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Junior Day has come and gone and Spring Break for the Penn State coaching staff is upon us. However, the pages of my recruiting notebook are not empty.
This week I take a look at a few class of 2014 tidbits, a few not-too-early 2015 Penn State targets, and we’ll finish up with a Penn State discussion with Paramus Catholic head coach Chris Partridge.
So let’s get started:
- I caught up with Virginia defensive tackle Ricky Walker. who is in the middle of a little burst of spring activity. Walker visited Maryland on February 16 for a basketball game with his coach and he said the visit went well. He told me that he will be visiting North Carolina on March 9 and taking in a basketball game as well, this time with his father.
Finally, Walker told me that he has set a date for his spring practice visit to Penn State, which will be March 23 with his father. Penn State still appears to be in good shape with Walker.
- Recent Penn State Junior Day visitor, Gateway safety Anthony Davis, told me that he plans on visiting Temple on March 23, but that is the only visit on his plate right now. It seems like Davis is taking this slow so far this spring.
- Just a reminder to a previous note, Maryland safety Marcus Allen has yet to set up his visit to Penn State, but he had planned to get together with his parents while the Penn State coaches are on break to decide when he can come up for spring practice. I would definitely expect Allen on campus in March, and he is excited about that. Allen has been reeling in a lot of offers, but I would still keep a close eye on him if his parents come with him for his visit this spring. The staff is only holding one spot open at safety and Allen has been made aware of that.
- As a side note to the one spot at safety, I am hearing a little bit more on this. It appears that Penn State would like one safety, one pure linebacker (Troy Reeder) and then they may look at a guy who could be a hybrid linebacker/safety prospect as well. So keep that in mind for any bigger safety prospects or linebackers with some coverage skills.
- John Butler and Anthony Midget spoke on the phone with Ohio safety Darius West last week. West said that had a great talk with the two coaches. He told me that they wanted to get a call set up with Bill O’Brien as soon as possible and it appears Penn State definitely wants to get him in for a visit during spring practice. West told me that he is definitely interested in that, so we will keep an eye on his upcoming plans.
- Finally, Penn State running back commit Mark Allen has been doing some recruiting for the Nittany Lions as well. He told me that he has been in the ear of Marcus Allen and his DeMatha teammate, wide receiver Cameron Phillips about Penn State. He said that both are really high on Penn State.
In addition, Allen told me that his best friend, D.C., cornerback D’Andre Payne is a guy he has been trying to push towards Penn State. Allen told me that Payne was trying to get up to Penn State’s Junior Day a few weeks ago, but he got a little late notice on it. Penn State hasn’t been in a lot of contact with Payne, due to a preference for taller defensive backs, but there is no doubt that Payne has plenty of speed and could re-enter the picture as the recruiting season goes on.Allen told me that he really thinks Payne would pick Penn State, so we will keep an eye on that as cornerback recruiting continues to unfold.
- I spoke with 2015 wide receiver/cornerback Shaun Crawford from powerhouse St. Edwards High School near Cleveland. Crawford told me that Anthony Midget has been in contact with him recently. “Coach Midgett told me that they were interested in me and kind of looking for players to come in and play right away because of the scholarships they lost. Also, he told me that they are looking to recruit players as two-way players and they see me as one of those
Crawford told me that he is definitely interested in Penn State and he is hoping to find time to visit if he can fit it in with his track schedule. He isn’t the biggest guy at 5-foot-9.5, 170-pounds reportedly, but take a look at his film. He has some impressive speed and ability, really standing out as a sophomore on a loaded team in the highest classification in Ohio.
- I also spoke with 2015 Ohio athlete Jerome Baker from Benedictine High School in Cleveland. He told me that he reached out to Midget as well, and he was invited up for camp this summer, which Baker tells me he will attend. I asked him if he was interested in Penn State. “Interested is not the word. I loved Penn State since I was in grade school,” Baker said.
