Lions land 4-star LB Brooks

Penn State hosted three high school senior football prospects over the weekend, but the one recruiting analysts would tell you was the most important of the trio was Ellis Brooks.

Brooks left University Park without committing, but, on Monday, the Nittany Lions got their man.

Penn State filled a gaping hole at middle linebacker on their depth chart and their recruiting list when the four-star Under Armour All-American from Benedictine High School in Richmond, Va. announced publicly on Twitter that he intended to sign with the Nittany Lions on Wednesday.

“They’re my dream school,” Brooks told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “I just had a feeling going on campus there that I didn’t have on any of my other visits.”

The opportunity for Brooks to land at Penn State came late in the process. Fellow Virginian and four-star middle linebacker Dylan Rivers committed to the Lions very early but then decided to switch his college choice to Virginia Tech on Jan. 22. Penn State already was thin at the position after Troy Reeder decided to transfer to Delaware, leaving them with just Jason Cabinda and Jake Cooper as prototypical players for the position.

The Penn State coaches, while not recruiting Brooks hard most of the cycle, had remained in touch and put themselves in a position to garner his commitment over Maryland, Northwestern, LSU and Oregon despite not making a scholarship offer until last week.

Originally committed to Duke for a short time, Brooks was considering taking his final official visit to either Michigan or Notre Dame until Penn State coaches stopped by to meet with Brooks and convinced him a trip to Happy Valley would be worth his while.

The Brooks’ family friends with former Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson probably helped sell the trip.

“Ellis has always been inspired by Michael,” Ellis’ father, Keith Brooks, said to the Times-Dispatch.

“We got a BEAST!” Robinson tweeted.

Brooks also met Penn State linebacking great LaVar Arrington at the Under Armour Game in Orlando, Fla.; Arrington sent out a positive tweet when he learned the Lions had offered Brooks.

Brooks was first-team Richmond all-Metro as a senior, when he recorded 54 initial tackles, 91 total, 14 tackles for loss and five sacks while also playing quarterback and running back for Benedictine. The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder had 98 tackles and 10 for loss while blocking three field goals as a junior, when he was second-team all-Richmond.

He’s been named Virginia Division I independent school all-state three times, including as a first-teamer as a senior.

Benedictine coach Greg Lilly said Brooks hits like a “Mack truck” but offers a lot more.

“It’s just remarkable the amount of force that he has,” Lilly said. “He is truly an inside linebacker. Physically, he fits that bill. Mentally, he likes being the guy who has to watch film and make calls and make checks and get the guys in the right front. And he’s got the innate ability to see things, adjust and make good decisions to be a quarterback of the defense. That will be the thing that I think makes him a special college football player.”

Scout.com analyst Michael Clark echoed those sentiments.

“Brooks is a physical, downhill linebacker. He is very aggressive and shows great instincts. Brooks reads and reacts quickly at the snap of the ball and is a big hitter. He does a nice job of playing fast, but under control, and takes good angles when pursuing the football,” Clark wrote. “Brooks needs to continue to work on shedding blockers and pass coverage, but his best football is definitely ahead of him.”

Brooks’ commitment brings Penn State’s total for this class to 19. That might be where the Lion coaching staff leaves off: Although they’re still waiting for final word from Maryland cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields and Virginia defensive lineman Elijah Conliffe, it seems, in a break from its usual approach, they might be willing to pocket a couple of extra scholarships from this year and put them toward what is looking like it could be a blockbuster 2018 recruiting haul.

Philadelphia wide receiver Mark Webb and Indiana tight end Peyton Hendershot both took official visits with Brooks over the weekend, but Webb has since reaffirmed his verbal commitment to Georgia, and Hendershot reportedly didn’t receive a scholarship offer.

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