Yesterday we took a look at how Penn State stands offensively on the recruiting trail in 2019. Today we’ll take a deeper dive into the defensive side of the ball.
Defensive Tackle - 2
Penn State doesn’t very often take “true” defensive tackles. Instead, they prefer taking bigger defensive ends and moving them inside, and I’d expect that to be the case in 2019 too. New Jersey’s Antonio Alfano has to be high up on the board, but after transferring from Bergen Catholic to Rahway High School, his recruitment has been in a bit of flux the past couple months. Penn State and Alfano had a strong relationship prior to changing high schools, so we’ll see if that’s still the case.
Recently offered Hakeem Beamon appears to be a nice option to move inside. He’s currently committed to North Carolina, but that’s a “soft” commitment at best. David Ojabo — a teammate of Jayson Oweh — is another kid who could grow into a defensive tackel, but he’s still waiting on a Penn State offer. Steven Faucheux of Ohio does have a Penn State offer, but not sure how hard the Nittany Lions are pushing there. Elijah Wroten is a Pennsylvania kid to know. He’ll probably need to camp in the summer to land an offer, but has good size at 6-foot-3, 297 pounds.
Defensive End - 3
Defensive end is one of the stronger positions in the region, and because of their positionla versatility, I think you see the Nittany Lions take a three-man group in 2019. Leading the way is five-star Zach Harrison. The Ohio native will be incredibly difficult to steal from the in-state Buckeyes, but Penn State appears to be the biggest threat to Ohio State. Noah Potter is another Ohio product that will be an Ohio State-Penn State battle, but even more so than Harrison, the Buckeyes are big favorites.
On a more positive note, Penn State is a major contender for Brandon Smith of Virginia. While Smith is currently being recruited as a linebacker, I think his size and frame (6-foot-5, 215 pounds) will have him end up on the defensive line. Smith has offers from just about everywhere — Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, etc. — so his recruitment will be a dogfight, but the Nittany Lions are in a good spot in the early going.
Joseph Wete (Washington DC) is another name to know. He’s been to Penn State four times — most notably for the Pitt and Michigan game — already, so his relationship with the staff should be strong. He’s not close to a commitment, but I don’t think it’s far-fetched to believe that the Nittany Lions lead here.
New York’s Adisa Isaac landed an offer from Penn State on Wednesday, and should be a kid who sees his offer list grow. Not sure he’s quite the specimen Jayson Oweh, but I could see him having that type of recruitment; slow in the beginning before blowing up in the spring. One other name I’d keep an eye on is RJ Oben from New Jersey. Another big kid (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) who should land some bigger offers.
Linebacker - 2
We’ve mentioned Pennsylvania is down in 2019, but there’s actually quite a few linebackers who are offer worthy. Andre White already has an offer, and I think it’s safe to say the Nittany Lions lead. Two other notable PA kids who are currently without Penn State offers: Keith Maguire and Kyi Wright. Maguire already has offers from Notre Dame and Ohio State, so if the Nittany Lions want to get involved, they’ll need to offer soon.
Outside of the state, Shane Lee of Maryland is definitely in play. Would expect Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State, and Notre Dame to all be a factor there. Osita Ekwonu (North Carolina) has blown up as of late, landing offers from the Nittany Lions, Buckeyes, and Wolverines. Michigan’s Lance Dixon will also be an option, but both in-state schools probably lead for him.
Safety - 3
There’s a lot of really good safeties interested in the Nittany Lions. Let’s start with Lewis Cine of Massachusetts. He’s been to Happy Valley twice already, and the Nittany Lions have a significant lead on the 247Sports Crystal Ball. DeMarcco Hellams (Maryland) is another big-time prospect who Penn State most likely leads for right now. Both Cine and Hellams have great size and length at 6-foot-2, but most importantly, are terrific athletes who have the quickness and speed to thrive on the backend.
Khalid Martin of North Carolina has Penn State in his top four along with NC State, Maryland, and Virginia Tech. Noa Pola-Gates (Arizona) just travelled across the country to visit Penn State for a Junior Day. There’s also Litchfield Ajavon (Virginia) and Nick Cross (Maryland) as other more local options with offers. Tykee Smith of Pennsylvania doesn’t have a Penn State offer, but is an intriguing kid. Ton of options here.
Cornerback - 3
Penn State already has Keaton Ellis committed, but I think they take at least one more, and possibly two more. The Connecticut duo of Marquis Wilson and Tyler Rudolph (who could also play safety) probably top the board; for Rudolph specifically, the Nittany Lions sit very well. Ohio State recently offered both, which should make things more challenging for Penn State.
One-time 2020 prospect turned 2019 prospect Sheridan Jones (Virginia) still remains a hight target too. Cam’Ron Kelly (Virginia) visited Happy Valley for the Georgia State game, but will be a tough pull from Southern schools. Nyquee Hawkins (New Jersey) is still a name to keep an eye on, although Penn State has slowed down its pursuit of the Jersey prospect.