With Another Top Haul At The Position, Penn State Is Once Again ‘Linebacker U’
The “Linebacker U” title Penn State once claimed grew weaker over the past decade in the wake of the sanctions era and while other programs consistently built formidable defenses.
Alabama emerged with a seemingly never-ending cycle of All-Americans at the position — nine in the last 12 years to be exact. Georgia has also made a push in addition to the traditional linebacker schools such as Miami and USC.
Just when the modern day “Linebacker U” crown seemed to be stripped from Penn State, the class of 2018 happened. Five-star recruit Micah Parsons, who was a top-five player in high school, re-committed on National Signing Day. He joined four-star linebacker Jesse Luketa to round out one of the nation’s most exciting young duos. Parsons ended up leading the team in tackles as a true freshman, while Luketa saw playing time in every game.
James Franklin seems to have the liked the formula he used while recruiting last year. He signed a pair of blue-chip linebackers again this year, including the class’s No. 2 prospect at the position — Brandon Smith — and four-star, top-50 overall player Lance Dixon.
All of the sudden, the previously decimated group has restocked the pipeline with a young core that can match up with any school in the nation. Penn State once again has a chance to solidify itself as the undisputed LBU.
“Penn State is LBU because of the amount of linebackers that are being developed and elevated to the next level,” Smith said. “We can accomplish a lot as long as we’re competitive and willing to put in the work.”
Penn State is the only team to sign two top 10 linebackers during the Early Signing Period, with Smith at No. 2 and Dixon at No. 6.
Signing Smith and Dixon demonstrates how much Franklin’s recruiting efforts are expanding. Neither player is from Pennsylvania or has ties to Penn State, making the top haul for Brent Pry’s position group all the more impressive. Smith is from Virginia, and Dixon is from Michigan.
“[Penn State’s coaches] have just been honest with us recruits and that’s something that we pay attention to,” Smith said. “The family environment that they created since day one really stood out.”
Like Parsons and Luketa, the two highly-touted prospects will both enroll in January and try to create an early impact. The extra practice time clearly helped the two freshmen make their presence felt this past season.
With every contributor expected to return minus Koa Farmer and the possible day-one impact of Smith and Dixon, Penn State’s linebackers have the potential to return to being the team’s main strength — something that hasn’t been said in years for the program which has long been considered Linebacker U.
The duo’s Wednesday signing was more then a face-value recruiting win for James Franklin, it was a declaration that the LBU crown still resides in Happy Valley.
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About the Author
Penn State football’s offense is running out of time to improve before Ohio State.