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Spring Break is in full swing, but there's plenty to catch up with around the Nittany Lions football program.
Welcome back to the 'S' Zone, a weekly collaboration of notes on the Nittany Lions and Penn State recruiting put together by Lions247 editor Sean Fitz, 247Sports.com National Recruiting Writer Steve Wiltfong and Lions247 recruiting analyst Cory James.
This week, we take a look at how the Nittany Lions wrapped up their winter conditioning with a yearly testing session, we talk a new offer to a prospect with NFL bloodlines and we go inside Penn State's offensive line recruiting in 2014 for the latest on which targets will visit this spring.
For that and much, much more, read below.
The squad is on leave for spring break this week, but the Nittany Lions did complete their spring testing session before departing. Players were tested in a few pro-style combine events, including the 40-yard dash and the pro agility drill, while also maxing on the bench. It should be noted that any times gathered here are hand-timed, and are best taken in a relative sense rather than as an absolute.
It comes as no surprise that the fastest Nittany Lion is slot receiver Alex Kenney, who posted a 40 in the 4.4-second range. Kenney posted a 4.43-second time a year ago, which was also tops on the team.
The biggest head-turner, per sources, was sophomore-to-be Jesse James. He was the guy whose name kept popping up when asking who was the most impressive. James, who checks in on the latest roster at 6-foot-7, 267-pounds, clocked his best 40 of the day with a 4.58-second effort. When you take into account his size and stride length, that's just absurd.
Tight end Adam Breneman's recovery seems to be coming along well. He was able to test and clocked in the high 4.7's, which is pretty good considering he's roughly seven months off of ACL surgery. Position-mates Matt Lehman and Brent Wilkerson were in the 4.8-range.
There's been a lot of talk about Allen Robinson's speed. He clocked a time of right around 4.5-seconds and was also the strongest wide receiver. Sophomore wide receiver Trevor Williams was also strong all-around, posting a 4.5 and a very good pro agility run.
Perhaps the biggest surprise on the offensive side of the ball came out of the backfield, as redshirt freshman Akeel Lynch clocked an impressive 4.48-second time at 217 pounds. Starter Zach Zwinak clocked a 4.58-second time, while backup Bill Belton notched a 4.53.
Defensively, two juniors to be stood out in the testing sessions. Linebacker Mike Hull had the team's top bench, and matched that with a 4.55-second 40-yard time. Cornerback Adrian Amos clocked in the neighborhood of a 4.5-second time.
Aside from Hull, guys that stood out on the bench were offensive linemen John Urschel and Donovan Smith as well as defensive tackle DaQuan Jones.
Before we get into the notes section of the 'S' Zone, check out the latest updates on our Targets Page. It's always a work in progress, but it will give you an idea of where Penn State stands on some of the guys that it has offered in the 2014 class.
Now, let's get into the notes.
We told you last week about a potential new offer in the secondary, and it has since come through. The Nittany Lions are one of the newest scholarships for Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas cornerback Al Harris, Jr.. No word yet on the seriousness of his interest level, but the NFL legacy seemed pleased to pick up his latest scholarship.
"It's a huge blessing for me and my family," he said. "I know it's a very prestigious and well-coached program that's been very good for a long time."
From what I've gathered, Harris did not live in Pennsylvania when his father was with the Eagles. He has not set up any visits at this point.
As was reported on Sunday, Penn State is gearing up to host Lackawanna J.C. offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor on the weekend of March 15. It's a big visit for Eluemunor, who is the hottest prospect this side of Thomas Holley. The nation's No. 1 Junior College player will enroll at the school of his choice in 2014.
Penn State is looking to fill one offensive lineman slot this cycle, but landing Eluemunor, who has three years remaining to play two, could make the Nittany Lions amend those plans. Obviously he would be a big get, but Penn State will also need a guy with four full years of eligibility. That said, it would be a long time before that plan would need to come together, as Eluemunor isn't close to making a decision. Penn State is sticking around in his top group of schools, however.
With that in mind, let's go back to the prep level for a snapshot at Penn State's offensive line recruiting.
