Nittany Lions gain ground in pursuit of coveted DT

Penn State’s struggles on the field this season don’t seem to be reflecting much what the Nittany Lions are doing in recruiting.

The big news coming out in the last week is that the Lions seem to have become the clear front-runner to land four-star New York defensive tackle Thomas Holley.

For the last month, this was looking like a Penn State/Ohio State battle. Holley was in University Park for an official visit to see the Nittany Lions beat Michigan in overtime. Then he headed to Columbus the following weekend.

Not long after that, according to reports on several recruiting websites, Urban Meyer took a trip to Lincoln High School in Brooklyn. Meyer – or any college coach – isn’t allowed to have any extended off-campus contact with Holley during this time frame, but they can say hello quickly if they cross paths, what is known as the “bump rule.”

What happened next is unclear, but reports began to surface that the Buckeyes were suddenly all but out of the running for Holley, who is the consensus No. 1 prospect in his state and one of the top three prospects in the nation at his position.

Some speculation is that Meyer pushed Holley to make a commitment, and Holley decided to drop Ohio State from consideration at that point. Some Ohio State recruiting reporters still have the Buckeyes pursuing Holley, but others have said the program has decided to go in another direction.

Holley still appears to be trying to set up a visit to Florida, but most recruiting analysts now have Penn State in the cat-bird’s seat for one of the country’s top remaining uncommitted prospects. A 285-pound fullback on offense, Holley is a rare athlete for his position.

If the Lions could seal the deal with Holley, he would be the second nationally-ranked recruit to choose PSU over Ohio State – New Jersey tight end Mike Gesicki picked the Lions right after he made his official visit on Michigan weekend – and would go a long way to starting to get Penn State back on a level playing field with the Buckeyes.

A big part of that effort will involve shoring up the lines on both sides of the football. The Lions still are involved with Virginia tackle Derrick Nnadi on the defensive side of the ball, and they’ve stepped up their pursuit of a couple of junior college defensive tackles: Terrell Clinkscales and Tarow Barney.

Barney seems to be the one to keep the closest eye on. He’s gotten interest but no offer from Alabama and is supposed to take an official Penn State for the Nebraska game, which should be a big recruiting weekend.

One the offensive line, reports still have Penn State talking with Notre Dame commit Quenton Nelson, who is friends with Gesicki, and in consideration for Mount Lebanon’s Alex Bookser. Both are tackles.

Another name once on the Lion radar then off and now apparently back on is Lackawanna College’s Jermaine Eleumunor. Eleumunor, considered by some as the top JUCO defensive tackle in the country, is currently committed to Texas A&M after decommitting from both UCLA and Arkansas.

PSU is gearing up for a big recruiting weekend for the Nebraska game, so this week’s game with Purdue and the last home game with Illinois attracted few recruits of note. The most interesting players at the Illinois contest were linebacker commit Jason Cabinda, walk-on kicker commit Troy Stivason, sophomore quarterback Sonny Abramson and Philadelphia linebacker Marques Townes, once a basketball prospect whose future now appears to be in football.

The Purdue game figures to be heavily focused on underclassmen. The highest profile player slated to try to make it is Ohio junior offensive lineman Matt Jones, who already has offers from Kentucky and West Virginia.