only) advantage in recruiting Campbell. He has already built a relationship with the staff, so now they just need to work to get him on campus. Coach Franklin is fresh off getting receiver Jordan Matthews in position to be one of the top receivers in this year's NFL Draft, which he can certainly point to as reference for the similarly-sized Campbell. As is normally the case for southern recruits, getting them up to visit Happy Valley will be the key. It's certainly a long shot, but keep your eye on George Campbell.
Van Jefferson has been a Penn State target for some time now, ever since earning his scholarship offer after camping there in the summer. He is an extremely precise route runner, who would be a very good fit with the accuracy of Christian Hackenberg and Michael O'Connor. The main competitors here are Ohio State, Ole Miss, and Tennessee. Jefferson will probably make a visit to Happy Valley before the summer begins to catch a glimpse of spring practice. Van's Crystal Ball has been an interesting one to watch, as there have already been a few picks switched from Ohio State to Penn State, and vice versa. He was also being recruited by Franklin at Vanderbilt, so the connection is already there, which is a good start for the Lions.
Juwan Johnson is one who has more interest in Penn State than I originally thought. I spoke with Juwan the other day, and was struck by the genuine interest he seemed to have in Penn State in general. Academics are very important to Juwan, as is the family aspect of the football team. With the combination of Penn State and James Franklin, these are two major aspects of Penn State football. Juwan is an elite athlete, with huge potential as an impact college player. At 6'5", he will be able to dominate most corners and safeties on any jump ball, and with his 4.4 40 yard dash time paired with his elite track speed, he will burn by anyone that tries to cover him man to man. Juwan still has many offers to pick up, as his list is far from complete. Penn State looks to be in good position so far though. Check back later this week for a full transcript to my conversation with Juwan.
Alex Ofodile is another carried over James Franklin target, as he had many talks with Vanderbilt. He has a visit to Penn State scheduled for June, but looks like another long shot to become a Lion. As a Missouri native, the Tigers are the top dogs in this race so far. Kentucky, riding high off of their successful 2014 class, are also in the mix for Alex's services. I'm in the process of trying to get into touch with Alex to learn more.
Trent Irwin picked up his Penn State offer on February 12th. He has yet to visit Penn State, but just talking to him and watching tape was enough to convince Coach Gattis to offer him. Trent had a monster junior season for Hart High School, catching 76 passes for 1,456 yards and 19 touchdowns (according to MaxPreps). He currently holds offers from Cal, Colorado, Colorado State, and Indiana, but that list is in its infant stages. The four star receiver is ranked as the #18 wide receiver in the country, so he would be a nice get for the staff. Trent is also receiving interest from other west coast powers such as Stanford, Boise State, and Washington, so this is going to be an interesting battle to watch. Getting him on campus, as always, will be a big factor.
Brandon Polk was offered by Penn State on February 5th. He already has a good-sized offer list, which includes Boston College, Charlotte, ODU, Maryland, Stanford, Virginia, Virginia Tech (#ELITE), and Wake Forest. Polk has also yet to visit State College, but that didn't stop the staff from extending an offer. Polk is in the Tavon Austin mold, in that he is small but lightning quick. Standing at 5'9" 152 lbs, he certainly will have to bulk up to play at the next level, even as a slot receiver. He may end up being the type of player that has special plays designed to get the ball into his hands. It's also worth noting that Oregon is showing interest, as they tend to have an affinity for players in Brandon's mold.
Chris Clark (Avon, CT (Avon Old Farms)) ★★★★
With the Nittany Lions still overflowing with talent at the tight end position, and Mike Gesicki ready to come in and make an impact, it would be very unsurprising to see the Nittany Lions go without a tight end in this class. Penn State was becoming the go to location for tight ends under O'Brien, but those recruits will now likely want to see exactly how James Franklin is planning using the tight end position in his offense. If he truly does tailor the offense to the personnel of the team, then we should still see heavy doses of Kyle Carter and company, but we can't know for sure.
