Penn State Football Setting Up Future Success With Defensive Back Recruiting

Penn State football’s recruiting has been on a roll, folks.

While most Penn Staters have been enjoying the beach, the pool, and everything else summer has to offer, James Franklin and the Nittany Lions have been heavily hitting the recruiting trail. Their efforts have yielded positive results, with four-star defensive backs Daryus Dixson and Jahmir Joseph committing to the program’s class of 2025 in the last 10 days.

The commitments provide not only a boost to the program’s future but also reaffirm its status as one of the top destinations in college football for highly-touted defensive back recruits.

Dixson’s commitment in particular was a pleasant surprise for the Nittany Lions. Ranked the No. 10 cornerback and No. 7 overall player in California according to 247Sports’ Composite rankings, the Santa Ana native had significant interest from West Coast schools such as USC and Washington. He became the highest-rated member of Penn State’s recruiting class upon his commitment, leapfrogging running back Alvin Henderson.

The 6’0″, 180-pound Dixson plays for Mater Dei, a breeding ground for some of the West’s best programs. During his junior season, Dixson made 56 total tackles and three interceptions, defended 14 passes, and forced one fumble, per his MaxPreps profile.

Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions beat out Georgia, Notre Dame, South Carolina, and Stanford for Joseph’s commitment. The Montvale, New Jersey, native is ranked the No. 23 cornerback and No. 5 player in his state, according to 247Sports’ Composite rankings.

Standing 6′0″ and 175 pounds, Joseph currently plays for St. Joseph Regional. During his junior season, Joseph recorded 43 total tackles, eight passes defended, four forced fumbles, three interceptions, and two blocked punts, per his MaxPreps profile.

The duo joins safety Antonio Branch Jr. and cornerback Xxavier Thomas, who are both three stars, as the only defensive backs in the class.

While neither Dixson nor Joseph have publicly gone into more detail about why they chose Penn State, cornerback coach and longtime Franklin lieutenant Terry Smith’s recruiting style likely had a major influence.

“It’s about relationships. You know, just staying in touch, keeping communication, making guys feel appreciated,” Smith said in 2023. “Then, once you have them committed, you can’t slack. You’ve got to maintain the same consistency.”

“One of the things we do in the room is we have a peer mentor group,” he continued. “So, each older guy gets with a younger guy or a new transfer guy to make sure their transition is proper, whether it’s academic support, whether it’s mental support, whether it’s learning the scheme support, or just functioning day-to-day as a college athlete here at Penn State.”

Smith is credited by 247Sports for landing both Dixson and Joseph. He has a track record of bringing eventual NFL-level talent to Happy Valley, recruiting players such as Joey Porter Jr., Jaquan Brisker, Kalen King, and Tariq Castro-Fields, to name just a few.

Penn State is continuing to add depth in its secondary, but it’ll likely be headlined by Dixson and Joseph in three or four seasons. The duo won’t arrive until January at the earliest, and high-upside players such as Zion Tracy and Antoine Belgrave-Shorter will still be waiting in the wings.

However, Penn State is setting itself up for continued, long-term success in its secondary by landing two high-end four-stars.

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a third-year journalism major from Silver Spring, Maryland, which means he's an avid fan of all D.C. sports teams. If Nolan isn't writing about or watching sports, you can probably find him listening to all sorts of music or traveling. To keep up with Nolan, you can follow him on Twitter @nolan_wick or email him at [email protected].

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