Four-star recruit picks PSU

Penn State has reached over the country’s northern border to pluck scholastic football talent in the past: Former Nittany Lions Pete Giftopoulos, Phil and Frank Yeboah-Kodie, Akeel Lynch and Michael O’Connor all came from Canada, and recent offensive line standout John Urschel was born in Winnipeg, too.

The Lions ventured to the Great White North again on Sunday afternoon to garner their second verbal commitment in five days and one of their highest-rated so far in the class of 2017 in hard-hitting Jonathan Sutherland, a 6-foot, 196-pound four-star safety from Ottawa who has been playing the last couple of years at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va.

Sutherland announced his choice via a livestream on Facebook during a small gathering of friends and family filmed by high school teammate and Michigan recruit Luiji Vilain. He picked Penn State over Wisconsin, Syracuse and Boston College after eliminating Michigan in the last few days.

His strong list of scholarship offers also included Pitt, Miami, Nebraska, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Maryland and Louisville. He had built a strong relationship with the Nittany Lion coaches while camping in University Park over the years, though, and the college he was going to choose was considered something of a slam dunk in recent weeks.

“Without further ado, I will be committing to the university of Penn State,” Sutherland said as he donned a white Nittany Lion baseball cap he had stashed under the table. “We are. We are. We are.”

Sutherland was then presented a two-layer cake with icing in Penn State colors.

Sutherland is the 10th member of the 2017 Lion recruiting class, which has gotten jump-started after North Carolina linebacker Brelin Faison-Walden last week to snap a lull in which Penn State didn’t get a verbal commitment in almost three months. The Lions might add another defensive back soon – consensus three-star safety Derrek Pitts announced on Twitter Sunday that he was going to go public with his college choice on Wednesday, and either Penn State or West Virginia is likely to receive his pledge.

“We are rolling now,” Lion quarterback recruit Sean Clifford tweeted.

Robert Matos, the father of Lion four-star defensive end recruit Yetur Matos, also reached out on social media to express his excitement.

“I’m looking forward to seeing you out there catching wreck with my son,” he posted on Twitter.

Sutherland can justifiably be compared to a wrecker on defense. His junior highlight tape is filled with crushing hits.

“Sutherland is an enforcer in the secondary. He is extremely physical and tackles very well,” Scout.com’s Michael Clark wrote in an evaluation. “Sutherland also shows good anticipation and does a nice job in coverage. He reads and reacts well and closes quickly on his opponent. Sutherland needs to continue to work on his hip flexibility, but has all the tools to make an immediate impact at the collegiate level and ultimately become a star.”

Scout gave Sutherland his highest rating, placing him as the No. 154 prospect in this class, the fourth-best safety in the country and the third-best safety in the east. Sutherland was ranked a four-star prospect as well by ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports, which had him as the 266th-best player in the class and the fourth-highest-rated recruit so far in this Lion class.

Sutherland was one of the defensive back MVPs at the Best of the Midwest combine in Indianapolis in 2015.

“He’s humble. He’s perseverant. He’s not the fastest kid you’ll see. He’s not the biggest. He’s not the strongest. But, when he’s on the football field, he’s a savage,” said Victor Tedondo, who coached Sutherland at the Canada-based Gridiron Academy for the last six years. “Jonathan is special. He’s going to grow up, and he’s going to be a hell of a ballplayer, but, even better, he’s going to be a hell of a person.”

Sutherland, who began playing football at the age of 8, helped Episcopal post a 7-1 record last fall. He’s started the last two years for the Maroon.