With the hoidays approaching, a bowl game to prep for, a month long dead period, and a precious few scholarships remaining, things have slowed down considerably for Penn State on the recruiting trail. With just those few spots (5?) left to fill out James Franklin's full class at PSU, Nick and I decided to take a look at who we expect to fill out the Class of 2015.
Christian Wilkins - Christian is undoubtedly the biggest fish left on Penn State's board, and if you go by the 247 Crystal Ball predictions, the Lions are a heavy favorite to land the 4-star DT from Connecticut. Christian has not spoken to reporters much at all throughout the process, so any decision timeline would be a guess at this point. However, he has completed his 5 official visits, so a decision could come anytime. He is participating in the Under Armour All-American game after the new year, and things may clarify somewhat in Florida.
Shareef Miller - The 3-star defensive end from Philly's George Washington High School has long held the Lions in high regard. There were some grade concerns early on, but those appear to have been addressed, and PSU appears to be in the drivers seat to land him. He will be officially visiting State College on January 23rd, a date Franklin has encouraged many of this year's class to take their official visit. Miller plans to visit Miami the following weekend, but I would not be surprised if that changes after spending a weekend in Happy Valley.
Johnny Petrishen - The Pittsburgh Central Catholic 3-star Safety/Receiver prospect did not pick up his Penn State offer until late November, but the Lions stand an excellent chance to pick up, in my opinion, a very underrated player. Petrishen is expected to take his official visit to PSU on that same January 23rd weekend as Miller and most of the other members of the class. Pitt and Virginia appear to be the other favorites, but with the uncertainty atop the Panthers program following Paul Chryst's departure, this could turn into a battle between UVA and PSU.
Nick Bowers - Nick committed to Pitt back in January of this year, and has remained with the Panthers ever since. However, he visited Penn State back in October for the Ohio State game, and continues to show interest in the Lions. With Jonathan Holland planning to play tight end at PSU, it appeared Bowers may stick with Pitt, but the staff continues to pursue him aggressively. No official visit has been set up as of now, but that can change quickly. If he does make it campus (keep that January 23rd date in mind again), things will look very good for PSU
Kamaal Seymour - Kamaal is a BTPR verbal commitment, but after picking up an offer from James Franklin the day of the Michigan State game, he has certainly shown an interest in PSU. If there was any doubt over the state of his BTPR commitment, he also visited UCF earlier this month. His official visit date has yet to be finalized, but it's looking like he will be in Happy Valley next month as well.
I set out writing this with the goal of at least trying to pick a different final five from Matt. I was unsuccessful. However, it's not that I completely agree with everything he wrote. I do have Wilkins, Miller, and Petrishen all in my final group as well, but after that, I don't think there are any easy answers. Bowers is certainly a possibility, but I think Jonathan Holland's switch to the tight end spot may have thrown him off a bit. Seymour is also very possible, and I do enjoy reading Rutgers message boards after a commit flips to Penn State, but I won't say he'll flip until that visit date is finalized. However, I don't feel confident enough in anyone else to truly peg them for a spot. So instead, I'm going to do this...
Possible Remaining Targets
Jordan Whitehead - The cornerback from Central Valley is still committed to Pittsburgh, yes. However, he did decide to delay his early enrollment, so the staff has from now until February 4th to put the full court press on Whitehead. It's very possible that the Panthers end up with a fantastic coach like Pat Narduzzi, in which case Whitehead is as good as a Panther. There is still reason for slim optimism, though. Thanks to Garrett Taylor and John Reid, getting Whitehead is no longer the necessity for James Franklin that it was before his Pitt commitment. This gives the staff some flexibility in his recruitment. One of his biggest desires is early playing time. The staff no longer has to keep him locked in at cornerback. They can offer him a chance at the kick return role immediately, they can get him work at receiver, all while still letting him fight for a job in the secondary.
If I had to put a percentage on it, I'd say the chances Whitehead is a Nittany Lion are still 10% or lower, but it's not impossible. If he does de-commit from Pitt though, West Virginia is my first pick.
Grant Newsome - The Michigan commit from New Jersey is still a very firm Wolverine commit. He has made it known that he committed for the school, not the coach, which is why he has stuck around through the turmoil. He has also made it known that Penn State's coaches haven't let up in their pursuit of him. It would appear that he still really likes the Penn State coaching staff, and they would be the clear favorites should he waver in his Michigan commitment. The only way that will possibly occur will be if they hire a coach that Newsome really just can't stand, which isn't likely. I'd pin the chances for Newsome at 7% or lower.