Chris Clark is one tight end that is on the staff's radar, and should they decide to pursue a tight end in this class, he will be the big name they chase. Clark holds offers from all over the country from many top programs. It seems likely that he will be focusing his attention on schools with a more pressing need at his position, but such circumstances didn't stop Gesicki from committing to Penn State, so who knows. The top competitors for Clark right now are Ohio State, Georgia, and Boston College.
Sterling Jenkins (Pittsburgh, PA (Baldwin)) ★★★★
Grant Newsome (Trenton, NJ (The Lawrenceville School)) ★★★★
Richie Petitbon (Washington, DC (Gonzaga)) ★★★★
Ryan Bates (Warminster, PA (Archbishop Wood)) ★★★★ (Committed 2/15/14)
Austin Clark (Lexington, VA (Rockbridge County)) ★★★★
Steven Gonzalez (Union City, NJ (Union Hill)) ★★★★
Christian Pellage (Brooksville, FL (Nature Coast Tech)) ★★★★
Isaiah Prince (Greenbelt, MD (Eleanor Roosevelt)) ★★★★
Tommy Hatton (Montvale, NJ (St. Joseph Regional)) ★★★
Simon Stepaniak (Hamilton, OH (Ross)) ★★★
Mike Horton (Atlanta, GA (Lakeside High School)) ★★★
The Notes: Many readers complained about the lack of linemen in the 2014 class. Hopefully you now see what I meant when I said the staff will take care of that problem in the 2015 class. Everyone on this list has legitimate interest in Penn State, and I would not be surprised to see the Lions walk away with as many as four from this list.
Sterling Jenkins is arguably the top prospect in Pennsylvania (he and CB John Reid flip flop based on the list). He is a major Penn State target, and is likely at the very top of their recruiting board. Penn State is not the only school with major interest however, as Ohio State and Michigan are also giving Jenkins their full attention, and are seen as his current leaders. Jenkins was at Penn State's Junior Day this past weekend, which is a great sign for the Nittany Lions. They have a lot of work to do in order to keep Jenkins in Pennsylvania, but I'm sure Franklin is relishing the challenge to keep one of the state's top talents inside of its border.
Grant Newsome has been a Penn State target for some time now, and is one of the top players coming out of the state of New Jersey. He currently holds offers from 19 different schools, including Michigan, Ohio State, UNC, and Rutgers. He's held his offer from the Nittany Lions since June 1, after attending one of the camps over the summer. Standing at 6'7" 280 lbs, he looks the part of a future tackle at the college level. He still has some work to do to further develop his blocking skill, but with added experience and a continued college workout regimen, Newsome is going to be a devastating left or right tackle for one lucky team.
Richie Petitbon is a guy that Penn State showed they were making a priority of with the old staff. The new staff seems to be in good position as well, though. I spoke with him a while back when the coaching change occurred, and he had this to say about Coach Franklin.
...I have also gotten to know Coach Franklin at Vanderbilt. They offered me during the summer, he also coached at Maryland for many years so it is very exciting.
Richie is already one of the most sought after offensive guards in the country, holding offers from Alabama, LSU, FSU, OSU, and Virginia Tech just to name a few. Right now his top group consists of Penn State, the Crimson Tide, and LSU. It has been known all along that the battle to get Petitbon in the blue and white is going to be a difficult one, but his interest in Penn State has not wavered despite his many high profile offers.
Austin Clark has an impressive offer sheet, boasting Ohio State, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, South Carolina, and West Virginia. The popular opinion is that Clark will head down south to either Tennessee or VT, but Penn State is still alive in this fight. He most recently was at Penn State for the quadruple overtime win over Michigan, and camped at Beaver Stadium this past summer. Austin has good athleticism that will allow him to get to the next level and take out some linebackers, provided he adds a little more weight. He could play tackle or guard at this point, standing at 6'6" 290 lbs.
