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Blessed & Honored: Recapping Penn State’s Junior Day

It was a busy recruiting weekend in Happy Valley as the Nittany Lion coaching staff hosted their first junior day of the new calendar year

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Arkansas at Penn State Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

BUSY WEEKEND IN HAPPY VALLEY

Thankfully, the snowstorm held off until Sunday allowing for visitors to get to/from Happy Valley without much issue on Saturday. This led to James Franklin and his staff hosting an impressive contingency of visitors. Two of the most important were in-state recruits Ta’Mere Robinson and Quinton Martin.

Robinson is a four-star linebacker and a well known name among Nittany Lion fans who follow recruiting closely. The Brashear product is one of the best defensive players in the region for the 2023 cycle, as well as being one of Penn State’s top targets regardless of position.

While Robinson has been a regular on campus in recent months, this was his first time meeting new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. All signs point toward Robinson hitting it off with Diaz and being impressed on the visit. Penn State continues to be the likely leaders for Robinson at this point.

Martin is also a Pittsburgh area native hailing from Belle Vernon. In the early 2024 rankings Martin finds himself ranked 40th in the country by 247Sports. While his position at the next level is not yet clear what is clear is that he will be one of the most sought after recruits not just in Pennsylvania but in the entire country. The more Penn State can get him on campus and cultivate that relationship the better.

Staying with Pittsburgh area visitors, the Nittany Lions hosted a large contingency of visitors from Aliquippa. This group included 2024 prospects Brandon Banks and Cameron Lindsey, as well as 2023 product Donovan Walker.

The most important visitor representing the Quips was 2025 running back Tiqwai Hayes who is shaping up to be a big-time running back recruit.

Hayes was on campus during the season for the Michigan game. He also already holds an offer from the Nittany Lions. Hayes is a player that we should see popping up on campus with regularity in the coming years.

Despite being a small school. Aliquippa is a powerhouse in the state of Pennsylvania. It is also a school Penn State had struggled mightily to recruit prior to landing Zuriah Fisher in the 2020 cycle.

While Banks, Lindsey, and Walker may not be scholarship level prospects for Penn State, it certainly does not hurt to get them on campus and work on continuing to build that relationship with Aliquippa. Especially as the Nittany Lions will be recruiting Hayes hard.

There were also prospects on campus who made the trip to State College from Florida. This included four-star defensive tackle John Walker.

Walker was offered by the Nittany Lions in October. Penn State then landed in Walker’s list of top 5 schools that he released on Christmas Eve. This was Walker’s first visit to campus, however.

While Walker will have his choice from any major program in the country when he is ready to make a college decision, the Nittany Lions have put themselves in a better spot than could be asked for at this point in his recruitment. Walker making the trip to State College from Florida on his own dime, especially on a weekend with temperatures well below freezing, indicates a great deal on interest on his end.

Another four-star Florida prospect that made it to campus was Walker’s high school teammate, and fellow defensive lineman, Derrick LeBlanc. LeBlanc is a top-100 prospect on the 247Sports composite rankings, while being ranked 13th nationally by 247Sports. He is one of the top EDGE prospects in the 2023 cycle and has a long-standing relationship with Diaz due to his time at Miami.

To circle back to the region, the Nittany Lions hosted some of their top 2023 targets from the state of New Jersey. This included safety Jayden Bonsu.

Bonsu’s recruitment is one that has started to really take off in recent months. In addition to Penn State, he has picked up Power 5 offers from Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Miami, Clemson, Ohio State, and USC since November. This was Bonsu’s first visit to campus since being offered in November. The lone potential issue with Bonsu is that he attends St. Peter’s Prep. For those who follow Penn State recruiting closely, there is nothing that needs to be said about the relationship between SPP and Penn State.

Another 2023 New Jersey target who made it to campus was three-star athlete Moussa Kane.

Kane attends Blair Academy, which produced former Nittany Lion and current Baltimore Raven pass rusher Odafe Oweh. Kane is another recruit who has been a regular to campus I recent months. This was his fourth visit since June and the Nittany Lions appear to be in the driver’s seat in Kane’s recruitment right now.

One of the more surprising visitors this past weekend was 2023 quarterback Jake Strong who made the trip to Happy Valley from Texas.

While Strong’s recruitment is just now starting to take off, he appears to be a quarterback that Mike Yurcich is interested in and is high on. Considering Yurcich was the first Power 5 coach to identify/target Drew Allar as a legitimate quarterback prospect, Yurcich’s eye for QB talented should be trusted.

Staying in the state of Texas, offensive lineman Robert Sweeney also made the trip to campus.

Sweeney’s visit indicates a year interest in the Nittany Lions. If he makes it back to campus for another visit, all beats could be off on Sweeney and the Nittany Lions.

2024 tight end Brady Priekson was on campus for the first time this past weekend and walked away with an offer from the Nittany Lions.

Penn State joined Central Michigan as the second FBS program to extend a scholarship offer to the Rochester, Michigan, native. As Priekson begins to visit more campuses this spring look for his recruitment to begin to boom. The Nittany Lions getting in early as his Power 5 offer could help make them a big player throughout the duration of his recruitment.

An intriguing 2023 offensive lineman who attended junior day was Delaware product Anwar O’Neal.

O’Neal does not yet hold an offer from the Nittany Lions, but he does hold FBS offers from Maryland, Temple, and Pitt. At 6-foot-4, 250 pounds O’Neal appears to have good size and frame to add quality weight to as an offensive lineman. This visit was likely going to go a long way toward determining if the Nittany Lions would be ready to offer him or not.

Sam Pendleton was also among the big-time offensive line visitor to campus.

The North Carolina product already holds eight Power 5 offers, Pendleton could very possibly become an elite offensive line target. The Nittany Lions should be mainstays in this recruitment until the end.

Another noteworthy offensive line visitor was 2024 Virginia recruit Fletcher Westphal.

Westphal already holds a Penn State offer and could become one of the top offensive linemen in the region for the 2024 cycle. Westphal was also on campus for the White Out victory over Auburn back in September.

The elite offensive line visitors continues with Samson Okunlola.

Okunlola is a top-40 prospects from Brockton, Massachusetts. Okunlola’s recruitment is still moving slowly despite being an elite offensive line recruit. Penn State will look to continue to get Okunlola on campus any chance they can.

In-state linebacker Semaj Bridgeman also made it to campus.

The four-star Archbishop Wood product has been a regular visitor to campus in recent months. Bridgeman is another player who is likely to continue to pop up on campus in the coming months and throughout the rest of the cycle.