While the COVID-19 pandemic and an unprecedented 0-5 start may have hurt the Nittany Lions’ chances in recruiting some of their top targets in the Class of 2021, those factors did not lead to a single decommitment for Penn State. All 15 players who were verbally committed to the Nittany Lions signed their letters of intent during the NCAA early signing period last week.
While there could still be some additions between now and the traditional signing day in February, it was an impressive feat that Penn State did not have any commits waver over the past nine months. In total, the Class of 2021 for Penn State included just two decommitments – Dont’e Thornton in August, 2019, and Nick Elksnis, on March 1, 2020. That total matches the number from the classes of 2019 and 2017.
In the Class of 2020, Penn State suffered seven decommitments, including two of them just weeks before the early signing period. The lauded Class of 2018 had six players who backed off their pledges, while seven players decommitted in the Class of 2016.
The retention numbers this season are perhaps more impressive, as players were unable to take official visits dating back to March. For comparison sake, Michigan, Maryland, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Michigan State, Rutgers, Northwestern, Purdue, and Illinois have all sustained decommitments in the past two months.
Thornton, a highly-touted four-star receiver, gave an early pledge to the Nittany Lions, but reopened his recruitment more than a year before he officially signed with the University of Oregon. Elksnis, another early commit in the Class of 2021, backed off his pledge to the Nittany Lions, and almost immediately committed to the University of Florida, where he signed last week.
Running back target Murrell signs with UCLA
While all the committed members of Penn State’s Class of 2021 put pen to paper on the first day of the NCAA early signing period, the Nittany Lions failed to add to the class a few days later. Last Friday, priority running back target Deshun Murrell signed with UCLA, choosing the Bruins over the Nittany Lions.
Murrell’s letter of intent brings an end to a saga that included him committing to UCLA twice in a span of approximately six months. Murrell, a three-star player from Centreville, Alabama, initially pledged to the Bruins in June. In November, however, the Nittany Lions turned their focus to Murrell, and less than two weeks after he received the PSU offer, he backed off his pledge to UCLA to reevaluate his decision.
With those two schools representing his finalists, Murrell elected to return to UCLA, where he is also expected to compete in track and field.
Barring a surprising commitment over the next several weeks, it appears that Penn State will not sign a running back in the class. However, the Nittany Lions did add a running back via the transfer portal this week, as former Baylor standout John Lovett will suit up for the blue and white in 2021.
Nittany Lions make cut for five-star Stewart, four-star Fegans
Two of the top defensive prospects in the Class of 2022 have included the Nittany Lions among their favorites.
Shemar Stewart, a defensive end from Opa Locka, Florida, released a top ten list last week that featured Penn State, along with Florida, Miami, Georgia, LSU, Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama, Texas A&M, and Arizona State. A five-star prospect, Stewart is ranked as the fifth-best player nationally in the cycle, per the 247 composite. Stewart began garnering Power Five offers at the start of 2019, and the Nittany Lions joined the fray in May of that year. Other Big Ten schools that have extended offers include Michigan and Nebraska.
Similarly, Alabama cornerback Trequon Fegans had Penn State on his top-ten list that he unveiled on Saturday. Fegans also is considering Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Florida, Nebraska, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Listed as the 77th-best recruit in the class and a four-star prospect, Fegans also stated that he’ll be committing soon. Penn State has placed an emphasis in Alabama recently, securing a commitment from wide receiver Harrison Wallace, while narrowly missing on Murrell, both in the Class of 2021.
PSU offers former Arizona commit Grayes
A coaching change at the University of Arizona could potentially open the door for Penn State in the recruitment of Class of 2022 wide receiver Kyion Grayes.
Last week, Grayes ended his commitment to the Wildcats, just days after Arizona fired head coach Kevin Sumlin. The same day that he announced the change of plans, Grayes received an offer from Penn State, as well as from Texas. Since initially giving a verbal pledge to Arizona in August, Grayes has also garnered offers from Ohio State, Oregon, and LSU.
Standing at 6-foot-1 and weighing 170 pounds, Grayes is a four-star prospect who currently sits just outside of the top 300 players nationally.