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Blessed & Honored: Visitors for Spring Practice, Defensive End Board & More

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Between the start of spring practices and visitors to campus has been a busy week in Happy Valley

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

VISITORS TO CAMPUS

One of the biggest names to make it to campus for a spring practice this past weekend was 2024 safety Edrees Farooq.

Farooq attends regional and national powerhouse St. Frances Academy in Baltimore. He has already visited campus multiple times and is shaping up to be one of the top defensive backs in the region for his class. To say Penn State has struggled to recruiting SFA since James Franklin arrived would be an understatement. That said, the more they can continue to get Farooq on campus the better.

Another notable visitor to campus was four-star running back Cameron Cook.

Cook made the trip to Happy Valley all the way from Round Rock, Texas. As is always the case when a player comes that far to make a visit on their own dime there is clearly interest in the program from that player. While Cook may be down on Penn State’s running back board some it certainly does not hurt to get him on campus for an unofficial visit, potentially paving the way for an official visit down the road.

Earlier in the week the Nittany Lions hosted a group of visitors from Christ The King Regional in New York.

This group included 2024 defensive back Mekhi Edwards and 2023 athlete Jaylin Lewis. The highlighter of the group, however, was recently offered defensive tackle Tyriq Blading.

Blading picked up an offer from the Nittany Lions in February and this was his first visit to campus since then. Over there years there have been plenty of under-the-radar prospects to come out of the state of New York that were difficult to identify due to playing against poor competition and playing for high school programs that are not always the best run.

Depending on where Blading falls on Penn State’s defensive tackle board he is a player who could pop up on campus again over the summer. Coming out of this visit the Nittany Lions likely have a better idea of where they stand on Blading and that will be something to watch in the coming weeks/months.

Another notable visitor earlier in the week was defensive end Michael Kilbane.

This was Kilbane’s second visit to campus this calendar year. It is obvious that the Ohio pass rusher is high on the Nittany Lions, the only question pertains to where he falls on Penn State’s board. If Kilbane is a take for the Nittany Lions then it is easy to envision him ending up in this class.

NEW OFFERS

Three-star Ohio linebacker Arvell Reese also made it to campus over the weekend. Following the visit, Reese went home with an offer from Penn State.

Penn State became the latest Power 5 program to offer Reese whose recruitment is starting to explode. In addition to Penn State, Michigan, USC, and the in-state Buckeyes have all offered Reese since March 1st. With Reese’s recruitment start to take off which schools earn return visits from Reese will be telling on which programs he is most interested in.

Another 2023 prospect to visit campus this past weekend and leave with an offer was cornerback Tayvon Nelson.

Nelson attends Canarsie High School in Brooklyn, the same school as current Nittany Lion defensive end Adisa Isaac. Penn State became his 11th Power 5 offer, joining Miami and Virginia Tech as his biggest offers. Penn State’s cornerback board appears to be pretty wide open as to who will join Lamont Payne in this class. It would not be a surprise to see Nelson return for an official visit later this spring or in the summer.

Another SFA player that was on campus was 2025 running bak Tomir Bransford who left campus with an offer.

While Bransford is just a freshman in high school it appears he will be one of the top running backs in the region for his class. Penn State joins Boston College and UMASS as programs that have offered, so the Nittany Lions getting in as his first big offer could prove beneficial as his recruitment begins to unfold. Regardless, it’s important to get in early with regional prospects such as Bransford.

Speaking of regional running backs for the 2025 cycle, DeMatha Catholic standout Bud Coombs Las picked up an offer from the Nittany Lions.

As is the case with Bransford it’s important for the Nittany Lions to get involved in a recruitment like this early. Especially with Coombs attending DeMatha Catholic which is a school Franklin and his staff have had success at in the past. Do not be surprised to see Coombs become a regular visitor to campus in the coming years.

TOP GROUPS

Penn State cracked a pair of top 5s this week, both of which are for important targets for the Nittany Lions. The first of these two top 5s is that of four-star in-state defensive end Jameial Lyons.

Lyons was on campus for junior day back in January and the Nittany Lions will land an official visit. Penn State is the likely team to beat in this recruitment as the Nittany Lions appear to be in a very good spot in his recruitment.

Penn State also finds themselves in the top 5 of four-star running back Treyaun Webb.

Webb is a former Oklahoma commit who backed off that pledge when Lincoln Riley left for USC. Even before he de-committed from the Sooners the Jacksonville product made his way to campus for a visit during the Michigan game. JaJuan Seider has pulled highly touted running backs from Florida before, it appears he has a chance to do it again for the Nittany Lions with Webb. His recruitment appears to be pretty wide open with the Nittany Lions having as good a shot as anyone.

CHECKING OUT THE DEFENSIVE END BOARD

Examining the current defensive end board, Avery likely remains near the top. Penn State will continue to recruit him and it would not be a surprise to see the Nittany Lions still get an official visit. Even though Penn State has had it happen this cycle with Mega Barnwell, re-commitments are rare. This is a re-commitment that is not impossible, though, which is more than can usually be said.

Desmond Umeozulu (Upper Marlboro, MD), Dylan Gooden (Olney, MD), and Mason Robinson (Owings Mills, MD) are three other defensive ends from Maryland to keep in mind. Umeozulu’s recruitment has exploded in recent months and will be the toughest of the three to land. Gooden attends the same high school as Avery, and is close with the family of Penn State safety Zakee Wheatley, while Robinson attends Penn State pipeline McDonough. It is easy to envision Gooden and Robinson ending up in this class, especially if the Nittany Lions push hard for them.

While recruiting services list him as an athlete five-star Nyckoles Harbor should be mentioned as well. The North Carolina native has Olympic speed in a 6’5”, 225 pound frame. While it is far from certain Harbor even plays college football due to his potential to be an Olympic sprinter, if he does his best position could very possibly be as a pass rusher and the Nittany Lions are consistently mentioned among his top schools.

Indianapolis area four-star Joshua Mickens was offered by the Nittany Lions on St. Patrick’s Day. Mickens is expected to make it to campus for a visit this spring/summer. David Ojiebe from St. John’s College in Washington D.C. is another name to watch as well.

A lot of attention also now turns toward the aforementioned Lyons. He has been rising up recruiting boards this spring and if the Roman Catholic product it is easy to see him ending up in the class. As we mentioned before the same can be said about Kilbane. IMG Academy product Cam Lenhardt is another defensive end who has been on campus this spring that the Nittany Lion coaching staff is keeping warm on the defensive end board.

While losing Avery from the class undoubtedly hurts Penn State has a deep, talented defensive end board this cycle. The staff should still be able to close with a strong defensive end class.