Lions get four-star DT for upcoming ’18 class

Penn State ran near the top of the list for blue-chip recruit Sam Mustipher three years ago but came up short in the end, and Mustipher wound up signing with Notre Dame.

The Nittany Lions were able to seal the deal with Mustipher’s younger brother, P.J.

With spots in Penn State’s 2018 recruiting class rapidly drying up, P.J. Mustipher, the four-star defensive tackle from McDonough High School in Owings Mills, Md., jumped on board Monday, becoming the 22nd member in a class expected to finish with 24 or 25 players.

After the younger Mustipher had made three visits to University Park since the beginning of April — including one for the Lasch Bash — the Lions had emerged as his perceived leader to the point that the question was becoming not whether he would pick Penn State but whether Penn State would have scholarships left by the time he was confident in making his college choice.

“Penn State’s definitely on top of my list … one of the school’s at the top of my list,” Mustipher said in an interview with FightOnState.com’s Mark Brennan after being named defensive line MVP at The Opening New Jersey combine on April 30. “I have a great relationship with the whole coaching staff. I talk to them every day. Coach Chaos (defensive line coach Sean Spencer), I love the way he coaches. And Coach (James) Franklin, my mom loves him, my dad loves him. It’s three hours away from my home. Penn State is just a great place.”

Mustipher picked Penn State over Notre Dame, Maryland and Tennessee. Michigan, Ohio State, Miami, Virginia Tech, Alabama, North Carolina, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan State and West Virginia also were on his offer list.

The 6-foot-4, 290-pound Mustipher is rated the 75th-best prospect in the country according to 247Sports and is in the top 100 on 247Sports composite rankings of the top national recruiting sites.

“In Mustipher the Nittany Lions are getting that thick, powerful interior player that is a presence in the backfield,” said 247Sports national analyst Steve Wiltfong. “Terrific with hands and plays with good leverage, Mustipher is a factor on run and passing downs.”

In fact, Mustipher has recorded 29 sacks over the last two seasons for McDonough. Last season, he moved up from the second team as a sophomore to make first-team all-metro for the Baltimore Sun, collecting 47 tackles, 15 sacks, four pass breakups and four forced fumbles.

“Mustipher is a big, physical player in the middle,” wrote Brian Dohn, national analyst for Scout.com. “He gets off the ball quickly and he has good body control, and he is at his best plugging the middle as a run stopper but he has the ability to pursue the quarterback in space. Mustipher can disengage, and he has few wasted movements. He has closing ability as he nears the ball carrier, and his change of direction is good.”

Not only does Mustipher’s brother play for Notre Dame, his father played for West Virginia, and Mustipher has credited much of his success to his dad’s tutelage. The younger Mustipher also understands leverage: He was the Maryland state wrestling champion and finished fourth at the National Preps tournament, winding up with a 39-8 record and 15 pins as a junior.

With Mustipher on board and Erie guard Fredrick “Juice” Scruggs commitment late last week, Penn State is on the verge of wrapping up its 2018 recruiting efforts. If the Lions only have two scholarships left, they could fill them quickly with Maryland offensive tackle Rasheed Walker and Cincinnati defensive tackle Aeneas Hawkins both perceived to be on the verge of making commitments.

What makes the home stretch of this recruiting season interesting, though, is it appears the Penn State coaching staff wouldn’t mind adding a defensive end or a wide receiver to this class, and a couple of big-time prospects have the Lions high on their lists. Penn State is considered the probable favorite for receivers Jahan Dotson and Solomon Enis, while the Lions aren’t far from the top spot for ends Micah Parsons and Jayson Oweh.

Harrisburg’s Parsons is one of the country’s top five overall recruits and once had been committed to Penn State. New Jersey’s Oweh, meanwhile, has had his recruiting blow up after just one season of football, and his combine scores compare favorably with any other prep defensive end in the country.

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