Steven Gonzalez has had Ohio State coaches at his home constantly for the last half year or so. The Buckeyes were his far and away leaders, until Penn State offered on January 30th. The 6'5" 300 pounder promptly moved Penn State to number two on his list, and is giving Penn State a fair chance. His Crystal Ball is looking pretty Ohio-y right now, but Franklin and his staff are still pushing. Josh Gattis is leading the charge for the hard hitting guard prospect.
Isaiah Prince is one of the top prospects in Maryland, and would be a great chance for Franklin to prove that they won't miss Larry Johnson's prowess in said area. The 6'6" 275 lb lineman is considered a Florida lean as of now, but still is keeping his recruitment open. He is very athletic for his size, which is surely one of the things drawing the coaching staff to him. As he continues to fill out his frame, he will be a tough man to get around on the line. Maryland is a threat here, along with the favored Florida.
Tommy Hatton is a guy who does not yet hold a Penn State offer, but is still very interested. In speaking with Tommy, he feels that he is one of the better guard prospects in the country, and 247Sports agrees with him, giving him the #13 guard ranking. He has told me that an offer from Penn State would put them high on his list. Coach Rahne visited his school a little while back, although he did not speak to Tommy directly. Standing at 6'3" 280 lbs, his size is really the only thing holding him back. He will surely play guard (or maybe even center) at the next level, but has the athleticism, the drive, and the confidence to do so at a high level. He holds nine offers currently, including ones from Indiana, Maryland, and Rutgers.
Simon Stepaniak was being recruited by Franklin at Vanderbilt, before receiving his Penn State offer at the end of January. Simon is a three star lineman who stands at 6'4" 287 lbs. He currently holds ten offers, including Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, and Cincinnati. Steven has plans to visit Ohio State soon, where he could very well end up picking up an offer. He has good, but not great agility, which could lead to him playing more on the inside rather than tackle (his height suggests the same).
Mike Horton was offered by Penn State on January 5th. He currently holds offers from Florida, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Virginia to name a few. The 6'5" 300 lb. future guard has the size and ability to be a dominant blocker on the inside. He already has ideal size for a guard, so the important thing for him to do now is continue to grow as a blocker.
Ricky DeBerry (Richmond, VA (St. Christopher's School)) ★★★★
Austin Bryant (Thomasville, GA (Thomas County Central)) ★★★★
Kyle Phillips (Nashville, TE (Hillsboro)) ★★★★
Ryan Buchholz (Malvern, PA (Great Valley Hs)) ★★★
Darius Fullwood (Olney, MD (Good Counsel)) ★★★
Shareef Miller (Philadelphia, PA (Frankford)) ★★★
Scott Patchan (Tampa, FL (Freedom)) ★★★
The Notes: Defensive end was a position that was vacant for nearly the entire 2014 cycle for the Nittany Lions, was briefly filled by Lloyd Tubman, and was subsequently opened up once again. Although this was perfectly acceptable for last year's class given the depth the current roster has at end, 2015 will likely see at least two defensive end commits. There are plenty of high profile targets Penn State has its foot in the door with already.
Ricky DeBerry has been a PSU target for quite some time now. The downside of that is that his main recruiter and most trusted coach was Larry Johnson. That's not to say that he is unfamiliar with James Franklin and co., however, as he took an unofficial visit down there this past summer. So the familiarity with the coaching staff is there, along with the familiarity with the school. Ricky currently holds offers from..well everybody. 47 different programs currently have offers standing for DeBerry, with the favorites seeming to be Baylor, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Michigan State, with Penn State and Ohio State not very far behind. Ricky has the potential to play either outside linebacker or defensive end at the next level, with the potential to develop into a devastating edge rusher.
Austin Bryant is someone who was being recruited heavily by Franklin down at Vanderbilt. He currently holds offers from 15 schools, including Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame, and Stanford. Austin does not yet have a visit scheduled for Penn State, but the staff is working to get the highly ranked recruit on campus. The pre-existing relationship with Franklin is surely a positive for the Nittany Lions. Bryant is effective at maneuvering around blockers, and has big potential as a pass rusher.
