While Penn State’s 2019 recruiting class is not yet finished, the Early National Signing Day is in the rear view mirror. Let’s take a look at Penn State’s 2019 class superlatives so far.
BEST POSITION GROUP
This was a tough call with Devyn Ford and Noah Cain at running back, but we’ll go with linebacker, as Penn State brings in five-star Brandon Smith and four-star Lance Dixon.
Smith is the No. 25 overall player in the country, according to 247Sports Composite rankings. As for Dixon, he checks in at No. 195 nationally in the composite, but 247 Sports itself is much higher, ranking him No. 49 overall.
Smith has the tools to be a lengthy, physically linebacker that can man one of the box position. Meanwhile, Dixon is a heat seeking missile and a punishing hitter. He could play WILL or SAM, but seems like an ideal fit for the SAM.
Four-star Pittsburgh native Joey Porter Jr. could end up as a SAM linebacker as well. While Porter Jr. played cornerback in high school, he has the frame (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) to add the size needed to bump down to linebacker. He’s got some pretty good linebacker lineage, too.
There were a few options here, but the nod goes to running back Devyn Ford.
Penn State offered Ford early in his recruitment and got him on campus multiple times including a Whiteout victory over Michigan in 2017. Despite this, the Nittany Lions never appeared to be a true contender for Ford, with Virginia Tech and the SEC catching his eye.
As the calendar flipped from 2017 to 2018, Ford’s recruitment began to change. James Franklin and newly hired running backs coach JaJuan Seider are both relentless recruiters and neither ever gave up on Ford. This led to Ford popping up on campus for a Junior Day in February, and from there, the Nittany Lions started to work their way back into the picture.
Even though Penn State was back into the picture, the in-state Virginia Tech Hokies were still viewed as the favorites to land a commitment from Ford. But James Franklin and Co. completely turned the tide during Ford’s official visit for Blue-White weekend, and in the end, edged out the Hokies for Ford’s commitment a month later.
Prior to his official visit in June, there appeared to be close to a zero percent chance John Dunmore would end up a Nittany Lion. But after a great official visit, and thanks in large part to his longstanding relationship with running backs coach JaJuan Seider, Dunmore committed to the Nittany Lions on July 4.
Following his commitment, Dunmore appeared solid to the Nittany Lions for a long time. But southern recruiting is a different creature, and committed players almost always take visits elsewhere. Dunmore would prove to be no different.
Living approximately 15 miles from the University of Miami’s campus, Dunmore began to pop up on campus at practices and games for the Hurricanes. This included an official visit to Coral Gables last weekend.
Despite the late push from the hometown Hurricanes, Dunmore remained committed to the Nittany Lions. Landing Dunmore took a big time effort from Franklin, Seider, and wide receivers coach David Corley on the recruiting trail. But they made a statement by going into South Florida and plucking one of the best wide receivers prospects in the country while fighting off southern schools.
MOST UNDERRATED PLAYER
Maybe it’s due to him only earning three offers because once the hometown Nittany Lions offered it was over. Maybe it’s because he slips the minds of some Penn State fans since he was the first member of the 2019 class and has been committed for 15 months. Regardless of the reason, cornerback Keaton Ellis does not get the recognition he deserves. He’s ranked as the No. 309 best player nationally in the 247Sports Composite rankings, but that is probably still too low.
Despite winning MVP of “The Opening Columbus Regional” over the summer, Ellis was not bumped to being a four-star prospect until he had a dominant senior season for the State High Little Lions.
Ellis is a superb athlete and a playmaker. Not only can he make an impact at cornerback, but he can be a lethal return man as well. Mix in that Ellis is enrolling at Penn State next month, and the opportunity is there for him to make an immediate impact in the fall.
I will preface this by saying multiple members of this class will play right away in the fall, but the player positioned to make the biggest impact in 2019 is JUCO safety Jaquan Brisker.
Brisker is a player that the coaching staff has loved since he was in high school at Gateway outside of Pittsburgh. However, academic issues put Brisker on the JUCO path post-high school. To his credit, Brisker worked his tail off at Lackawanna Community College, got his grades in order, and is now a Nittany Lion.
Penn State loses starting safety Nick Scott following the Citrus Bowl, opening the door for Brisker to earn a starting role. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Brisker has the size and athleticism to be the all-around safety the Nittany Lions need opposite Garrett Taylor. While Jonathan Sutherland, Ayron Monroe, and Lamont Wade will also vie for the job, be sure to keep an eye on Brisker.