Baker plays running back and linebacker in high school right now, however he told me he would play anywhere the coaches would put him in college. His film is also impressive. He runs pretty upright as a running back and he is a little raw as a linebacker, but he is quite an athlete and that shows on his sophomore film. At 6-foot-1, 190-pounds, Baker could still be growing so it is hard to predict his best position. However, he told me that he ran a 4.54 40 at the Nike Combine in Massillon, Ohio, recently, with a 4.09 agility time. Baker will definitely be a name to keep track of this summer at camp.
I wanted to get some notes from Coach Partridge after the dust had settled from his visit to Happy Valley with a few of his players. Last month, Partridge visited Penn State with five-star athlete Jabrill Peppers, offensive tackle Juwan Bushell-Beatty and quarterback Steve Shanley.
“All three of them were very impressed by the coaches and the facilities and they all liked the school. I think they are all going to plan to visit again in the spring for spring practice,” Partridge said. “The only one of those guys with an offer is Jabrill Peppers. Juwann is the next closest to an offer, I think, because they said that they really like him and they are continuing to evaluate because they only have 15 scholarships."
I asked Coach Partridge first about the impact of the visit on Peppers, a Top247 prospect.
“I think Penn State definitely got in the running a little bit there and they will definitely be in his top five or top 10,” Partridge said. “I think that he was very impressed and he definitely said that he likes it and they are in the running now. He is going to visit some other schools this spring and then really make a decision to narrow it down to I think three schools that he is going to visit in the fall and Penn State is definitely in that discussion.
“I know in April he is going to visit Ohio State, Michigan, LSU and Stanford as well. Penn State wants him to come up for spring practice too, but I don’t think they have set up a date for that yet.”
Next, I asked Coach Partridge about where the Nittany Lions stand with Bushell-Beatty after his visit.
“Juwan was really impressed and he really likes the school, but he has a lot of other schools that have offered so he is looking at them more right now,” Partridge said. “I think if Penn State offers then they will be right up there in the running because he does really like the school, but he is going to visit Ohio State and Michigan and some other schools that have offered him already right now.”
Next, I asked a bit about the Penn State connection at Paramus Catholic and how he came to driving three of his top players down to visit Penn State.
“John Strollo was a coach when I played at Lafayette, so I have a relationship with him and now with him being the tight ends coach at Penn State he has been recruiting at least my school in north New Jersey since he came there and so I have been in constant contact with him,” Partridge said. “As far as the Penn State visit, I brought the three guys that Penn State had shown a lot of interest in, so I figured with my relationship with Coach Strollo I decided to set up that visit with those three guys and we just went with it.
"Coach Strollo has been in contact with me throughout about those guys, but they will also reach out to him and talk to him to get to know him personally as well.”
Finally, I asked Partridge if Paramus Catholic has any rising juniors that Penn State has already started looking at for the class of 2015.
“We have a rising junior named Najee Clayton, a wide receiver and they are already asking about him to recruit him, and really everybody is after him,” Partridge said.
I asked Coach Partridge about Clayton’s interest in Penn State or if any schools stand out to him right now early on in his process.
“I try to shield the younger guys because I feel like it is too early to get them caught up in recruiting," he explained. "They don’t really go on visits during their sophomore year, I try to get them to focus on football and their work in the classroom and then once they get into their junior season we open things up for them."
So obviously it is great for Penn State to have a connection with the head coach of such a powerhouse school in New Jersey that is loaded with Division I talent. We will see if Penn State can take advantage of that connection with a guy like Peppers or Bushell-Beatty, should the Lions offer him.
Even if Penn State doesn’t land a Paramus Catholic player in the 2014 class, it certainly is nice to have its foot in the door on a potential national recruit at the wide receiver position from the 2015 class in Clayton.
That’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you all again next Wednesday or Thursday as we ramp up for spring practice visits.
This post has been edited 3 times, most recently by Pat Tholey on 3/17/2013 at 3:17 PM
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“We’re doing things we couldn’t imagine,” says safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong. “But we’re doing them together.”
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