Austrian Robinson - The first defensive tackle offered in the wake of Adam McLean's de-commitment doesn't seem to have a ton of Penn State interest, but there is still a tiny sliver of hope. His visit for the Michigan State game went very poorly, as he had tons of difficulty parking and left before the game ended, which is one of the downsides of a school being in the northern part of the country. He is a very heavy lean to Maryland, and just visited College Park again early this month. Should something keep him from becoming a Terp, Penn State will likely be the first school he calls. But for now, it appears that the Lions late push wasn't enough, and the less-than-stellar visit certainly didn't help.
Tyler Howell - The JuCo offensive lineman is someone whose name has been said a lot recently among Penn State fans, but that's probably more a result of the desire for a quick fix on the line than anything else. Howell is looking mostly at southern schools for now.
Random Unnamed Player - This is my pick for the 25th guy in the 2015 recruiting class. Similar to when Christian Campbell committed to Penn State just two days before Signing Day last year and Torrence Brown on Signing Day itself, I think Franklin will cherry pick a kid from somewhere along the Bible Belt to continue to help increase their presence in the southern states. A guy like Christian Campbell wasn't very highly recruited last year, but his early success has surely opened some eyes for someone in his home state of Alabama. It certainly doesn't hurt to grab a guy like that every year.
So there you have it. National Signing Day 2015 is only 45 days away. There is still a lot that can happen in that time, especially with all the coaching changes. So join us in looking back on this work in 30 days or so, and laughing at how wrong we were.
Other News and Notes
Sterling Jenkins, Tommy Stevens, and Paris Palmer Enroll Early
Neither of these enrollments were surprising, like every early enrollment ever, but it's always nice to see the guys finally put their names on the dotted line anyway. Even though Palmer actually signed his letter a week or so ago, join us in congratulating these three find student athletes who have the best years of their lives head of them.
Dominate the State
After what was a truly remarkable season from start to finish, Archbishop Wood captured their second straight PIAA Class AAA Championship a little more than a week ago. Penn State commits Jake Cooper and Ryan Bates were both integral players for the team both years, and they tore through some of their future teammates to get to the top. In their opening game of the season, they took Shane Simmons' DeMatha Catholic squad apart to the tune of 34-13. They would rattle off victories in nine of their next ten contests, before clashing with and defeating Penn State target 2016 TE Naseir Upshur and Imhotep Charter in the playoffs. From there, they dismantled Ryan Buchholz's Great Valley, and eventually met up with Jordan Whitehead and his Central Valley teammates in the final. Despite a herculean effort from an injured Jordan Whitehead, Bates and Cooper were able to walk off of the field as champions once more.
I'll have each of Penn State's commits' high school stats listed as part of my National Signing Day coverage this year, but if you want to check out how they all did right this second, go check out Ryan Snyder's great run down over on BWI ($).
Future Penn Staters were also active in the award season for the AAA division of Pennsylvania. Bates, Cooper, Buchholz, and Andre Robinson (whose Bishop McDevitt squad fell to Whitehead's Central Valley in the semi-finals) all were named to the first team. Congratulations, guys!
Other Links and Link$
- Sean Fitz of Lions247 has a Senior Spotlight for CB John Reid.
- Jake Cooper is awesome, and you should listen to his interview.
- Shane Simmons and Jonathan Holland were both named to the Washington Post All-MET teams.
- Southern New Jersey handed out some football awards. Juwan Johnson was named the wide receiver of the year. Bill Belton was named one of the college players of the year.
- Also in New Jersey news, the HCIAL (Hudson County Interscholastic League) named their players of the year as well. Steven Gonzalez was named a first team player on both offense and defense, and teammate Daiquan Kelly was named a first team safety. Also appearing on the list as the offensive player of the year and first team QB was former Penn State commit, Brandon Wimbush, as well as former target Minkah Fitzpatrick being named the player of the year, a first team wide receiver, and a first team defensive back.
- Jarvis Miller was also honored following an extremely productive senior season, and was named a first team defensive back by the CHSCA (Connecticut High School Coaches Association).