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Penn State Football Secures Four New Recruits On National Signing Day

Penn State football officially welcomed Smith Vilbert, TJ Jones, Daequan Hardy, and Joseph Appiah Darkwa to the team on National Signing Day.

Three-star defensive back Daequan Hardy’s addition to the team materialized fairly late and quickly on Tuesday. Hardy had a modest list of offers which included Buffalo, Toledo, and Akron, but Penn State made a late push for Penn Hills’ two-way star. He announced his commitment to the Nittany Lions just hours after he received an offer from the team.

Hardy may not be the most eye-catching prospect out there, but James Franklin’s had some success in recruiting low-ranked defensive backs before. Amani Oruwariye and Grant Haley were both three-star recruits coming out of high school, but their college careers clearly went fairly well.

Additionally, wide receiver TJ Jones became a Nittany Lion on Wednesday in a move which didn’t come as much of a surprise. Jones also fielded offers from Indiana, Texas A&M, and Boston College, among others, but JaJuan Seider continued his torrent recruiting streak in Florida by bringing him to Happy Valley.

Jones is one of just two receivers in Penn State’s class of 2019 along with fellow Floridian John Dunmore. That position isn’t too much of a need in this recruiting cycle thanks to the return of standouts KJ Hamler, Justin Shorter, and Jahan Dotson next year.

Three-star defensive linemen Smith Vilbert and Joseph Appiah Darkwa both committed to Penn State prior to Tuesday, and they officially became Nittany Lions on National Signing Day, too.

One major storyline across the country surrounded four-star safety Nick Cross, a blue-chip prospect in every sense of the term. Cross is currently committed to Florida State, but Penn State made a strong push late in the recruiting process to secure his services next year. 247Sports director of recruiting Steve Wiltfong reported he wouldn’t sign a letter of intent with any team on Wednesday.

The DeMara Catholic High School (MD) product is the No. 55 overall player available in this recruiting cycle and one of the “10 biggest freaks” in the class, per 247Sports. He’s six feet tall and weighs 206 pounds, and the high school track star’s best recorded 40-yard dash time is 4.43 seconds. Maryland is also reportedly in the running for Cross.

Penn State did lose out on four-star offensive lineman and potential flip candidate Doug Nester, who changed his commitment from Ohio State to Virginia Tech on Wednesday. Nester was once believed to be a Penn State lean, but the Hokies quickly emerged as the favorite to land his signature.

James Franklin has secured 23 recruits in the 2019 cycle, giving him the No. 13 ranked recruiting class, per 247Sports’ composite rankings. 19 of those players — including five-star linebackers Brandon Smith and Lance Dixon — signed their letters of intent in December. Four-star defensive lineman D’Von Ellies also signed on the first signing day in December, but he kept his decision a secret until the Polynesian Bowl.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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