When four-star linebacker Dylan Rivers flipped his commitment from the Nittany Lions to Virginia Tech on Sunday afternoon, James Franklin already had a contingency plan in place.
That morning, Penn State joined the hot pursuit of four-star Ellis Brooks. The Richmond, Va., native confirmed the news via Twitter.
— Ellis Brooks (@EllisBrooks35) January 22, 2017
While Brooks was somewhat of an unknown name to the Nittany Lion faithful who follow recruiting, that quickly changed, and for good reason. The 6-foot-2, 233-pounder was a two-time VISAA State Champion (2014-15) at Benedictine College Prep. He’ll use his final official visit on a trip to State College this weekend, meaning Brent Pry will be the last coach to make his pitch before National Signing Day on Feb. 1. You can check out the Under Armour All-American’s Hudl highlight reel right here.
As you would expect, Brooks has no shortage of prestigious suitors in his ear. The nation’s 12th-ranked inside linebacker prospect, according to the 247Sports Composite, holds offers from the likes of LSU, Michigan, and Oregon, among others. He’s already visited Baton Rouge and Eugene, as well as Maryland and Northwestern. However, if there’s one thing we know about James Franklin’s recruiting habits, it’s that he loves the roll out the red carpet with the chips on the table.
Franklin and Pry will waste little time showing Brooks, a baseball player in the offseason, why Penn State is the one and only “Linebacker U.” From an academic standpoint, the former Duke commit would be a perfect fit in Happy Valley. He also received coveted offers from Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Princeton, and Cornell, proving he’s no slouch in the classroom.
It’s been a while since the Nittany Lions have closed a recruiting cycle by securing their top linebacker target. In 2016, they chased four-star Brendan Ferns all the way to the finish line before he opted to join his older brother at West Virginia. The year prior, four-star Josh Barajas flipped from Penn State to Notre Dame. Simply put, Brooks is a must-get for Pry.
Though there’s no shortage of starting talent returning at the position, with veterans like Jason Cabinda, Manny Bowen, and Koa Farmer all poised for big seasons, the depth situation as a whole is still a bit concerning. Former walk-on Brandon Smith, junior Jake Cooper, and sophomore Cam Brown are the only backups with significant experience. Johnathan Thomas is a converted running back who’s yet to make a splash, while redshirt sophomore Jarvis Miller officially moved from safety to linebacker on the spring roster update.
Of course, the Nittany Lions do have two linebacker prospects left on board for 2017 in Brelin Faison-Walden, who’s enrolled in classes, and summer arrival Brailyn Franklin. Both played a handful of positions on the high school level and seem to be in line for a redshirt, but obviously things change, as we saw when Brown was thrust into action last fall.
Unfortunately for Penn State, the pickings are pretty slim right now on the recruiting trail. A whopping 42 of America’s top 50 linebacker prospects are currently committed with just over a week before pen hits paper. It’s unclear who the middle linebacker of the future is once Cabinda graduates.
If Brooks picks the Nittany Lions, rest assured that he’s the man for the job.