Penn State did much of its work in December, locking in 22 prospects during the Early Signing Period. Still, the work is not done on the 2018 recruiting trail as the Nittany Lions await the announcements of Rasheed Walker, Solomon Enis, and Shaquon Anderson-Butts.
Finalists: Penn State, Ohio State, and Virginia Tech
While Rasheed Walker will be choosing from three hats on Wednesday, this is a two-horse race between Penn State and Ohio State. The Nittany Lions have been the team to beat for most of Walker’s recruitment, and there was even some speculation that he was close to making the call for Penn State back in July. Obviously, Walker held off, which gave the Buckeyes enough time to claw their way back into his recruitment.
Walker said there’s three things he’s looking for in a school: the relationship with players and coaches, the graduation rate, and the ability to prepare him for a career in the NFL. He also, reportedly, wanted to stay close to home so distance was a factor, which was why SEC schools never made much headway in his recruitment.
When you look at those four factors, Penn State beats out Ohio State for three of them — proximity to home, life after football, and relationship with players/coaches — while the Buckeyes clearly win out the NFL aspect. Four Ohio State offensive linemen have been drafted during Urban Meyer’s tenure, while just one Penn State lineman (Donovan Smith) has been drafted with James Franklin at the helm.
Looking at life after football, of course Walker could get a great education at either university, but from a football program perspective, Penn State beats out Ohio State rather handily in graduating their players. The Nittany Lions boast a 84% graduation rate, while the Buckeyes graduate just 69%; six-percent below the average for NCAA football programs, and the worst of all Big Ten programs.
Most importantly though, recruiting comes down to relationships, and that’s where Penn State truly sticks out. While the Buckeyes have turned up the heat the last couple months, Walker has been Penn State’s top offensive line recruit for almost two years. He has a great relationship with James Franklin, Matt Limegrover, and Tyler Bowen, and is also close with the Penn State 2018 class, having been in Happy Valley with them for big recruiting events like the Lasch Bash and his official visit weekend.
Ohio State gave Walker a ton to think about, but I expect the Nittany Lions to be the pick on Wednesday. I’ve said it a few times over the last couple of weeks, but in the end, I believe familiarity and comfortability wins out here.
Prediction: Penn State
Finalists: Penn State, Utah, Arizona State, and USC
At one time, Solomon Enis looked like a good bet to follow in his father’s footsteps and commit to Penn State. But after deciding not to sign in December, I questioned what that meant for Enis’ recruitment. It just seemed off that if Penn State was the clear choice, why Enis wouldn’t put pen to paper during the Early Signing Period.
This was especially odd because there really wasn’t any other school that appeared to be a true contender. He officially visited Utah in early October (still his only other official visit to this point), but at that time few believed the Utes were that much of a player. We also knew Enis liked USC, but the Trojans never really pushed for the four-star wideout. Toss in that both Arizona schools were going through coaching changes, and there were no obvious options for Enis.
As the old saying goes, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Whatever the reasoning, something held Enis back from making the call for Penn State in December. Could the issue have been resolved since then? Perhaps, but I think it’s more likely that Enis stays out west.
Finalists: Penn State and ???
The lone member of Penn State’s class not to sign with the Nittany Lions in December, Shaquon Anderson-Butts is expected to make his college choice official this Wednesday, but this situation isn’t black-and-white. Anderson-Butts has some academic concerns, and those probably won’t be straightened out until later this year. I honestly don’t have a great feel for the situation here, but even if Anderson-Butts signs with Penn State on Wednesday, that doesn’t guarantee he’ll be enrolling with the rest of the class come June.
Prediction: Penn State