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PSU enjoys successful weekend

May 11, 2008
By Philip Cmor,
UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State entered the weekend with a lot of question marks pertaining to its 2009 football recruiting class.

The Nittany Lions head into today with potentially three-fourths of its future secondary in place, a healthy dose of momentum heading into the summer and a potential candidate to take over for Mike McQueary as recruiting coordinator a few years from now.

In less than 24 hours, Penn State landed verbal commitments from highly ranked cornerback Darrell Givens of Lackey High School in Indian Head, Md. and fast-rising free safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong of John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx, N.Y.

Obeng-Agyapong committed on Friday. Givens switched from a commitment he had made to Ohio State a few hours before both players took the field at Penn State’s Holuba Hall for the Nike Training Camp, although, by NCAA rule, no college coaches were allowed to attend.

They are the fourth and fifth players to commit for this class. Among the recruits that preceded them was strong safety Malcolm Willis, a teammate of Givens at Lackey who also struck up a friendship with Obeng-Agyapong when they visited Penn State at the same time.

An engaging personality, Willis might be to this year’s Nittany Lion class what Aaron Maybin was a couple of years ago — a player who successful recruits future teammates. Even while he smiled about two of his friends joining him at Penn State, he went on to talk about how they were already trying to get others, like five-star Maryland linebacker Jelani Jenkins.

‘‘I was talking to [Givens] about it for a few weeks. He was already thinking about it,’’ Willis said. ‘‘He told me he was decommitting [from Ohio State]. I said, ‘OK, let’s take it over.’

‘‘It feels good. It’s going to be a lot more comfortable, because I’m already going to know people that are coming in.’’

Ironically, Givens had tried to talk Willis into committing with him to the Buckeyes when they were in Columbus for Ohio State’s spring game on April 19.

Givens (6-foot-1, 178 pounds) had a long list of scholarship offers, including those from Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon, Michigan, Virginia Tech and childhood favorite Miami.

‘‘I felt I could come in here as a freshman and make an impact earlier than I could at Ohio State,’’ Givens said.

Givens is a major get for the Lions. He is the seventh-ranked cornerback in the class according to As a junior he had 82 tackles, seven pass breakups, three interceptions, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries while making first-team all-state off a 10-3 team. He is not only tall for a corner; he also possesses a 36-inch vertical jump.

‘‘It’s going to be the college level, but there still aren’t going to be a lot of big corners,’’ Givens said when asked why he felt he could play quickly for Penn State. ‘‘Me being a big corner with long arms and being very physical is going to help me a lot.’’

Givens said he patterns his game after DeAngelo Hall.

The 5-11, 177-pound Obeng-Agyapong picked the Nittany Lions over Maryland, UConn, Buffalo and Iowa. Considered a Penn State lean for awhile, it was expected he’s commit after visiting Iowa, but he never made that trip.

Obeng-Agyapong went to the same high school as current Penn State players Stephfon Green, Nerraw McCormack and Shaine Thompson.

‘‘I just weighed all my options. How close it was to home. The quality of football here. How good of a coach Coach [Kermit] Buggs is,’’ said Obeng-Agyapong, whose commitment actually didn’t come out until the end of camp when Willis spilled the beans. ‘‘It helped [with my decision] coming in and already being comfortable with some of the team.’’

Buggs has already labeled Obeng-Agyapong and Willis ‘‘The Hitmen.’’

‘‘Personally, my biggest strength is hitting,’’ Obeng-Agyapong, who runs the 100-meter dash for his high school team in 11.0 seconds, said. ‘‘If I can make my man-on-man coverage better, I’ll be better than I am now.’’

Penn State could bring in as many as six defensive backs in this recruiting class.

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