Kyle Phillips is another player who was being targeted by Franklin's Vanderbilt. Interestingly enough, Kyle's Crystal Ball was trending toward Vanderbilt in 2013, but has experienced a big shift since then. Tennessee has been the unanimous pick since November, including many flip picks from Vandy. Phillips is a good prospect versus both the run and the pass, although he obviously still has some room for improvement in both areas as well. Phillips currently holds offers from Alabama, Ole Miss, and Tennessee among others.
Ryan Buchholz was looking like he was going to potentially be the first commit in the 2015 class. While that obviously will not occur any more, he is still a heavy Penn State lean and could commit any day now. The 6'6" 235 pounder has good size for the defensive end spot, which is where he will play for the Lions. Ryan is one of a few different recruits who has a Crystal Ball page that is 100% blue and white. Ryan has a high motor and will fit in with Franklin's mantra of competing to earn your spot.
Darius Fullwood is another long time Penn State target, and one whose decision will seemingly come down to the Lions and the Buckeyes. He was very close to Larry Johnson during his time at Penn State, and his transfer to Ohio State surely both hurts the Lions and helps Ohio State. He also holds Georgia Tech, Virginia, and NC State in high regards. Fullwood is a very athletic prospect whose speed will help him get around offensive tackles at the next level. He is also a very good tackler who should be an asset in the run game. Franklin will need to buckle down to earn his pledge over Meyer's Buckeyes, but after seeing what he's done so far I wouldn't doubt him.
Shareef Miller is another candidate to commit sooner rather than later. The Philadelphia product was in State College this past weekend for Junior Day, and was subsequently offered by the staff.
I Love Penn State Mane— March 14♓️ (@____Chosen1) February 16, 2014
Shareef currently only holds offers from Penn State and Rutgers, which could help speed up his commitment. That being said, he is far from done with picking up offers, so his story is far from complete. The athletic 6'5" 218 lb defensive end still has work to do to prepare himself for D1 football, and the experience of his senior season of football will help that.
Scott Patchan is a great chance for the staff to dip into Florida's recruiting pool yet again. He just picked up his Penn State offer at the end of January, to go along with some high profile offers from Miami, Tennessee, Notre Dame, and Ohio State. Scott has had a fantastic high school career, including a strong junior season. He racked up six sacks as part of his 11 tackles for loss. He has good size at 6'5" 225 lbs, and has the potential to be a difference maker at the next level.
Trent Thompson (Albany, GA (Westover)) ★★★★★
Tim Settle (Manassas, VA (Stonewall Jackson)) ★★★★★
Christian Wilkins (Suffield, CT (Suffield Academy)) ★★★★
Adam McLean (Bethesda, MD (Quince Orchard)) ★★★★
Josh Alabi (Detroit, MI (Class Technical)) ★★★
The Notes: Defensive tackle was a position that Penn State addressed during 2014, but not quite to the degree they were hoping to. Losing Thomas Holley to Florida was a big hit, but an expected one once Larry Johnson decided to move on to Ohio State. Even with the additions from the 2014 class, Franklin could absolutely stand to add another DT in 2015.
Trent Thompson is as elite as they come. He holds a five star distinction from 247Sports, Rivals, Scout, ESPN, and my heart. (Fun note, if you search "Trent Thompson Rivals" on Google, this small white guy comes up). Trent is the number one defensive tackle recruit according to every site, and is listed as the top player in the entire country by Rivals. I could go on with some analysis, but really he just needs to add a little more weight and he'll be perfect. He was just offered by Penn State today (2/17/14), and can pick from any school he wants to play for. So why would Penn State offering make a difference you ask? Well..
Just got offer by #Pennstate I Like them a lot frfr one of the college I been wanted to offer me going to look at them some more— Westover_JollyJolly (@BigTrent_78) February 17, 2014
Remember how excited we all were about the potential of Jabrill Peppers committing to Penn State for 2014? Welcome to Jabrill Peppers hype 2.0. We are now officially all on #TrentWatch. Go get him, James.
