Penn State Commits Highlight High School All-Star Games
Though Penn State football is immersed in preparation for its TaxSlayer Bowl showdown with Georgia on Saturday, Jan. 2 in Jacksonville, a bunch of future Nittany Lions are putting in work of their own at various high school all-star games across the country.
Below, we’ll break down each of the developmental showcases where Penn State Class of 2016 commits are proudly representing their school of choice and update the status of James Franklin’s remaining recruiting targets. Incredibly, 16 of the Nittany Lions’ 18 pledges are slated to participate in a postseason tilt.
Offense-Defense All-American Bowl
Five Nittany Lion commits are on-hand in Daytona Beach, Fla., for the 10th annual Offense-Defense All-American Bowl. Defensive tackles Karamo Dioubate (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Michael Dwumfour (Wayne, N.J.) are future “Wild Dogs” who are getting some early grooming against a crop of the nation’s best high school seniors before arriving in Happy Valley this coming summer. Shaka Toney (Philadelphia, Pa.) displayed tremendous versatility on the defensive side of the ball in high school, but it appears he’ll enter the program as an outside linebacker rather than a defensive end.
Penn State currently holds commitments from two of the country’s premier specialists in kicker Quinn Nordin (Rockford, Mich.) and punter Blake Gillikin (Atlanta, Ga.). Some fans have already taken the initiate to give the duo a new nickname: “Quake.” However, while Nordin has been committed to Penn State since mid-July, both home state Michigan and Baylor will also receive official visits from the the USA Today First-Team All-American, who’s a standout lacrosse player as well. Dwumfour, Toney, and Gillikin each helped to capture a state title for their respective schools in the past few weeks.
The quintet is undoubtedly trying their hand at swaying another state champion to join them in State College: four-star shutdown cornerback Damar Hamlin (Pittsburgh, Pa.), who brought home the PIAA AAAA crown for new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s alma mater, Central Catholic. Hamlin is down to three schools, with Penn State, Ohio State, and hometown Pitt still in the mix for his signature.
The National and American squads will put their new skills to the test as they take the field at Dayton Beach Municipal Stadium on New Year’s Day at 5:45 p.m. ET.
Under Armour All-America Game
The ninth annual Under Armour All-America Game should be a good one, as the fan-favorite contest consistently brings the best out of the nation’s future college stars. In fact, many recent first-round NFL draft picks made their debut on the big stage at Tropicana Field. Christian Hackenberg and Chris Godwin are among the list of notable Penn Staters to participate in the game. Four incoming Nittany Lions, all members of Team Armour, have spent the past few days going head-to-head with the top athletes at their respective positions. They’ll don these slick all-black Under Armour threads come game time.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 28, 2015
Miles Sanders (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Michal Menet (Reading, Pa.) turned plenty of heads on offense during practice. Sanders is making his case as the nation’s top running back, which is a scary thought considering he’ll share the backfield with true freshman phenom Saquon Barkley next season. If everything goes according to plan, Penn State will have one of the most dangerous one-two punches in college football. Sanders has had the chance to run behind one of his future blockers this week, the über athletic Menet, who has the utility to play each position along the offensive line.
On defense, another pair of commits, defensive end Shane Simmons (Hyattsville, Md.) and defensive tackle Ellison Jordan (Baltimore, Md.) have more than held their own in the trenches. Jordan conjures the memory of Penn State standout and current Seattle Seahawk Jordan Hill due to his high motor and smaller stature. Simmons is one of the quickest, most talented edge rushers in his class, but, like Jordan, will need some time in the weight room to add to his frame before taking the field at Beaver Stadium. However, once these two are ready to go, watch out.
Sanders, Menet, SImmons, and Jordan will be in the ear of four-star outside linebacker/wide receiver Aaron Hansford (Washington, D.C.) in hopes of getting him to join #DaPride16. Team Armour and Team Highlight will square off in the Orlando Citrus Bowl at the exact same time (noon) as the TaxSlayer Bowl on Saturday, Jan. 2. The game will air on ESPN2.
Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl
The 2016 Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl features the most Penn State verbals of any all-star game with six future Nittany Lions making the trip to Carson, Calif., to train with the Marines and add some polish to their games. Offensive tackle Will Fries (Cranford, N.J.) is another commit who captured a state championship, while tight end Danny Dalton (Marshfield, Mass.) garnered Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year honors and will enroll early at University Park for the spring semester.
Defensively, Penn State legacy Andrew Pryts (Hermitage, Pa.), whose father Ed played linebacker for Joe Paterno from 1978-81, is the lone safety commit for the Nittany Lions. Pryts showcased impressive athleticism on both sides of the ball in high school and will likely be given the chance to compete for playing time right away at a position of need. Joining Pryts in the defensive backfield is dual-sport corner and baseball centerfielder Zech McPhearson (Upper Marlboro, Md.), whose older brother Josh is a walk-on wide receiver for Penn State.
— TheSemperFiBowl (@TheSemperFiBowl) December 23, 2015
Outside linebacker commit Cameron Brown (Paint Branch, Md.) could potentially grow into a defensive end given his lengthy frame at 6-foot-5, but the high school teammate (Bullis School) of rising redshirt freshman tight end Jon Holland is the type of athlete you simply want on your roster regardless of position. Daniel Joseph (Lake Forest, Ill.) is a big-time defensive end who surprised many recruiting analysts when he spurned offers from home-state powers Michigan and Michigan State in favor of the Nittany Lions in late June. The lone uncommitted target joining them in the Golden State is three-star safety/returner Khaleke Hudson (McKeesport, Pa.), who has apparently narrowed his focus to Penn State, Michigan, UCLA, and hometown Pitt. It’s East meets West on Sunday, Jan. 3 at 9:00 p.m. ET at the StubHub Center.
U.S. Army All-American Bowl
The 16th annual U.S. Army All-American Bowl features only one Penn State commit in center Connor McGovern (Lopez, Pa.), but the 6-foot-4.5, 295-pounder has a college-ready frame and mindset to make a difference up front as early as possible. Along with Dalton, McGovern, quarterback Jake Zembiec (Rochester, N.Y.), and offensive tackle Alex Gellerstedt (Dublin, Ohio) will all the have the chance to get their college careers rolling during spring practice as early enrollees. Zembiec is the fifth Nittany Lion commit to bring home a state title this fall.
McGovern likely has two names circled in terms of recruiting more talent to join him in State College. Four-star middle linebacker Brendan Ferns (St. Clairsville, Ohio) has been toward the top of the Nittany Lions’ board for quite some time. Ferns will take official visits to Penn State, Notre Dame, and West Virginia, where his brother Michael plays fullback, before making a final decision.
Four-star athlete Jordan Fuller (Westwood, N.J.) is one of the most highly-regarded recruits in the 2016 class and Penn State has made no qualms about its desire to land the Garden State speedster. Ohio State, Michigan, and Notre Dame appear to be the Nittany Lions’ main contenders for his commitment. Fuller could potentially be a two-way standout on the next level as a cornerback, safety, or even wide receiver.
The U.S. Army All-American Bowl will get underway on Saturday, Jan. 9 at noon ET in the Alamodome in San Antonio, Tex. The game will air live on NBC.
Although Penn State hopes to end its season on a high note with a win over Georgia this Saturday in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl, the future of the program is undoubtedly in good hands thanks to a bevy of talent coming on board this spring and summer.