Lions land four-star wide receiver

UNIVERSITY PARK – Penn State’s 2018 football recruiting class just got better because it got Shorter.

Already well on its way to filling all of the openings in its 2017 class after a recent flurry of verbal commitments, the Nittany Lions moved ahead on Saturday morning by getting a pledge from four-star class of 2018 wide receiver Justin Shorter of New Jersey.

“After visiting the campus, amazing facilities, great coaches, top notch academic programs and hearing about the unrivaled fans (,) I feel a very strong connection with Penn State and how they want everyone to succeed on and off the field,” Shorter posted on his Twitter account. “I know this is a place where I will succeed.”

Rutgers, Virginia Tech, Pitt and North Carolina were Shorter’s other finalists. He also had offers from Michigan, Miami, Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Boston College, Indiana, Northwestern and Temple, among others.

The Nittany Lions, though, were trending as a strong favorite after Shorter made an unofficial visit to University Park in the middle of last week.

He joins five-star defensive end Micah Parsons and four-star offensive lineman Chris Bleich in next year’s early recruiting class, although Parsons still is looking at and visiting other schools – under NCAA rules, verbal commitments are not binding.

Shorter is rated the No. 69 prospect on 247Sports composite index for the 2018 class, which also has him as the eighth-best wide receiver prospect in the class.

“I believe Penn State landed one of the elite outside WRs in the 2018 class,” 247Sports Steve Wiltfong wrote on Twitter.

ESPN ranks Shorter 52nd in the class.

“Huge get for Penn State,” ESPN recruiting analyst Tom VanHaaren posted.

The 6-foot-4, 207-pound Shorter is coming off a sophomore campaign in which he hauled in 29 passes for 572 yards and eight touchdowns for South Brunswick High School in Monmouth Junction, N.J.

Shorter’s Vikings finished 11-1, going 8-0 in the Red Division of the Greater Middlesex Conference and winning the NJSIAA Group V championship.

“Justin is a hell of a player right now, but he’s still just a little puppy dog as far as I’m concerned,” South Brunswick coach Joe Goerge told NJ.com in February. “I think his better years are in front of him, but I think the thing about Justin I’ve seen now is how he’s maturing. In his second year here in our offseason program, how he’s committing himself to every workout, going above and beyond. And he just turned 15, so he’s still young. I think he’s still learning, but I think he’s growing and maturing and is an outstanding student.”

Shorter has run the 40-yard dash in a laser-timed 4.56 seconds.

“He can stretch the field, and he can also take that 12-yard out, make a man miss and go the distance. In addition to his speed and catch radius, the thing that makes Shorter an elite prospect is his ability to go get the football,” Wiltfong said.

Scout.com’s Brian Dohn thought Shorter was capable of playing multiple positions at the next level, although receiver is where he will be.

“He has the length and frame to add weight and be a very good outside linebacker. He has good burst, he changes direction well and he is instinctual. He has the speed to track down a play on the backside, and he covers a ton of ground quickly in three steps.” Dohn said. “As a receiver, he will continue to developing his ball skills and route running but he is quick out of his breaks, he high-points the ball well and he has speed to get down the field. His size makes him physically difficult for cornerbacks to jam him.”