Lions still have moves to make

PSU football recruiting

With signing day on Wednesday, the Penn State football team is using this weekend to try to put the final touches on a 2017 recruiting class that currently includes 18 members while also continuing to build on a 2018 class that has gotten off to a great start.

Here are the names to keep in mind as the Nittany Lions work to fill the final two-to-four scholarship slots to finish out the class.

n Ellis Brooks, a four-star linebacker from Virginia, who would greatly ease the sting of Dylan Rivers’ decision to switch his commitment to Virginia Tech last week. Penn State’s main competition appears to be Maryland and Northwestern.

n Tariq Castro-Fields, the four-star cornerback from Maryland. He appeared to be all set to commit to the Lions before suddenly postponing his announcement last Monday. Now the feeling is he might wind up at Maryland, and Alabama still is in the picture depending on whose opinion you listen to.

n Mark Webb, the four-star receiver from Archbishop Wood. Webb was one of the first prospects in this class mentioned heavily with Penn State, but eventually he committed to Georgia with five-star running back D’Andre Swift, his cousin. Since making his pledge, though, the Lions have recruited him harder than the Bulldogs.

n Elijah Conliffe, the four-star defensive lineman from Virginia. He keeps his recruiting pretty close to the vest, but it looks like Penn State still is in the running with Florida, Tennessee and Louisville. The Lions could use a recruit with defensive tackle size in this class, and Conliffe is one of the best still available.

n Peyton Hendershot, a three-star tight end committed to Indiana. He doesn’t have a Penn State scholarship offer yet, but that probably has more to do with the Lions’ numbers’ crunch that anything else. The depth chart at tight end is a little sketchy, and the staff reportedly likes Hendershot a lot.

n Corey Bolds, a three-star defensive tackle from New Jersey. Bolds visited Penn State in December, then kind of slipped under the radar a bit. Depending on how the Lions fare with some of the above names, he still could wind up on their letter-of-intent list on Wednesday.

Brooks, Webb and Hendershot all currently are on campus making official visits.

It’s not out of the question that a couple more names could surface in the next few days if the Lions aren’t filling the open slots.

“It’s definitely best player available at this point. However, with Rivers decommitting, I think that makes Brooks pretty important,” BlueWhite Illustrated recruiting analyst Ryan Snyder said. “I think adding another wide receiver makes sense because they have two leaving, and I think another defensive tackle wouldn’t be a bad thing because of (Antoine) White and (Brenon) Thrift moving on. But it’s always best player available in the last few days, although I think Brooks means a bit more.”

It looks like Joshua Paschal can be ruled out. After making what was termed a very good run at the four-star Maryland defensive lineman with an official visit last weekend, Paschal tweeted on Friday that he was 100 percent committed to Kentucky. Four-star Alabama wideout Henry Ruggs also didn’t take an official to Penn State this weekend, although the staff pushed for him and Cincinnati safety TreSean Smith until the last minute.

Oregon graduate transfer Jalen Brown also didn’t make it up to University Park and appears to be bound to Northwestern.

Other than losing Rivers, the Lions seemed to do a good job firming up the remaining committed prospects during the Jan. 20-22 visits. Pittsburgh Central Catholic four-star guard C.J. Thorpe cancelled an official visit he was planning to take to Michigan, and Indiana three-star receiver Mac Hippenhammer reportedly did the same with Notre Dame, although Penn State recruiting analysts were unable to confirm that with Hippenhammer himself.

The official visits for the three seniors will end this afternoon, as which time, appropriately, the focus will turn toward next year’s class — Penn State has invited in a number of its top targets for a small, early junior day.

Virginia running back Ricky Slade, Camp Hill tight end Zack Kuntz, New Jersey wide receiver Justin Shorter, Cathedral Prep guard Juice Scruggs, Imhotep safety Isheem Young, Mercyhurst Prep linebacker Jesse Luketa, Pennridge linebacker Nick Tarburton, Cumberland Valley linebacker Charlie Katshir and New York defensive tackle Matthew Jones were among the top 2018 prospects that were believed to be planning to take unofficial visits to University Park today according to a variety of online reports. Maryland defensive tackle P.J. Mustipher was another that was being talked about as considering making the trip, and Aliquippa safety Kwantel Raines, who was expected to attend, was a last-minute scratch because of travel issues.

Shorter and Kuntz already are part of the 2018 class, which includes seven players so far, all considered four-star or better prospects.

“Penn State has always wanted to try to get some of the most important players on campus to make it clear to them how much they want them,” Snyder said. “If you are going to have a surprise (commitment), this is the kind of event where you have one.”

It’s been speculated that Luketa, who got a scholarship offer last week, could commit this weekend. Landing him and Brooks would go a long way to bolstering Penn State’s middle linebacker spot moving ahead.

It’s also worth noting that the most highly-rated of the Lions’ 2018 commits, Harrisburg’s Micah Parsons, is not expected to be on hand, however, according to Harrisburg-based Scout.com recruiting analyst Eugene Hankerson, Parsons was attending a junior day at Ohio State. If true, it would be the third time the Buckeyes have entertained Parsons since he committed to Penn State.

“I do think he’s going to end up (at Penn State’s junior day, too),” Snyder said. “He’s going to keep visiting schools. Penn State knows that. They’re recruiting him like they would an uncommitted recruit, like Isheem Young. Penn State’s going to go all out with him any chance they get.”