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Blessed & Honored: Penn State Welcomes Plenty of Top Prospects to Season Opener

James Franklin and his coaching staff had a number of important eyes in attendance for their 38-15 victory over West Virginia.

Syndication: York Daily Record Dan Rainville / USA TODAY NETWORK

Penn State already has 24 verbal commitments to its 2024 recruiting class, and quite a few of them were on hand to take in Beaver Stadium’s electric, pseudo-White Out atmosphere Saturday night.

Outside of those who have already committed to James Franklin and his program, a huge number of other Nittany Lion prospects were also in attendance for the season opener.

2024 Commits at the “Helmet Stripe”

The Nittany Lions’ top recruit in the class, four-star running back Quinton Martin, got a sideline view of the game on Saturday. The Belle Vernon native impressed with four scores in his team’s season opening victory over Laurel Highlands on Friday, and kept the good vibes rolling with a fun Saturday night at Beaver Stadium.

Erie offensive lineman Cooper Cousins, was also in attendance. He’s considered the second best player in the state by 247Sports, behind only his future teammate Martin.

Other 2024 commits at Saturday’s game were Pittsburgh wide receiver Peter Gonzalez, edge rusher Mylachi Williams, Philly defensive back Kenneth Woseley, and wide receiver Tyseer Denmark.

2025 Prospects

Along with those who are already committed to Happy Valley, several other potential commits were in the building for the 23-point win.

Four-star linebacker Dayshaun Burnett announced Saturday afternoon that he’d made the trip from Pittsburgh to State College. Burnett is currently ranked as the seventh-best player in Pennsylvania by 247Sports and is the No. 27 linebacker in the Class of 2025. He just kicked off his junior season for Imani Christian Academy this weekend.

247Sports doesn’t currently have him leaning towards any program just yet, but he’s also received offers from Michigan and Pitt, among others.

According to recruiting analyst Brian Dohn, four-star athlete Jeff Exinor Jr. was also at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. Exinor plays both receiver and defensive back at McDonogh High School in Owings Mills, Maryland. If the junior does end up playing for the Nittany Lions down the road, he’ll follow in the footsteps of several other McDonogh alums, including Curtis Jacobs, PJ Mustipher, and Dani Dennis-Sutton.

Also in attendance were four-star North Carolina tight end/defensive end Brady O’Hara, New Jersey linebacker DJ McClary, New Jersey lineman Jaelyne Matthews, defensive back Braswell Thomas, wide receiver Michael Thomas, Connecticut offensive lineman Owen Aliciene, and Aliquippa running back Tiqwai Hayes.

2026 & 2027 Prospects

Several other high school sophomore and freshmen football stars shook hands with James Franklin ahead of Saturday night’s contest.

Tyler Merrill, the Mechanicsburg native who’s considered the second-best interior offensive lineman in the class of 2026, shared a couple of photos from his trip to Beaver Stadium.

Merrill just kicked off his sophomore season of high school football, but he’s already received 12 scholarship offers from programs across the country, including Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State.

Other key appearances for the 2026 class were quarterback Nathan Bernhard and cornerback Kyshawn Robinson. Bernhard hails from Ashland, Ohio and snapped a flick with Drew Allar’s former quarterback guru, Brad Maendler.

Four-star running back Messiah Mickens, the only verbal commit thus far to Penn State’s 2026 class, was also at the game. The Camp Hill native was coming off of Trinity High School’s second win of the season, where he’s a star for head coach and former Penn State defensive tackle Jordan Hill.

Leading the way for 2027 representation were Larry Moon III and Xavier Sabb. Moon, who received a scholarship offer from Penn State this past July, is a cornerback at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh.

Sabb is a wideout prospect from Glassboro, New Jersey and is the younger brother of 2026 wide receiver Amari Sabb, who was also in attendance Saturday.

Other top recruits in the building were 2026 Cincinnati wide receiver Chris Henry (currently committed to Ohio State), linebackers Daiveon Taylor and Maurice Barnes, Philly quarterback Semaj Beals, and cornerback Dylan Abram.