Tim Settle is one of most highly rated recruits in the country. Penn State doesn't seem to be held in too high of regards as of right now. Ohio State, Alabama, and Virginia are the current favorites. With his lofty ranking it's easy to assume that he will slip out of Penn State fingers to the Alabamas of the world, and right now that seems to be the reality. Having the SEC flavor of James Franklin's resume may help with his recruitment, but it is still a little early on to tell. We'll have more as time goes on in regards to Settle.
Christian Wilkins is already looking like the Alex Bookser of the 2015 class, in that he is not much of a talker. He hails from the same hometown as newly verbally committed Nittany Lion, Jarvis Miller. He currently holds offers from 14 different programs, including Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State, and Stanford. his Crystal Ball page is currently an ice cream cone of defensive tackley goodness dipped in Ohio State sprinkles. It's yet to be seen if Jarvis Miller will help with the recruitment of Wilkins, but unless they have some serious high school beef, it couldn't hurt.
Adam McLean was originally interested in Penn State mostly due to Larry Johnson. He has an early top group consisting of Michigan State, Ohio State, Nebraska, Ole Miss, and Pitt. However, Adam just attended Penn State's Junior Day this past weekend, and reportedly had a great time. He is a player who has good speed off the line, and with added weight could probably play as a defensive tackle or a defensive end.
Josh Alabi picked up his Penn State offer on February 6th, to add to his collection of Big Ten offers (Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Nebraska). The Spartans are the current favorite for the Detroit recruit, and their high powered defensive reputation will be hard for another team to recruit against. Having only picked up his PSU offer very recently, there is still plenty to learn about Alabi and his recruitment. If you were able to sense the theme among all of these defensive tackles, there is still more research to be done and information to be revealed. Check the next roundup where I will hopefully have an update for you.
Justin Hilliard (Cincinnati, OH (St. Xavier)) ★★★★★
Jerome Baker (Cleveland, OH (Benedictine)) ★★★★
Chris Green (Toledo, OH (Central Catholic)) ★★★★
Kamonte Carter (Gaithersburg, MD (Gaithersburg)) ★★★★ (Committed 2/15/14)
Darrin Kirkland Jr. (Indianapolis, IN (Lawrence Central)) ★★★★
Jake Cooper (Warminster, PA (Archbishop Wood)) ★★★
Jordan Fox (Jersey City, NJ (St. Peter's Prep)) NR
The Notes: Linebacker U is not in the best shape right now. With depleted depth, the staff picked up a few solid recruits in 2014 with Troy Reeder and Jason Cabinda, but are definitely in the need of a few more in 2015. They already have offers out to many highly touted inside and outside linebackers, and have already earned the commitment of one (Carter). I wouldn't be surprised to see as many as three or four linebackers in this 2015 class.
Justin Hilliard is one of the top linebackers in the entire country. He earned his Penn State offer from O'Brien's staff. He does not hold an offer from Vanderbilt, so it's not entirely clear if he has any relationship with the new staff just yet. If he doesn't, then it is probably already too late to jump into the game for one of them premier linebacking recruits. If he shows any interest, bet on the staff giving it everything they've got, but it seems unlikely at this point for the five star stud.
Jerome Baker is an interesting case. He grew up in Cleveland, so he has the obvious Ohio State connections, who he grew up watching. However, he also grew up watching Penn State. This makes for quite an interesting recruiting battle. While his Crystal Ball suggests that this is not much of a battle at all, I think it will be a much closer fight than this. Jerome was just on campus for Penn State's Junior Day, and had a lot of positive things to say about the school. Jerome has every tool necessary to succeed at linebacker at the D1 level. He's on the shorter side, standing at 6'1", but that doesn't mean he can't still be a dominant force on the defensive side of the ball (Just look at Lavonte David). He plays with maximum effort and is very quick (he also plays running back in high school), and with more time in the weight room will have enough strength to punish any ball carriers that come near him. I spoke with Jerome following his Junior Day visit, so look for the full write up on that later in the week.
