Sidelines are filled with PSU’s future
By Philip Cmor
UNIVERSITY PARK — If building depth was the theme for the Penn State football team during spring practice, it certainly appears to have crossed over the recruiting side, too.
The Nittany Lions’ lost a highly-regarded offensive tackle prospect on Friday, but, before they even kicked off the Blue-White Game on Saturday afternoon, they had replaced him with two more — one of them a much more highly-rated prospect.
A huge recruiting day that including more than 100 high school players converging on Beaver Stadium and more than 20 with Penn State scholarship offers was highlighted Saturday by the verbal commitments of Scout.com’s top-rated offensive tackle in the East, Nana Asiedu of Virginia, and mammoth Michigan lineman Antwan “A.J.” Reed.
With Asiedu and Reed in the fold and the departure of Wyoming Valley West’s Chris Bleich at the end of the week, Penn State’s 2018 recruiting class now includes 13 players and is ranked second in the country. It probably has around 10 more slots to fill.
“It’s a net gain, no doubt,” said Sean Fitz of Lions247. “The offensive line was something they wanted to account for. They needed tackles. They found a couple. They lost Bleich, but they replaced him with two pretty good ones.”
In Asiedu, the Lions might have gotten a great one. The 6-foot-6, 265-pounder from Stafford, Va. is a consensus top-100 prospect and one of the top 10 players at his position in the country.
“Asiedu is a long, athletic prospect. He is explosive off the edge and disruptive,” said Brian Dohn, national recruiting analyst for Scout.com. “Asiedu can get to the second level, and he does a good job with his initial punch. He is athletic and can cover the edge against a speed rusher, and he gets is pad level low and can drive block. He has the athleticism to be able to pull from the tackle position.
“He needs to continue to improve strength and technique, but he is on the path to becoming a very good college player.”
Landing Asiedu is a coup for the Lions, who were contending with national champion Clemson for his services but appeared to take the lead earlier this year. His huge offer list included Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina, Pitt, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia Tech.
“I decided to pick Penn State because that’s where I have the best relationships with the coaches and I feel the most comfortable,” Asiedu told Alan Friedman of Rivals.com. “I feel like I fit in best there. The coaching staff and I text back and forth every single day. Sometimes we don’t even talk about football. We talk about life and things like that. They also have a really good relationship with my family.”
Where Asiedu is an exceptional athlete for a lineman, Reed, a three-star prospect who checks in at 6-5, 326, is a road-grader who seems a natural fit at right tackle or possibly at guard.
“Reed didn’t test well at a recent camp, but he came here and tested well,” BlueWhite Illustrated’s Ryan Snyder said. “They put stock in that.”
Reed spent last fall at IMG Academy in Florida. Michigan, Michigan State, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, Tennessee and Virginia Tech were his other top offers.
Bleich’s decommitment left the Lions without an offensive lineman in the 2018 class. It looks like the Lions would like to bring in at least four — three tackles and one guard. Potentially, one of those tackles would be a swing player who also could slide inside to guard.
While one of the other prime targets, Maryland tackle Rasheed Walker, wasn’t able to make it up on Saturday, Penn State did entertain probably its top two guards, Cathedral Prep’s Fredrick “Juice” Scruggs and New York’s Matt Jones. Matt Jones is listed as a defensive tackle on most scouting services, but his top schools see him playing the interior line on offense.
Belle Vernon tackle Blake Zubovic also was at the game.
The list of high-end visitors wasn’t limited to offensive linemen. Philadelphia safety Isheem Young, Aliquippa safety Kwantel Raines, New Jersey wide receiver Jahan Dotson, Arizona wideout Solomon Enis and Ohio linebacker Brian Asamoah also were among those on hand from the 2018 class.
“Great showing,” Snyder said.
The group also included nearly all of the players that have committed to Penn State for this year and most of their 2017 signees. That meant getting Harrisburg five-star defensive end Micah Parsons and Georgia five-star quarterback Justin Fields back on campus; both are players that will be heavily pressured by other schools to flip.
“It’s very important to get them around the rest of the guys that are committed,” Fitz said.
The day wrapped up what has been a very active spring for Penn State recruiting, as the Nittany Lions routinely were hosting blue-chippers from all over the country to see their practices.
“Great showing (for the Blue-White Game),” Snyder said. “They’re getting attention of kids in Texas, Georgia and Florida. One thing to note is how hard they are recruiting the entire country.”