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Blessed & Honored: Commits, Top Defensive Targets Visit Campus

Over the weekend the Nittany Lions hosted a large group of commits, and potential future commits, for one of the most important recruiting weekends of the year

NCAA Football: Penn State Spring Game Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports


Many times in recruiting there is nothing more effective than peer recruiting. That is what Penn State is hoping to hold true from this past weekend. Mega Barnwell, Anthony Donkoh, Joey Schlaffer, Alex Birchmeier, J’ven Williams, Conrad Hussey, Andrew Rappleyea, and Lamont Payne were all on their official visit to Penn State this past weekend.

These commits were joined by arguably Penn State’s two top remaining defensive targets in EDGE/linebacker Ta’Mere Robinson and linebacker Tony Rojas.

Entering the weekend the Nittany Lions likely led for both Robinson and Rojas. Coming out of the weekend, both of these leads appear to have been strengthened. It was important for Robinson to jive with new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and it appears that happened. In fact, coming out of the visit Robinson Tweeted that he will announce his college decision on July 15th. Miami and ex-Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry and Virginia Teach remain in play for Robinson as well, but all signs point toward the Nittany Lions being the pick on July 15th.

As for Rojas, Penn State has been the leader in his recruitment for months. They survived an offer and strong push from Clemson, and it now appears that they have done the same with Georgia.

There appears to be some parallels between Rojas’ recruitment and that of Dani Dennis-Sutton last season. As was the case with DDS, Penn State, as we said above, has long led for Rojas. A late push by Georgia made Penn State had to sweat things out with DDS last cycle, but his relationships with Penn State won out in the end. Right now, thanks in large part to relationships that have been built with the staff, the Nittany Lions appear to remain in good spot for Rojas. We will find out on July 5th.

Another top defensive target who was on campus for an official visit was safety King Mack.

Mack attends national powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, where he is a high school teammate of Hussey. After weathering the storm of a strong official visit to Michigan State last weekend the Nittany Lions appeared to enter the weekend as the leader in Mack’s recruitment. To be honest, it is a bit of a surprise he left the weekend without committing to the Nittany Lions. That said, as of now, whenever Mack ends his recruitment it appears Penn State will be the choice.

Four-star defensive lineman Tomarrion Parker was also an official visitor to campus this past weekend.

Parker has an official visit lined up to Michigan State this weekend, as well as fall OVs to Florida and Tennessee on the docket. Hailing from Phenix City, Alabama, pulling Parker out of the south will be difficult to do.

That said, coming out of the visit there is a lot of smoke that the Nittany Lions have emerged as Parker’s leader. This includes multiple future casts predictions on Rivals, including one by former BSD writer Dylan Callaghan-Croley, for Parker, as well as multiple crystal ball predictions over at 247Sports for Parker to choose the Nittany Lions. This may even be a recruitment that wraps up sooner rather than later. This could go down as one the most unpredictable and best recruiting wins for the James Franklin Era.

Staying with defensive linemen from the south, top 100 defensive lineman Derrick LeBlanc was also in town for an official visit.

Earlier in the spring LeBlanc made it to campus on his own dime for an unofficial visit. That being followed up with his official shows that there is legitimate interest in the Nittany Lions on his end. That said, pulling LeBlanc out of the south would take a monumental effort by the Nittany Lion coaching staff. Penn State will likely be a hat on the table throughout this recruitment, but it’s hard to envision LeBlanc ending up a Nittany Lion.

The St. Thomas Aquinas duo were not the only teammates from Florida that the Nittany Lions hosted this weekend. Four-star cornerback Ja’Keem Jackson, a teammate of LeBlanc’s, also made it to campus.

Much like LeBlanc, landing Jackson would take a hell of an effort by the Nittany Lions coaching staff. That said, it appears the coaching staff did more than ever could have even hoped for this weekend with Jackson. It would not be a surprise to see Jackson return to campus and give the Nittany Lions a legitimate look before making a fall decision.

An important official visitor from the offensive side of the ball was Scranton Prep running back London Montgomery. Like Mack, it was a surprise Montgomery left the weekend without committing to the Nittany Lions. As of now he still plans to officially visit Boston College this weekend before re-evaluating things in his recruitment. Ultimately, it appears that Montgomery becoming the running back in Penn State’s recruiting class is a question of when not if.