Fla. DT commits to Lions

On the cusp of one of its biggest recruiting dates of the year, the Penn State football team on Friday got a jump by securing the verbal commitment of another recruit from outside its traditional recruiting footprint.

Judge Culpepper, a 6-foot-5, 256-pound three-star defensive tackle from Tampa, Fla., announced on Twitter that he decided to sign with the Nittany Lions two days after his second unofficial visit to University Park in four months, posting a photo of himself standing with defensive line coach Sean Spencer.

“The coaches there are amazing,” Culpepper told Scout.com analyst Corey Bender of his reasons for picking the Lions. “The atmosphere was awesome. The defense is a great fit. I love everything up there.”

According to Lions247’s Sean Fitz, the Penn State coaching staff was hoping to get a verbal from Culpepper during his unofficial on Tuesday. Then it appeared he would be making trips to LSU and Nebraska later this summer before making a decision — the Tigers and Cornhuskers were Penn State’s biggest competition, along with Florida, where Culpepper’s father, Brad, still holds the record for tackles for loss.

“Welcome to the family brother! Best decision you’ve made,” Lion linebacker commit Jesse Luketa tweeted to Culpepper after the announcement.

Culpepper’s commitment comes eight days after the Lions landed another highly-lauded prospect from the Sunshine State, cornerback Jordan Miner — Culpepper and his Plant High School team actually defeated Miner and Wireglass Ranch, 36-14, late last regular season.

Culpepper is the second defensive lineman in the class and the 15th recruit overall. Penn State is likely to add to those figures in the next few days. The program is hosting its annual “Lasch Bash” summer recruiting extravaganza today, and that usually results in a couple of commitments. Also, Philadelphia four-star safety Isheem Young is slated to announce a college choice on Tuesday, and the Lions are the heavy perceived favorite.

Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, USC, Georgia, Pitt, Tennessee, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Syracuse, where his brother, Rex, is a quarterback, were among a long list of colleges that had offered Culpepper a scholarship. He’s coming off a season in which he made 66 tackles and eight sacks as a defensive end for Plant, which finished 13-1.

He also played tight end and some quarterback in his second year starting.

“He dominates both sides of the ball,” Plant coach Robert Weiner said on Culpepper’s junior highlight video.

Bender described Culpepper as a “relentless defender who does a nice job pushing upfield and wreaking havoc in the backfield,” and that you “have to love his motor.”

“Culpepper has to continue to work on developing some go-to moves but is an aggressive kid who provides that pop at the point of attack,” Bender said. Culpepper has long arms and does not hold much bad weight, and should really fill out nicely once diving into a college strength and conditioning program. He fires off the ball with good pad level, but can focus on playing more under control once making contact with his opponent.”

Scout.com also gives Culpepper high marks on his toughness, not surprising considering his bloodlines: Both his parents have made multiple appearances on the TV show “Survivor.”

His father was a nine-year NFL veteran after finishing an All-American college career with the Gators.

“I compare myself to him because he did an amazing job and did everything right,” Judge Culpepper said of his father in an interview with prepsportsscouting.com last year. “It’s great. (My dad and brother) are great sources to tap into and are very helpful. My dad knows so much, and I talk to him about everything. I take a step back and talk to my brother and he’s more down to earth. They are great guys.”

With Culpepper’s commitment, Penn State probably is looking at having eight to 10 scholarships left to fill for its 2018 recruiting class. That number is expected to diminish by this time next week.

Among the more highly-rated rising-season players expected to attend today’s recruiting opportunity are Young, defensive linemen P.J. Mustipher, Jayson Oweh, Tyreke Smith, Marcellus Earlington and Aeneas Hawkins, receivers Daniel George and Shaquon Anderson-Butts and tackles Rasheed Walker and T.J. Bradley. A number of top Nittany Lion targets from the next two classes also should be on hand, as well as many of this year’s recruits who already have committed.


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