With Mathias “Mega” Barnwell decommitting from Penn State last week, the Nittany Lions are back to starting from scratch with their Class of 2023. While Barnwell, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound tight end from Fredericksburg, Virginia, will likely still be a priority target for Penn State, his decision magnifies a trend for Penn State — one that extends across NCAA football.
Barnwell is just the latest of several players who committed to the Nittany Lions early in the recruiting process, only to renege on that decision. Barnwell initially pledged to PSU in June, right around the time that his sophomore school year was concluding, and approximately 1.5 years before he could officially put pen to paper.
During James Franklin’s tenure in State College, there have been instances of players who followed a similar timeline in the Class of 2021, 2020, and 2018.
Most recently, Dont’e Thornton and Nick Elksnis decommitted after they became initial players to join the Class of 2021.
Thornton, a four-star receiver from Baltimore, gave his pledge to Penn State in February, 2019, during his sophomore year. That verbal lasted approximately six months, as Thornton reopened his recruitment in August of that year, and ultimately signed with Oregon last month.
Elksnis, a three-star tight end from Jacksonville, committed to PSU in July, 2019, but left the mix in March, 2020. He committed to Florida days later, and signed with the Gators in December.
As a result, Liam Clifford and Nate Bruce represented the longest committed players from the class who signed with Penn State, as each made their pledge in October, 2019.
The previous year, Grant Toutant and Derek Wingo became the first two members of the Class of 2020, but both were gone from the fold well before signing day.
Toutant, a three-star offensive tackle from Michigan, committed to Penn State in November 2018, but flipped his pledge from the Nittany Lions to Ohio State the following June, and subsequently signed with the Buckeyes.
Meanwhile, Wingo, a four-star inside linebacker from Florida, committed to Penn State on Christmas Day, 2018. His tenure as a member of the Penn State class lasted until the following June, when he switched to the University of Florida, where he later signed his letter of intent.
Consequently, Curtis Jacobs became the longest committed member of the class for the Nittany Lions, as he made his decision in February, 2019.
The Class of 2018 also featured a pair of players who made early pledges only to decommit, but fortunately for Penn State, one of those ultimately returned to the Nittany Lions.
Micah Parsons became the first member of the class when he committed in February, 2016, during his sophomore school year. In April, 2017, he decommitted, but decided to sign with Penn State that December, signaling the official start to his incredible career with the Nittany Lions.
It was a different outcome for Pennsylvania three-star offensive tackle Chris Bleich, however, as he committed to PSU in April, 2016, decommitted the following April, later verbally pledged to UCLA, but ultimately signed with Florida.
So while Barnwell’s decommitment last week was certainly disappointing news to Penn State fans, it should not have been entirely unexpected. To that point, the Nittany Lions’ faithful might be well suited to temper expectations when high-school players commit during their sophomore year or even the early part of their junior year.
Parsons’ journey should give plenty of hope, though, that Penn State can bring Barnwell back into its class, and that the coaching staff’s hard work of identifying and recruiting Barnwell early in the process will reap dividends.
Townley to announce on signing day
Davon Townley, one of the top remaining targets for Penn State in the Class of 2021, will announce his decision on National Signing Day – Wednesday, Feb. 3.
A four-star defensive end from Minneapolis, Townley fits an area of need for the Nittany Lions. He’s 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, and his athleticism is apparent both on the gridiron, as well as on the hardwood, where he’s a basketball standout.
Townley has received nearly 20 offers, including Penn State, which offered in June. Other Big Ten schools that have offered include Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Nebraska.
Three include Penn State among top choices
A trio of players in the Class of 2022 have listed Penn State among their top options. Myles Rowser, Demon Moore, and Antonio Gates Jr will continue to consider the Nittany Lions moving forward.
Rowser, a four-star safety who plays at Belleville High School and hails from Detroit, included Penn State in his top eight on Monday, along with Michigan State, Alabama, Michigan, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Florida, and Georgia Tech. Rowser, ranked as the 124th-best player nationally per the 247 Sports Composite, received his Penn State offer nearly two years ago, in February, 2019. He was teammates with recent Penn State signee Jamari Buddin.
Moore is a four-star guard prospect from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Last week, he unveiled his top eight teams, which consisted of the Nittany Lions, Oregon, Missouri, Ohio State, Nebraska, Arizona State, Indiana, and Texas A&M. Penn State, along with the Buckeyes and Aggies, all offered Moore last May 1.
Gates Jr., the son of legendary NFL tight end Antonio Gates, featured a dozen squads among his top choices, a group that also included Kentucky, Louisville, West Virginia, Washington State, Iowa State, Boston College, Nebraska, Maryland, Ole Miss, Pitt, and Michigan State. The Nittany Lions offered the Dearborn, Michigan standout receiver in September.