I spoke with Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic junior Quenton Nelson late last week for a quick update on his spring visit plans. The 6-foot-5, 285-pound prospect will hit the road for several visits in the coming weeks. Nelson will be at Boston College March 22-23, Ohio State March 28-29, Northwestern April 3-4, Notre Dame April 5-6, Rutgers April 12-13 and Penn State on April 20 for the Blue-White Game. He's also trying to squeeze in trips to Duke and North Carolina prior to starting his scheduled tour.
Fredericksburg (Va.) Chancellor combo lineman Steven Moss has surprisingly kept in fairly regular contact with the Nittany Lions since picking up an offer in October. Penn State initially didn't sense much interest, but Moss maintains that he will visit for a spring practice.
Nashville (Tenn.) Montgomery Bell Academy offensive tackle Alex Bars picked up an offer from the Nittany Lions in January, but since then the competition has gotten even stiffer for the Top247 prospect. Notre Dame and LSU both offered last week, while Florida State, Georgia and Stanford have all recently joined the fray as well. The good news for Penn State is that the Nittany Lions will get a visit from Bars in April, as the family will be in Happy Valley for the Blue-White Game on April 20. The Bars family obviously has a high opinion of the program and the job that Bill O'Brien has done thus far, but don't expect Brad Bars' presence to be a deciding factor in Alex's recruitment.
Recently offered Scranton product Noah Beh is still in the process of trying to grasp where he stands on the Nittany Lions. Don't get me wrong, they're obviously a top school, but Beh knows the offer won't be around forever and there is a sense of urgency if he wants to close the deal. The accelerated timeline that we've talked about a few times is a big thing. Ideally he wants to hold out and make a decision after a few visits, but that may not be realistic if he wants his spot at Penn State. Scranton Prep recently made the Class AAA state playoffs in basketball, so Beh is focused on that for the time being. His team will play Milton on Friday evening in Shamokin.
There is not much happening with the other two targets with scholarship offers that we've identified, Arizona tackle Andrew Mike and Good Counsel guard Sam Mustipher. Mike just wrapped up his basketball season and has kept in touch with Mac McWhorter.
"I'm still talking to coach McWhorter regularly. I am still interested just taking my time seeing which school I am most comfortable with," he said. "I think coach McWhorter is one of the best O-Line coaches in the country, and coach O'Brien is a great coach too. We will see as we get closer to the summer what my plans look like, but I am looking at making a trip out for summer."
Mustipher has been on and off with the Nittany Lions, who aren't looking for an interior guy in this class. I don't expect to hear much from he and Penn State anytime soon.
Penn State extended a scholarship offer last weekend to Mount Lebanon wide receiver Troy Apke while he was on campus for the Junior Day. Apke has also added recent BCS offers from Georgia Tech and Minnesota, in addition to Penn State and Pittsburgh. Penn State believes they're firmly in the mix with Apke, who is a Pitt legacy, but does not expect him to make a decision any time soon. If the Nittany Lions bag a commitment from Chris Godwin, that could shut out Apke, but for the time being that's not really an issue as Godwin does not seem to be close to making a decision, either.
It's been reported that Washington (D.C.) Dunbar wideout James Duff has an offer from the Nittany Lions, but I've seen nor heard anything to confirm that.
For those of you who missed our update on DeAndre Thompkins just before the weekend, here it is again.
I made contact with Thompkins this week to get the latest on he and the Nittany Lions. The junior prospect said that he's still very high on Penn State, but the Nittany Lions have informed him that they would indeed be offering other players at his position and they could not wait forever. "They just said that they didn't want me to feel like I was being left behind, they just have to fill spots due to their limits on offers." Essentially, Thompkins still has a slot open to him but he's on the clock and Penn State will move on if they have to. He said that he still may visit in the spring, but I think the next month or so will be very telling if Thompkins will or will not be a member of the 2014 class.
Tomorrow we'll bring you the latest in the recruitment of recently offered defensive tackle Jeremiah Clarke, who has the Nittany Lions in his early top three.
This post has been edited 3 times, most recently by Pat Tholey on 3/17/2013 at 3:14 PM
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