Every year, there are 32 high school football players that 247Sports deems as five-star talents.
As any college football fan should know, any high school player labeled a five-star is one of the most highly regarded in the country, and many five-stars go on to have great college and NFL careers.
Tomarrion Parker, who announced his commitment to Penn State Tuesday, isn’t a five-star yet, but 247Sports National Recruiting Analyst Cooper Petagna thinks he’s played himself into position to make it there by the time the Penn State commit’s high school career is over.
“He’s within striking distance,” Petagna told Nittany Sports Now, “but that’s certainly going to play out over the next six months.”
Whether Parker gets that fifth star or not, he has big-time potential, and Petagna sees him as a “polished player off the edge.
“I think (Parker is) a guy that can play multiple schemes,” Petagna said, “whether that’d be a 3-4 or a 4-3. I think he fits very well for what Penn State wants to do in Manny Diaz’s defense.”
Petagna, who has a friend on Central’s coaching staff, has heard that Parker is a student of the game and has a great passion for his work.
Petagna said that, from a physical standpoint, it wouldn’t hurt Parker to put on some muscle and feels he’s “still growing into his body.
“I think his weight has fluctuated a little bit,” Petagna said. “I think, depending on where Penn State sees him at the next level, I could see him easily putting on 15 to 25 pounds. So I think, physically, he still has some room to grow and put some meat on his bones.”
With 15 sacks playing on the edge— he has a highlight film dedicated solely to his sacks— Parker has shown the ability to rush the quarterback.
Petagna is big on what Parker has done and has the potential to do as a pass-rusher at the next level, but he feels his run defense isn’t as polished.
“I love his upside as a pass rusher at the next level, and I think for him, it’s just shoring up that aspect of his game,” Petagna said.
In his scouring report published last December, Petagna’s NFL player comparison for Parker was Anfernee Jennings, who was a first-team All-SEC performer at Alabama before being drafted in the third round by the New England Patriots, where he’s been ever since.
Petagna watched Jennings up close as an intern with Alabama and feels that Parker can be similar, especially if he improves his run defense.
“I think he was a really well-rounded player. I think that’s what you got with Anfrenee Jennings. Like I said, a guy that could play the run or pass equally as well, but he’ll give you some pass-rushing upside on third down or a passing down situation.”
Penn State hasn’t reeled in high school players from Alabama recently, with its last signee from the state coming in 2014.
Parker is among Alabama’s best 2023 prospects, ranked sixth in the state for 2023 according to 247’s site rankings.
Coach James Franklin and his staff reeling in Parker, ranked 48th nationally by 247, is something that Petagna feels deserves recognition.
“Those guys aren’t easy to find,” he said, “so for them to be able to flex their muscles and be able to identify him early in the process bring into fruition; I think that says a lot about the reputation that Penn State has built when it comes to pass rushers.”
Penn State is indeed building a reputation for churning out quality pass rushers, with Micah Parsons and Odafe Oweh having excellent rookie seasons in 2021 for the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens, respectively.
Penn State also has some talent coming in, with Parker, 2022 five-star Dani-Dennis Sutton, 2021 four-star and University of Maryland transfer Chop Robinson and 2023 four-star Jameial Lyons all being names that excite Penn State fans.
The potential EDGE combination of Parker and Dennis-Sutton is something that Petagna feels could be deadly.
“To be able to pair those two together gives Penn State quite a 1-2 punch,” Petagna said.
Petagna has heard that Central’s coaching staff expects a big year from Parker in 2022.
If Parker continues to improve as he did in 2021, going from 11.5 sacks in 2020 to 15 sacks, he’ll undoubtedly continue to turn heads.
For Petagna, Parker has been improving throughout his career, which is encouraging.
“That’s really what you want to see,” he said. “You want to see these guys playing their best football and figuring it out before they step on a college campus, still with potential to be developed at the next level.”
Petagna sees Parker playing his best football in the future, and if he signs with Penn State and plays well in Happy Valley, that could bode well for Penn State’s ability to attract talent from down south long-term.
“It’s very noticeable for James Franklin and his staff to be able to come down to SEC country, battle some SEC opponents for a talent like this,” Petagna said. “I think that bodes well for not only the immediate future, but if Tomarrion Parker can go to Penn State, Big Ten country, and have success, I think that’s going to help them down the road as well.