Recruits still show up no matter what
By Philip Cmor
UNIVERSITY PARK — One had to wonder what kind of recruiting prospects Penn State would attract for a night game against 38-point underdog Georgia State.
It turned out to be a really, really good one.
The Nittany Lions hosted Micah Parsons and Jayson Oweh, two of the best defensive ends in the 2018 class. They entertained two of the best defensive tackles in the 2019 class, five-star Antonio Alfano of New Jersey and four-star Steven Faucheux of Cincinnati. They welcomed four-star Virginia cornerback Cam’Ron Kelly, North Carolina defensive end commit Hakeem Beamon and three-star Canadian wide receiver John Metchie.
And, if that weren’t enough, they had in two of the top five rated players in the class of 2020, Virginia running back Chris Tyree and Southern Columbia wide receiver Julian Fleming.
“I think it’s more about the start time than anything,” Sean Fitz of the Lions247 website said. “You get a night game in warm weather, and you allow yourself some travel time. I think the turnout was a combination of that, and they have a little bit of recruiting momentum now. It’s not surprising they have a big group, but I think the quality is a little surprising.”
Of course, much of the fans’ attention was devoted on the most-immediate recruits, Parsons and Oweh. A one-time Lion commit who reopened his recruitment and appeared for a time headed to Ohio State before social media-related issues curtailed that, Parsons is one of the top five players in this class. Oweh is considered athletically close to Parsons, but he’s only in his second year playing football.
“Glad to be back,” Parsons posted on Twitter.
A photo of Parsons and Lion coach James Franklin sharing a big hug before the game made the rounds on Twitter, ironically the platform that has caused some college coaches and fans alike to sour on the Harrisburg Area High School star in spite of his potential game-changing talent — he’s drawn comparisons to LaVar Arrington with his freakish natural ability.
Parsons Twitter posts before actually decommitting from Penn State left a lot of Lion fans feeling cold. Then, on last week’s trip to Ohio State, Parsons questioned Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer’s decision to keep J.T. Barrett at quarterback during the game. It drew criticism from fans and even national analysts like ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit.
There was speculation after the incident that Ohio State might be reconsidering taking him, and some national recruiting writers began predicting Parsons would wind up at Nebraska, a surprise because he’s generally been believed to want to stay close to home.
Fitz said he didn’t know what to think of Parsons’ latest status, and almost nothing would surprise him at this point. The reception he received at Penn State seemed very warm not just from Franklin but fans, and Parsons seemed to be enjoying himself, too.
Recruits who decommit seldom wind up at the school from which they decommit.
“He had the trip to Ohio State and saw some things, and maybe it opened his eyes a little bit more as to what options he may have and put some things into perspective,” Fitz said.
Penn State is in hot pursuit of Ohio four-star Tyreke Smith on the defensive line, too, but, with 23 commits already in the fold, the Lions might only be able to take one of them. They can only take 25 players per class and have 85 scholarship players total on the roster, but the Lions are considered to have a very good chance at either Parsons, Oweh or Smith or even a combination of the three.
“The fact that they not only in with the defensive linemen, but they’ve got guys like (Aliquippa linebacker) Kwantel Raines, (Maryland offensive tackle) Rasheed Walker, (Arizona receiver) Solomon Enis and guys like that, they just don’t have the space, but they’re still keeping their options open just in case some things open up,” Fitz said. “The fact that they’re in it for top quality guys that can go almost anywhere they want nationally is a good sign for them.”
That they already are considered leaders or part of the lead pack for talents like Tyree and Fleming is a great sign, too.
“They’ve had both of them up before, and I think that’s a big deal,” Fitz said. “They were both up for camp this summer, so they can establish those relationships. They can’t talk to them (at their schools) given the class they’re in, so getting them back on campus is huge.
“Obviously, Penn State’s offense has made itself attractive.”