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Penn State Taking Its Linebacker Recruiting To The Next Level

Penn State pulled off a major recruiting victory Sunday when four-star Michigan linebacker Lance Dixon committed to the Nittany Lions over Ohio State, Wisconsin, and both of his home-state schools.

Dixon’s verbal gives defensive coordinator Brent Pry commitments from two of America’s best linebackers in 2019, as five-star Mineral, VA, native Brandon Smith chose Penn State on May 21.

Prior to the 2018 recruiting class, when Penn State landed Micah Parsons, Jesse Luketa, and Charlie Katshir, the Nittany Lions had struck out on a handful of their favorite prospects at the position the past few years.

In 2017, Anthony Hines, Avery Roberts, and David Adams all strongly considered Penn State before signing elsewhere. Adams recently retired from football after one season at Notre Dame due to lingering injury issues.

The year prior, top targets Brendan Ferns and Aaron Hansford ended up at West Virginia and Texas A&M, respectively. In 2015, Ricky DeBerry picked Oklahoma over the Nittany Lions and a host of others, while Josh Barajas flipped from Penn State to the Fighting Irish.

After enrolling early, Parsons finished with eight tackles in his first Blue-White game.

With Smith and Dixon now on board for 2019, Pry is assembling what should be a dominant linebacker room well into the future. Gone are the days when a few injuries absolutely decimated the position’s depth, like the infamous 2016 Michigan game.

Though the program’s next starting middle linebacker has yet to be determined, Penn State is in far better shape this season in terms of the amount of talent it boasts in the second level of its defense.

Cam Brown and Koa Farmer are likely to resume their starting roles on the outside, but it remains to be seen whether redshirt freshman Ellis Brooks will take control of the Mike job.

The expectations for Parsons, the second-highest ranked Penn State prospect of all time behind Derrick Williams, are astronomical. Though the hard-hitting former five-star will certainly see plenty of action as a true freshman, it’s unclear if Parsons is ready for an every-down role or if he’ll mainly be a situational player to begin his career.

Penn State is still pursuing Parsons’ Harrisburg High teammate Andre White Jr., who surprisingly committed to Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M earlier this spring. White, a four-star linebacker, is considered the best prospect in Pennsylvania this cycle, according to 247Sports.

Farmer is Penn State’s leading returning tackler with 48 stops in 2017.

Farmer will extinguish his eligibility after this season, but Brown still has another year to play in 2019. Considering the NCAA’s new redshirt rule, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that Penn State could introduce Smith and Dixon to the rest of the Big Ten in some capacity as true freshmen.

A potential starting trio of Parsons, Smith, and Dixon is a scary thought for teams on Penn State’s future schedules, with all three standing 6-foot-2 or taller. They each check the box from a speed standpoint, too. Dixon has clocked a 4.5 laser-timed 40-yard dash, and projects as a Sam linebacker at the college level.

The West Bloomfield, MI, product is currently competing in Texas at Nike’s The Opening, where he has the opportunity to also do a little recruiting on behalf of the Nittany Lions. Penn State targets Zach Harrison, Nick Cross, Bryan Bresee, and Chris Tyree are all on Team Dynamite with Dixon.

Following back-to-back 11-win seasons, it’s no wonder the Nittany Lions are cruising on the recruiting trail yet again, but it finally seems their message is being received by the nation’s top linebackers — something that had alluded them for some time.

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About the Author

Ethan Kasales

Ethan’s a senior journalism major who grew up in Lemont, a few minutes from campus. When he’s not covering Penn State sports, you can usually find him golfing or teaching snowboarding at Tussey Mountain. Feel free to email him at [email protected]

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