Will Fries Update
With the HUGE commitment from OT Michal Menet (Exeter, PA), Penn State finds itself in an excellent position as far as recruiting the offensive line is concerned. They now hold commitments from a top five center, an offensive tackle with the size to make Herb Hand drool and one of the highest rated linemen in the country who has the ability to play all five positions on the line. This gives James Franklin and company the ability to become very selective with their remaining targets. One of those targets is offensive tackle Will Fries (Cranford, NJ). The composite three star tackle who has been on Penn State's radar for some time now recently took a visit to Michigan.
He told me that it was a great time, and that he and his father both really enjoyed the trip. He's still hearing from the Penn State coaching staff a lot, and although he isn't planning on naming a top group publicly, he has one in his mind and confirmed that the Nittany Lions are in it. Finally, he told me that he thinks he will be making his decision "soon". I put in my Crystal Ball for the good guys last night. It's very possible that Menet's commitment has sped up Fries' timeline, knowing that there is only so much room. From here, Penn State fans just need to watch and wait.
Top Groups and Commit Dates
Oluwole Betiku, one of the top defensive ends in the country and one of the best players in the state of California, named his top six this past week.
Top six. Thanks!!! pic.twitter.com/bWQfntPCpH
— Oluwole Betiku (@Kingwole47) May 30, 2015
Florida, Texas A&M, Florida State, Penn State, Notre Dame and UCLA made the final cut. For those who don't know, Betiku's guardian is former Penn State great LaVar Arrington. Arrington has said in the past that he won't push Betiku to a school because of his own personal connections, but they are clearly having an impact on his recruitment regardless. Many see Penn State and UCLA as the two main contenders here. Penn State has the advantage of being Penn State and having been the school that Arrington made himself famous with. UCLA has the advantage of Tom Bradley, with whom Arrington is still very close. The families have been friends for some time, so the Bruins may be the Nittany Lions' main competition.
Two other Penn State targets have also made progress in moving through their recruitments, and have set commitment dates. OT Josh Ball (Fredericksburg, VA) and WR Trevon Diggs (Rockville, MD) are both still considering Penn State.
Changed my Commitment date from Sunday June 7th to Friday June 5th. Stay Tuned!
— Joshua (@joshball515) May 31, 2015
I will be announcing my Commitment on the 4th of July! In June I'll be visiting Alabama, LSU, Tennessee, Miami, auburn, VT and Georgia
— Lit•Papi•1⃣ (@TrevonDiggs) May 31, 2015
You can read more about each of them on 247Sports (Ball and Diggs). Ball's interest in Penn State remains high, but following an extremely successful trip to Florida State, many people (and the Crystal Ball) believe he is leaning toward the Seminoles. Diggs publicly named Alabama his leader over a month ago, and nothing seems to have changed in that regard. He's spent a lot of time at Penn State over the past few years, and has a good relationship with the coaching staff. It would take something special to keep him from Tuscaloosa, though. In fact, Maryland has probably jockeyed themselves into the second position on his list with the commitment of good friend, QB Dwayne Haskins (The Bullis School, MD). Both are long shots, but Penn State has hung around in their recruitments longer than many others.
The Opening: Columbus
If you follow me on twitter, you probably saw one of the hundreds of vines/pictures I retweeted from The Opening camp in Columbus this past weekend. There was a lot for Penn State fans to be excited about, most notably, Miles Sanders earning his invitation to The Opening main event in Oregon.
Sanders will join Penn State commits DE Shane Simmons and CB Lavert Hill in Eugene, although there are still more invitations to be passed out. Sanders wasn't done there though, as he also earned the running back MVP distinction. Sanders is making a habit of standing out as the most impressive running back wherever he goes, but this was a special performance. To earn that MVP, he beat out 247Sports' number one rated running back in Demario McCall (Ohio State commit) and the composite number one all purpose back in Tavien Feaster (Clemson commit). With the way Sanders has been performing, it wouldn't be surprising to see him leapfrog one or two more guys in the running back rankings, because he's making a solid argument for the number one spot.
Sanders wasn't the only Penn State commit who enjoyed a strong day in Columbus. QB Jake Zembiec (Aquinas Institute, NY) was out competing to earn his spot in the Elite 11 finals. While he hasn't yet been informed whether or not he qualified, he had a fantastic day on the field according to several analysts on the scene. In fact, along with 2017 Penn State target Hunter Johnson, Zembiec was consistently pointed out as one of the most impressive quarterbacks in attendance.
Zembiec is gearing up for his senior season, after missing nearly all of his junior year due to injury. He will surely be looking to make up for lost time during his final high school semester, prior to enrolling early.
Not to be outdone, Hunter Johnson did what he's done everywhere he's been-dominated. As I mentioned, he was named along with Zembiec as one of the most impressive quarterbacks in attendance, often being pointed out as the singular best, as well. Johnson is still in the process of narrowing things down, but Penn State sits in excellent position. They did themselves a huge favor by getting involved in his recruitment so early on, and its helped them remain firmly in the hunt alongside Johnson's hometown Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Also making some noise were some other Penn State targets (click their names for video), such as OG Michael Onwenu, 2017 DB Paris Ford, 2017 DB Lamont Wade and 2017 OL Robert Hainsey. SB Nation Recruiting's Bud Elliot was able to speak with Onwenu and Hainsey a bit about their recruitments and Penn State.
Onwenu told Elliot that Michigan and Penn State are his top schools as of right now. He grew up a Michigan fan, but has grown very fond of Penn State thanks to the coaching staff. He sees the opportunity for early playing time in both Ann Arbor and State College. He mentioned that Penn State is helped a bit by the fact that they have a verbal commitment from his former teammate and friend, Lavert Hill. Elliot still believes he is headed for Michigan. I agree, but the Wolverines are also heavily pursuing Terrance Davis, and appear to be the favorite for him as well. Another committed offensive guard at Michigan may push Onwenu towards Penn State, who doesn't yet have a true guard in the 2016 class.
Hainsey (Gateway, PA) was one of the underclassmen who competed at the event, trying to earn a coveted underclassmen invite to The Opening. He wasn't able to walk away with one, but he turned plenty of heads anyway. Hainsey visited Ohio State the day before the camp, and enjoyed himself. He doesn't yet hold an offer from the Buckeyes, but told Elliot that he expects to get one sooner rather than later. Penn State has been the school he's visited the most, and he has a great relationship with Coach Terry Smith, who is Gateway's former head coach. He told Elliot that his father and Coach Smith talk frequently. The Nittany Lions have also told him that he will have the chance to earn early playing time.
Hainsey grew up a Penn State and Ohio State fan (it's remarkable how many kids grew up that way), so the Nittany Lions definitely have a lot of things working in their favor here. It won't be easy to keep him from Michigan State and Ohio State, but the staff has done a great job positioning themselves early on.
As mentioned above, Miles Sanders took home the running back MVP honors, while Penn State target Damar Hamlin walked away as the most valuable defensive back. All in all, it was quite the day.
That's all for today's Committany Nation. Keep checking back to BSD all week though, as we'll be stuffed full of hot new recruiting content. Tomorrow, Matt and I will release our revised predictions for the 2016 recruiting class, as well as a brand new recruiting podcast. Later in the week (after all of the new Rivals rankings have been released) we will also take a look at the rest of the Big Ten classes so far in our State of the Union. Keep calm and croot' on.