Penn State recruiting day rivals Michigan game

UNIVERSITY PARK – For most of the season, the talk was that the weekend of the Michigan game was going to be Penn State’s biggest showcase and attraction for recruiting.

It lived up to the hype. Nearly 100 prospects attended the Nittany Lions’ quadruple overtime win.

However, Saturday’s 23-20 overtime loss to Nebraska at Beaver Stadium might even have surpassed it.

“When it comes down to top-end kids, you can argue that this was better maybe, although there were some pretty good kids that came to the Michigan game,” Ryan Snyder, who covers recruiting for Blue-White Illustrated, said. “They even had some 2016 kids, even 2017 kids, and they’re pretty good.”

Snyder estimated that, when it was all said and done and in spite of the blustery, snowy conditions, Penn State was very close to matching the Michigan draw in quantity as well as quality.

“The staff knew this game and Michigan were going to be their two biggest opportunities to impress recruits,” Snyder said.

Greg Pickel, the recruiting analyst from agreed.

“It was on par [with Michigan],” Pickel said. “Two things stood out to me. Number one, there were more uncommitted 2014 kids than that weekend, and two, they [the groups of recruits] are growing in size as the season goes. It makes sense, because there are fewer teams in the playoffs. But they had a good group here for Purdue.

“I think they did very well.”

The group included at least eight players that have committed to Penn State and five official visitors: JUCO linemen Kareem Are and Tarow Barney, Florida safety Shawn Boone, Baltimore linebacker-defensive end Melvin Keihn and Florida quarterback Michael O’Connor – O’Connor committed to the Lions several months ago.

“Barney is the guy I think is most likely to commit, but they’re all really important,” Snyder said. “These are positions of need.”

Barney is a defensive tackle. Are is a 6-foot-6, 300-plus-pound offensive lineman who many think has Florida State currently at the top of his list.

“I think those two are the biggest ones because they can play right away. They’re ready to go,” Pickel said of Barney and Are.

Keihn might take a little bit more time to develop, but he is a tremendous athlete; he plays at Gilman School with Lion commit Troy Vincent. Right now, the consensus is Virginia Tech leads for him.

Boone could be a steal. He’s a 5-10, 174-pounder from West Palm Beach who likes Florida State but lacks a scholarship offer from the Seminoles. He still boasts offers from Ohio State, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, though, among others.

“Shawn Boone is a really interesting kid,” Pickel said. “He doesn’t have a lot of interest from the Florida schools, and, as long as they stay away, I think Penn State has a really good shot at him. He has speed, which is big, and they can use a safety.”

A pair of defensive recruits headed the list of underclassmen who made the trip to University Park. Virginia junior linebacker Ricky DeBerry and New Jersey sophomore defensive tackle Rashan Gary both are being touted as potential, if not likely, five-star prospects by the time they sign. Gary already had four big-time offers, and DeBerry reportedly has more than 40.

This isn’t the first time either of them has been to Penn State, either.

“It’s still early, but getting them back up is a huge,” Snyder said. “Whenever you get top players on your campus, it’s a good thing.”

The list of underclassmen that made the trip also included Washington center Richie Petitbon, whose father played for the Redskins, Ohio lineman Hunter Littlejohn and Altoona linebacker-defensive end Kevin Givens.

Penn State is supposed to get another good one on campus today.’s Brian Dohn reported during the game that New Jersey senior defensive end Darius Slade, who is looking closely at Michigan State and Nebraska, is scheduled to take an unofficial visit to University Park today.

“Michigan State’s probably number one there, far and away,” Pickel said of Slade. “They could use another defensive end. It’s just a matter of seeing what they can get. Maybe they can get him back for an official visit.”

The key on these weekends is to show off the program and the support. While the weather didn’t help and many of the students had gone home for break, the game attracted a good crowd announced at 98,517.

“It’s a fantastic atmosphere. The kids are on break, and we still have a decent student section,” Lion quarterback Christian Hackenberg said. “I think they’re going to be excited, they should be excited. We have a lot of young guys playing right now, a lot to build on moving forward. So we’re excited about them, and I think they’re excited about us.”