Chris Green also picked up his offer under O'Brien's staff. He was last on campus for the Michigan game, and it is unclear exactly how much contact he's had with the new staff. He is one of the more highly ranked inside linebackers in the country, and is gradually picking up more offers. At this point in time, he has scholarship opportunities to play for Bowling Green, Illinois, Kentucky, Toldeo, West Virginia, and Western Michigan. He also has received interest from the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State. For what it's worth, Chris has two Crystal Ball predictions as of right now. Both were made in February, and both picked the Nittany Lions.
Darrin Kirkland Jr. got an offer from Penn State last Thursday, after also receiving a Franklin offer from Vanderbilt. He's ranked a few spots ahead of Green in the 247Composite rankings for inside linebackers, and is already being favored to be choosing between Ohio State and Virginia Tech. Seeing as Kirkland only recently picked up his Penn State offer, not much has come out about his interest in the school so far. He plays with good instinct, and his film shows the ability to find the best route to the ball carrier. Kirkland would be a very solid pickup for the Lions.
Jake Cooper is a 3* inside linebacker from the same high school as good friend, Ryan Bates. He holds a solid offer sheet already, having scholarship opportunities from Boston College, Duke, Nebraska, Northwestern, Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse, and Temple, along with having interest from Florida, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Stanford. Jake is a highly instinctive linebacker who hits like a truck. He has good speed and has the ability to get to the ballcarrier and make a play. He also shows potential to play fullback at the next level. I spoke with Jake briefly about his offer, and he told me that he was "...doing front flips around the house." I asked if he had any idea when he was going to start narrowing down his options, and he told me that it is, "Still a little early at the moment, but I'm looking into narrowing things down soon!" This is all good news for Penn State, and Jake has been high on the Lions through the entirety of his recruitment. He can safely be considered a heavy Penn State lean. In fact, I Crystal Balled him to Penn State all the way back in June. Look for a commitment from Jake sometime in the next two weeks.
Jordan Fox is a high school teammate of both Brandon Wimbush and Minkah Fitzpatrick, so the staff has seen a lot of him just by the transitive property. Jordan does not have a Penn State offer in hand just yet, but was on campus for Junior Day. He holds some high profile offers from the likes of Nebraska, Miami, and Georgia, and his reputation is growing. Playing for one of the top teams in New Jersey is helpful, and his exposure will only continue to grow. Boston College is seen as the favorite as of right now, but that could change very quickly if Penn State decides to offer. This could also be an important move in persuading teammates Wimbush and Fitzpatrick to join the blue and white as well.
Minkah Fitzpatrick (Jersey City, NJ (St. Peter's Prep)) ★★★★★
John Reid (Philadelphia, PA (St. Joseph's Prep)) ★★★★
Jordan Whitehead (Monaca, PA (Central Valley)) ★★★★
Jauan Jennings (Murfreesboro, TN (Blackman)) ★★★★
Kareem Ali (Sicklerville, NJ (Timber Creek)) ★★★
Jarvis Miller (Suffield, CT (Windsor Locks)) ★★ (Committed 2/15/14)
The Notes: Finally, we have reached the defensive backs. Penn State was able to add to their depth at corner and safety with the 2014 class, but is still lacking the big name, big reputation guy to come in and make a difference right away. There are a few different names in the secondary for 2015 that Penn State is in on, that could provide that element.
