Zayd Issah is back in the fold, and he is bringing friends.
New friends, that is. And new members of Penn State's 2013 football recruiting class.
Issah, the reigning Pennsylvania Class AAAA Co-Player of the Year from Central Dauphin, recommitted to the Nittany Lions as part of a big recruiting weekend at Penn State in which about a dozen prospects were in University Park on official visits.
Along with Issah, who committed to the Lions over the summer and then reopened his recruitment when NCAA sanctions were announced against Penn State, 6-foot-1, 227-pound linebacker Jonathan Walton from Daphne, Ala. and 6-foot-1, 186-pound defensive back Anthony Smith from Dover, N.J. by way of Valley Forge Military Academy, also told the coaching staff that they'd be joining the team.
Late Sunday night, news broke that DaeSean Hamilton, a 6-0, 182-pound receiver from Stafford, Va., also had chosen Penn State while on his official visit. Hamilton had a good list of offers than included Miami, Virginia Tech and Michigan State.
Issah, Smith, Walton and Hamilton's commitments give Penn State 17 recruits this year. Smith is scheduled to enroll in January, so he will count against the numbers for the 2012 recruiting class and not be subject to the NCAA's 15-scholarship limit for 2013.
"Anytime you get a guy like Issah, you're thrilled. If they just had gotten him this weekend, I think they would have been happy with their weekend," Scout.com Penn State recruiting reporter Greg Pickel said. "But now you get a kid like Smith, who's an under-the-radar kid but fills a vital need that they have at defensive back. If he can even play special teams for you, I think he has the talent to make an impact right away, which is what you're looking for early-enrollees. And Jonathan Walton really interests me. I think he's very underrated. I think he might be as good as Issah."
BlueWhite Illustrated's Ryan Snyder also went to Central Dauphin. When Issah decommitted and childhood favorite Oregon offered the 6-foot-3, 215-pound linebacker, Snyder thought Penn State's odds were slim. He at least expected Issah to visit Oregon and Arizona State and was surprised the Lions were able to get him back so quickly.
"The thing that sold this was [Lion freshman linebacker] Nyeem Wartman and Jonathan Walton. From everything I've gathered, Zayd and Jonathan Walton really hit it off this weekend. Those guys just really clicked right away," Snyder said. "They knew Nyeem, but this was really the first chance they got to hang out with him. If it was anything, I'd say it was the chemistry he built with those two guys. His connection with Walton and Wartman set it over the top."
Snyder thinks regaining the four-star linebacker is a huge get for the Lions.
"He's always been their No. 1 target at outside linebacker. Bill O'Brien and Ron Vanderlinden, this was their guy. They see a similarity to Gerald Hodges when he came in. They love the athleticism," Snyder said. "Plus, when you have a top guy living 80 miles away, to lock up that commitment is big. It should help down the road with other Harrisburg area guys."
Smith was a late addition to the group of official visitors over the weekend. He got his scholarship offer on Saturday and accepted on Sunday morning.
"It was everything I looked for in a school," Smith said. "It's a great community, a great atmosphere. The guys on the football team are high-quality people, and the coaching staff is anything you could ask for."
Penn State had about a half-dozen committed recruits in along with five prospects still looking for schools.
"We've all exchanged numbers. We were together all Friday night and Saturday night. I can't wait to be back with them. They are high-class people," Smith said.
Penn State has made acquiring speed in the secondary a priority, and Smith reportedly runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. He also played quarterback after coming to Valley Forge from Pope John XXIII High School.
Smith said he was recruited as a cornerback. He'll join fellow early-enrollee Jordan Smith along with traditional recruits Neiko Robinson and Kasey Gaines as true freshman defensive backs on the Lion roster next year.
That list might increase by one this week - Penn State had Georgia's Deondre Singleton in on an official visit, too, and early indications now are that he could commit to the Lions anytime after talking it over with his family.
The Lions also are expected to get word from highly touted Iowa junior college quarterback Jake Waters soon after Penn State coach Bill O'Brien visits him today. Waters was at his other leader, Kansas State, over the weekend. He's also fielded recent interest from Alabama and Texas after leading his team to a national championship and breaking Cam Newton's JUCO completion percentage record but didn't get immediate offers from the Crimson Tide or Longhorns.
"I don't think things could have gone much better for [the Lions]," Pickel said. "Things are looking very good, and they'll be even better if Singleton decides to commit and depending on how Bill O'Brien's in-home goes with Jake Waters."