The Nittany Lions and head coach James Franklin ended the 2018 recruiting cycle with the best recruiting class that the program has ever signed. Some highlights include Micah Parsons, the highest ranked Nittany Lion signee since Derrick Williams. Justin Shorter, the most talented high school receiver in the country, and four other top 100 players (Ricky Slade, Rasheed Walker, Jayson Oweh, and Pj Mustipher). What this means is that the Penn State football team is going to be infused with more high school talent in a single season than ever before.
Penn State has been one of the top recruiting programs in the country ever since James Franklin took over. In fact, the last time the Nittany Lions didn’t sign a top-25 recruiting class was during the 2013 cycle. The impact has been obvious. Penn State has gone from shackled by sanctions (remember the offensive line play during Christian Hackenberg’s final season at Penn State… yeah ouch). To one of the deepest teams in the conference. If you don’t believe me listen to this. Penn State signed the 20th best class in the nation last season and only 3 of those kids saw the field. All season. Penn State’s status as a national championship contender can be linked directly to their recruiting efforts.
Penn State fans aren’t being over emotional if they are really excited about this class. They have reason to be. But now I’m going to tell you about how much better this class COULD have been. These are the guys that de-committed from Penn State during the 2018 recruiting cycle.
3 star OT, Antwan Reed out of Michigan de-committed from Penn State late in 2017. This seemed to have been one of those natural decommitments where a recruit just decided he had changed his mind. Reed eventually committed to Western Michigan where he will play next season. Logistically speaking this one wasn’t much of a loss for Penn State because shortly after his decision, Penn State locked onto 4 star OT Rasheed Walker as a replacement for Reed. Addition by subtraction I suppose.
In the same boat was another 3 star OT named Chris Bleich. The same story as Reed except Bleich will be playing at Florida next season. Not a huge loss for Penn State considering the talent they are bringing in on the O-Line.
If I told you that at one point Penn State had a commitment from the no. 2 recruit in the country would you believe me? If you’re just finding this out for the first time then it’s probably because Justin Fields’ commitment to the Nittany Lions came and went so quickly that some fans forgot about it, or just never heard the news. Regardless Fields will be playing for Georgia next season rather than Penn State. This is the one that hurts to think about. Penn State could have had the nation’s top high school QB on their roster for the next 3-5 years… oh well, give me Tommy Stevens.
Next up are the troublemakers. DE Dorian Hardy was set to be a Nittany Lion until he got into a physical fight with one of his high school coaches. The Penn State staff caught on to this not-so-subtle red flag and quickly pulled out of his recruitment. Another recruit who Penn State missed out on due to some shady behavior was DB Isheem Young. Young de-committed from Penn State after he was supposedly involved in the robbery of a gas station. Both Young and Hardy were 3-star prospects.
Finally, we have just one recruit left to talk about, and it is the only player on this list who may still end up at Penn State. Shaquon Anderson-Butts was committed to Penn State all the way up to National Signing Day. It was revealed that Butts wasn’t able to get his grades in order before Signings Day and therefore was unable to sign with Penn State. Shaquon, a high school teammate of Micah Parsons, will be at Iowa Western Community College next year. He will be eligible to transfer to a Division 1 school either next year or two years from now, dependant on his academic situation. Hopefully, we see you in a year or two SAB.
Just as all classes do, the 2018 class had a couple disappointing moments. In the end, though you have to credit the Penn State coaching staff for keeping a level head through it all. Over a two month span, they received decommitments from the no. 2 recruit in the country (Justin Fields) and the no. 5 recruit in the country (Micah Parsons who was not included because he came back to Penn State). Through it all, they stayed faithful on the recruiting trail and were rewarded with the no.5 recruiting class in the country. Fight on state.