Minkah Fitzpatrick has been the focal point for many schools' 2015 recruitment for some time now. He was one of the few juniors invited to The Opening last summer, and did not disappoint. He now holds a five star composite ranking, and is the #1 ranked player in New Jersey. As of right now, South Carolina, Ohio State, and Alabama seem to be the teams for beat for Fitzpatrick's signature, but Penn State is not dead yet. He camped at PSU this past summer, and liked what he saw. Franklin and his staff really need to work to get him back on campus (a potential visit with Brandon Wimbush could be plausible) if they are to have any shot at him in reality. Fitzpatrick is a complete cornerback prospect who is very capable of starting day one as a freshman. Fitzpatrick would be the jewel of this class, if the staff was able to nab him.
John Reid is another one of the most important pieces to Franklin's #DominateTheState puzzle. Yet another example of why eastern Pennsylvania is a 2015 recruiting hotbed, Reid is one of the top ranked corners in the country. Michigan and Notre Dame are showing legitimate interest alongside Penn State, but Franklin's Lions seem to be the team to beat as of right now. John's Crystal Ball page is 100% PSU right now, and includes a PSU prediction from one incredibly good looking BSD writer. While he may not be in line to commit early, like some of the other Penn State targets, he still looks to be destined to become a Nittany Lion. Reid, along with Sterling Jenkins, are the two most important tests to Franklin's desire to keep the top talent in Pennsylvania. Hopefully he can seal the deal on this one, even if it takes a little more time than he would like.
Jordan Whitehead is another highly ranked Pennsylvania corner, but unlike Reid, is currently favored to choose Ohio State. That being said, Coach Shoop visited Jordan back in January, and he was just on campus for Junior Day this weekend. His Crystal Ball is 92% Ohio state with an 8% splash of Penn State (via Cory James), but this battle is far from over. He holds offers from 11 different schools as of now, including Ohio State, Pitt, West Virginia, Michigan, and Michigan State. As most high school cornerbacks, he still has some work to do with developing his cover techniques, as the receivers will just continue to get bigger and faster at the D1 level, but he is extremely athletic and should have no problem doing so.
Jauan Jennings is one whose interest in Penn State will stem from his interest in Franklin at Vanderbilt. Penn State extended its offer to Jennings on January 28th (two days before Alabama threw an offer his way), and still seem to be feeling out the situation. Jennings was high on Vanderbilt with Franklin at the helm, so there is reason to believe he will give Penn State a fair opportunity to impress him. Jennings brings a lot of versatility, as he is listed as a QB/ATH/S by 247Sports. Safety is his likely college position, as he shows good play recognition skills. He has the potential to be a big hitter at the next level, with a solid 6'4" 185 pound (and room to grow) frame.
Kareem Ali looked like he was going to be the first 2015 commit for a while, possibly even before National Signing Day 2014. It seemed as if he was ready to make the call and did not, however, which makes it seem as if the old staff asked him to hold off of doing so for the time being. It is not yet truly known how the new staff regards Kareem, but a new set of coaches combined with a possible shunning of a commitment could lead Ali to look elsewhere to play his college ball. Penn State is still very much in it, and I believe that if they want him they will still have him, but that is the question. The early commitment though, certainly seems to be a lost cause.
So there you have it. Everything you need to know (for now) about the 2015 recruiting targets. As I mentioned in the beginning, there are obviously a ton of recruits that will end up receiving Penn State offers that I did not mention at all in this write up. Such is the fickle beauty of the recruiting process. If you're interested, here is my personal Crystal Ball page on 247Sports, so you can check out who I am predicting to where. To be completely honest, I don't use it all that often, because I simply forget about it. I'm going to try to remember to update it more often this cycle though, so it may be worth a look from time to time. I'm going to have a lot up this week, including a breakdown of Junior Day and four different interviews (Jerome Baker, Andre Robinson, Juwan Johnson, and one surprise). So check back every day for new recruiting content to spice up your monotonous mornings.
And before you ask, no I do not know the exact number that Penn State is going to take in the 2015 class. I am thinking 20, with the possibility for more should sanctions be further reduced. I have read as low as 15, but I don't think that will be the case. I'll update you on that situation when I can.
If you have any questions about anything you read, please contact me or leave a comment (I'm pretty good about checking them). #DominateTheState