Nittany Lions get plenty of results from ‘Lasch Bash’
Penn State’s annual “Lasch Bash” recruiting gathering on Saturday paid immediate dividends as the Nittany Lions found a big, athletic quarterback from the Northeast to replace decommitted Justin Fields in their 2018 class and nailed down pledges from a couple of highly-rated receivers who has been on their radar for a while.
Connecticut quarterback Will Levis and Harrisburg wideout Shaquon Anderson-Butts joined the Lions’ current recruiting class after Saturday’s get-together at University Park, which attracted many of Penn State’s top remaining unsigned targets and brought them together with most of the current commits in the class. Levis is a fast-rising, three-star prospect Penn State offered at camp on Friday.
On Sunday, the Lions added commitments from four-star pass-catcher Daniel George of Maryland and rising senior place-kicker Jake Pinegar of Iowa. It was Penn State’s fifth commitment in three days — Florida defensive tackle Judge Culpepper started the run on Friday — and brought the number of current players to 19.
That is expected to rise on Tuesday when Philadelphia safety Isheem Young, who also was at the Lasch Bash, is scheduled to announce his college choice. However, it wouldn’t be out of the question for other recruits to beat Young to the punch, with the Lions also sitting well for players like Maryland defensive tackle P.J. Mustipher, Ohio defensive tackle Aeneas Hawkins, Maryland offensive tackle Rasheed Walker and junior college offensive tackle T.J. Bradley among a group of players who could make decisions soon.
“I knew Penn State was going to be an opportunity that would fit perfectly with me,” Levis told Brian Dohn of Scout.com. “I worked for that and luckily it worked out, and I’m blessed to have gotten the opportunity, and I am blessed to be able to attend Penn State.”
At 6-foot-4, 222 pounds, it’s hard not to see some similarities between Levis and current Lion back-up signal-caller Tommy Stevens. Levis actually has turned in the highest SPARQ score for any quarterback in the 2018 class. SPARQ is a rating system developed at combines that tests players in strength, speed and agility and uses a formula to score them; Levis was 24th in the class regardless of position.
That should help ease the pain of the decommitment of Fields, the five-star quarterback from Georgia whose reversal opened the door for Levis. He got his offer late Friday night after the Penn State coaches got to see him work in person at camp.
Last month, Levis had gotten an offer after attending camp at Florida State, one of the perceived leaders for Fields. Iowa, Syracuse, Mississippi and North Carolina also had offered the Xavier High School signal-caller.
“He is a very good fit for offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s offense,” Dohn said of Levis. “Levis possesses slightly above average arm strength, but his accuracy and ability to release the ball quickly stands out the most.
“He is good with his pre-snap reads, and he is multi-dimensional in being able to stand tall in the pocket and throw, or throw on the move. He will allow Moorhead to change the launch point in the passing game. If he tightens up his delivery a tad and increases his arm strength, this will be a steal for the Nittany Lions.”
Levis is coming off a season in which he connected on 54.2 percent of his passes in a spread offense, throwing for 1,972 yards and 19 touchdowns while being picked off just five times.
He also ran for six scores, but his approach is more to use his mobility to keep the play alive and look for receivers than to take off and run. He also has the strength to fend off some one-arm tackles.
“He has a good pocket presence. He really understands the feel of protection,” Xavier coach Andy Guyon said. “He can recognize the rush or the blitz and react to it. The offensive line can make a mistake here and there, which is going to happen, and he can keep the play alive, which is such a luxury to have.”
In George and Anderson-Butts, Levis and the other Nittany Lion quarterbacks received tremendous targets to which to throw. The Lions already had a commitment from Justin Shorter, a five-star prospect and one of the best wide receivers in the 2018 class.
Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia Tech were Penn State’s biggest competition for George, considered a Lion lean for some time now. George’s highlight film is a bit like watching a high school version of recently-drafted Penn State standout Chris Godwin. Both have similar sizes — George is 6-2, 195, Godwin 6-1, 209 — and are physical receivers who can make catches in traffic, shrug off tacklers and play faster than their 40-yard dash times.
Over the last two seasons at Oxon Hill High School, George has caught 52 passes. Seventeen of them have gone for touchdowns, as have two interception returns, two punt returns, a kickoff return and a fumble return.
“George does so many things well, and at the top of the list is understanding how to run routes,” Dohn wrote in an analysis. “George has plus hands and he will catch the ball going over the middle, and in traffic. His physical style makes it harder for defensive backs to tackle him in space.”
A three-star recruit, Anderson-Butts hauled in 38 passes for 779 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2016, scoring three times in Harrisburg’s District 3 Class 5A championship game win over Manheim Central. He had 36 catches for 754 yards and nine scores as a sophomore.
The 6-1, 202-pound Anderson-Butts has been linked to Penn State since before his sophomore year. For a time, the player and school seemed to be drifting apart, but, in recent weeks, recruiting analysts began to hear he might quickly commit to the Lions. His offer list also included Pitt, Oregon, Florida, Notre Dame, Baylor and West Virginia, among others.
“I’ve decided that I’ll be sticking with my hometown school,” Anderson-Butts wrote on Twitter.
Pinegar possesses one of the best kickoffs in this class, called top-five in the country by Kohl’s Kicking, which ranks him 13th in the class, and he booted a 51-yard field goal last fall for Ankeny Centennial High School. Indiana and a couple of Mid-American Conference programs had offered the 6-3, 195-pounder, who also was honorable mention Des Moines Register all-state as a defensive back after picking off five passes and finished sixth in Iowa in the 110-meter hurdles.