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PSU Football Recruiting

Recruiting analysis: How PSU has fared with PA’s No. 1 prospects over the years

Photo from Julian Fleming Twitter

Earlier this week, Enai White released his final eight teams, and Penn State was not included among the group. White, a four-star defensive end who ranks 39th nationally in the Class of 2022 per the 247 Sports Composite, is currently evaluated as the top player in Pennsylvania. Barring a change of heart, the Imhotep Institute standout will leave Pennsylvania to continue his career at the college level.

With Penn State expected to miss out on White, the Nittany Lions would fail to land the top player in PA for the fourth consecutive campaign. Here’s a look at how Penn State has fared with the best of the best in the Keystone State dating back to 2015, the first full recruiting cycle for James Franklin.

Class of 2022

White appears to be headed elsewhere, but PSU is still in the mix for the second and third-ranked players. Running back Nicholas Singleton, a four-star talent from Governor Mifflin who is ranked 99th overall in 2022, appears to be very interested in Penn State. Likewise, Saint Joseph’s Prep cornerback Keenan Nelson, a four-star prospect who is ranked 117th, also has expressed interest in PSU. Both players are planning to take official visits to Penn State in June. Meanwhile, the highest-rated current commit in Pennsylvania is receiver/defensive back Mehki Flowers, who is ranked No. 4 in PA, and 131th overall.

Class of 2021

A pair of five-star talents headed elsewhere in the Big Ten, as offensive tackle Nolan Rucci and quarterback Kyle McCord selected Wisconsin and Ohio State, respectively. Rucci, whose father played for Penn State, was ranked 15th in the entire class, while McCord, who also attended St. Joseph’s Prep, was 27th. McCord’s high-school teammate, linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr., was the third-best in PA as a four-star prospect. Ranked 36th in the class of 2021, he joined Clemson. Penn State’s crown jewel of the class in Pennsylvania was receiver Lonnie White, a four-star prospect who ranked seventh in the state, and 167th overall.

Class of 2020

Similar to Rucci, the loss of five-star Julian Fleming was particularly painful for Nittany Lions’ fans, as the wide receiver who ranked third in the entire class joined Ohio State. Behind him, the second-best prospect from PA, offensive lineman Michael Carmody, joined Notre Dame. Carmody was a four-star talent who ranked 146th in 2020. Defensive lineman Dayon Hayes, a four-star who ranked 319th, stayed near home and joined Pittsburgh. Penn State’s top recruit, linebacker/defensive end Zuriah Fisher, ranked narrowly behind Hayes, as the fourth-best in PA, and 338th nationally.

Class of 2019

In a down year for PA, top recruit Andrew Kristofic joined Notre Dame. An offensive lineman, Kristofic was a four star but ranked just 183rd nationally. The second-best in the Keystone State was Keaton Ellis, who made the short trek from State College Area to Penn State. The four-star cornerback was ranked 310th nationally. Just behind Ellis was linebacker Andre White, another four-star who was ranked 312th. He committed to Texas A&M.

Class of 2018

Penn State secured the biggest recruit of the James Franklin area, as Harrisburg’s Micah Parsons joined the Nittany Lions. As the top-ranked player in PA, and fifth in the entire class, Parsons lived up to the five-star billing, as the defensive end turned linebacker was recently selected 12th overall in the NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Behind him, quarterback Phil Jurkovec, a four-star prospect ranked 83rd, joined Notre Dame. The third-rated player in Pennsylvania, tight end Zack Kuntz, also joined Penn State. However, the four-star who ranked 150th transferred this offseason after failing to make a significant impact.

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Class of 2017

After securing highly-touted running backs from Pennsylvania in the two previous classes, Penn State was unable to land another, as five-star running back D’Andre Swift joined Georgia. Ranked 33rd in the class, Swift is entering his second season in the NFL with the Detroit Lions. Behind him, Lamont Wade was the next biggest recruit from PA, as the defensive back was a four-star player who was 43rd in the class. After completing his career with Penn State, Wade recently signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers after going undrafted. Paris Ford, a four-star safety who was 52nd in the Class of 2017, committed to Pitt, and also went undrafted this past weekend, signing with the Los Angeles Rams.

Class of 2016

Penn State landed a pair of in-state five-star talents, as running back Miles Sanders and offensive lineman Michal Menet both committed to PSU. Sanders, who was ranked 21st in the class, is entering his third season in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles. Meanwhile, Menet, who was 28th nationally, was drafted in the seventh round on Saturday by the Arizona Cardinals. The third-best player in the Keystone State in 2016 was tight end Naseir Upshur, a four-star who was 149th overall. He signed with Florida State.

Class of 2015

Although James Franklin for the most part fulfilled his pledge to “dominate the state” in 2015, the Nittany Lions missed out on the top player in PA, as safety Jordan Whitehead committed to Pitt. Whitehead, a four-star who ranked 105th, helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers capture the Super Bowl earlier this year. The next six players in Pennsylvania all joined Penn State, however, highlighted by the second and third-best prospects, running back Saquon Barkley and cornerback John Reid. Barkley, a four-star talent who was 119th in the class, is set to begin his fourth campaign with the New York Giants. Reed, a fellow four-star who was 124th in 2015, will soon begin his second season with the Houston Texans.

In review, Penn State has netted the top-ranked player in Pennsylvania just twice through the past seven cycles, but the Nittany Lions have also secured the second-best player four times, and the No. 3 talent twice. As the rest of the Class of 2022 unfolds, we’ll see if Penn State’s renewed focus in Pennsylvania will pay dividends like it did in 2015.

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Commentator, host and writer for high-school and college sports, including @WestmorelandSN, @CarlowCeltics, @PACSports, @PSNKsports and Latrobe Bulletin.

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