PSU picks up elite D-line recruit

Penn State has landed one of the top high school football recruits in the class of 2014.

Thomas Holley, a defensive lineman from New York City rated as one of top 100 prospects in the country by all four major recruiting services, announced a commitment to Penn State on Tuesday morning. The 6-foot-4, 299-pounder also was considering Florida at the end and had made an official visit to Ohio State, as well.

Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida State, USC and Miami were among the other top programs that had offered Holley a scholarship. He had more than 20 scholarship offers and has been selected to play in the Under-Armour All-American Game in January.

Holley figures to play defensive tackle for the Nittany Lions, but internet sites reported that he also could see time at defensive end – attempts to reach Holley were unsuccessful by press deadline. Holley made 67 tackles this season for Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn as the Railsplitters went 13-0 and won the New York Public Schools Athletic League championship.

Holley had seven tackles in a 28-27 victory over Tottenville in the PSAL final.

“There’s big-time recruits across the country that are his size and run well and that. But I think [college coaches see that this is a kid that has only played 21 football games in his life. You can see improvement in every game. He hasn’t even scratched the surface of what he can be,” Lincoln coach Shawn O’Connor said. “This year he was double- and triple-teamed, and he still was able to have a very successful year.”

For the season, Holley also made seven sacks and had 24 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, along with a fumble recovery.

“For me, I like a school to have the total package,” Holley told the New York Daily News in an article focusing on his college choice. “Do they have what I want to major in – for me that’s business – how is the environment, because it’s a place I’ll have to live the next three or four years, and then the football program . . .does it have what I need to be successful?”

Nittany Lion defensive line coach Larry Johnson’s track record of turning out NFL-caliber players got Holley’s attention.

“I think he can do that for me,” Holley told the New York Post. “I have an opportunity to make a difference. With Coach Johnson being my defensive coach, I think I can accomplish a lot.”

Holley joins New Jersey’s Antoine White and junior college transfer Tarow Barney as defensive tackles in this Penn State recruiting class. The Nittany Lions also have been involved with Virginia four-star prospect Derrick Nnadi.

The Nittany Lions graduate starters DaQuan Jones and Kyle Baublitz, so they needed to replenish the ranks on the interior of the defensive line. They won’t have a senior defensive tackle who came to the college on scholarship next fall.

Holley’s commitment gives Penn State 17 recruits in a class expected to eventually include 23 or 24 players. There have been conflicting reports that the Lions also might have gotten a commitment from Rahway, N.J. linebacker/running back Donte Raymond – Raymond, who had committed to Delaware, had denied those reports.

Penn State is in contention to receive another commitment today. Highly regarded junior college offensive lineman Kareem Are is to make an announcement and is looking at Florida State and Mississippi along with the Lions.