Harlan on recruiting: Penn State recruiting class among nation’s best

Wednesday, September 27, 2017 | 5:18 PM

Penn State has climbed to fourth in both major polls, and the team ranks even higher when it comes to recruiting.

As one number rises, so does the other.

With the early signing period about three months away, coach James Franklin's staff is adding the final pieces to a 2018 recruiting class that already is ranked third-best by Rivals.

West Virginia is No. 33, and Pitt is 55.

Only Ohio State and Miami (Fla.) have better recruiting classes than Penn State's 23-commit class that now includes 17 four-star prospects. There are few scholarship spots still unfilled, but the Nittany Lions likely aren't finished, said Rivals' Adam Friedman, Mid-Atlantic Recruiting Analyst.

“Ranked fourth in the country, top Heisman contender and a relatively promising future for the team,” Friedman said. “(That combination) is really doing a great job for the team on the recruiting trail.”

Franklin's top target is Harrisburg senior Micah Parsons (6-foot-3, 240 pounds), a defensive end whom Rivals ranks fifth overall among all recruits nationally. Penn State, Ohio State and Nebraska are considered his favorites. The five-star recruit first committed to Penn State in February 2016 but continued to visit the Nittany Lions after he reopened his recruiting process in April.

“The momentum seems to be shifting a little away from Ohio State for Parsons and back toward Penn State,” Friedman said. “We'll see if that momentum continues in Penn State's favor as the process moves forward. Parsons is a guy who says he wants to sign early and enroll early. He's working that out with his school right now.”

It's rare for a recruit to back out of his commitment and later enroll at that original school, as Parsons could.

“Penn State certainly worked themselves back into the picture there,” Friedman said. “It would be interesting to see the very rare re-commitment.”

Besides Parsons, Friedman noted two other four-star defensive ends who are considering Penn State: Jason Oweh (6-5, 240) of Blairstown, N.J., and Tyreke Smith (6-4, 252) of Cleveland. Rivals ranks Oweh at No. 179 nationally, and Smith is No. 53.

Four-star offensive tackle Rasheed Walker (6-6, 295) of Waldorf, Md., also could pick Penn State. Rivals ranks Walker at No. 49 overall.

They could further boost a class that Friedman already considers “phenomenal.”

Penn State's top commitments are wideout Justin Shorter (6-3, 220) of New Jersey and running back Ricky Slade (5-9, 190) of Virginia. The incoming class also has two very good tight ends, Friedman said, and important depth for the lines and at linebacker.

“They're doing a really, really good job of bringing in high-level playmakers,” Friedman said. “It's phenomenal.”

Keystone is key

Penn State found success this year with Pennsylvania recruits. The team has commitments from seven of the state's top 25 seniors, a Rivals list that includes tight end Zack Kuntz of Camp Hill, defensive back Isheem Young of Imhotep Charter, linebackers Nick Tarburton of Pennridge and Jesse Luketa of Mercyhurst Prep and offensive lineman Juice Scruggs of Cathedral Prep. All are four-star recruits.

Howard connection

Howard assistant coach Brennan Marion had a busy day in Western Pennsylvania. Shady Side Academy junior quarterback/defensive back Skyy Moore and two Aliquippa teammates, senior linebacker Tariq Jones and junior cornerback MJ Devonshire, announced scholarship offers Tuesday from Marion, a former Greensburg Salem star.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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