Penn State

Beat writer Donnie Collins keeps you posted with in-depth analysis and commentary

Donnie Collins’ 1st-Round mock NFL Draft

Donnie Collins’ 1st-Round mock NFL Draft

Penn State WR Chris Godwin will certainly be the first Nittany Lions player selected in the NFL Draft, which starts tonight. But where will he go, and can he sneak into the first round? Associated Press Photo

Well, tonight’s the night the top draft-eligible players in college football get to find out where they will start their professional careers. I don’t see the point of putting too much stock into mock drafts, because one trade messes them up, and it’s impossible to predict every trade. But mock drafts sure are fun, and they give a look at the players who can be considered first-round possibilities.

So, I’ll run down my selections for the first round, and then give my thoughts on which Penn State players will get drafted, and where they’ll go.

1. Cleveland Browns – DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

I actually agree with Warren Sapp when it comes to Garrett, but I still think he’ll go No. 1 overall. And, I really believe he should. Does he have a great motor? No. But the Browns aren’t contending next year anyway. This is a perfect spot to take a player who needs some development, some coaching, and maybe a dose of reality that his pure athleticism can only carry him so far. Garrett is far more explosive as a pass rusher than Solomon Thomas or Jonathan Allen, and the Browns have not been a threat to opposing quarterbacks in years. Garrett could easily flop if he doesn’t improve his technique. But athletically speaking, Garrett is the total package.

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Tackle prospect with Scranton ties gets PSU offer

Tackle prospect with Scranton ties gets PSU offer

Penn State has made a little bit of headway in recent years in our area recruiting Lackawanna College’s much-respected football program, and it looks like it is all in on one of the Falcons’ top 2018 prospects.

T.J. Bradley, a 6-foot-9 offensive tackle who has made big strides in the last year since joining the program, was offered a scholarship by Penn State today after making a visit to the University Park campus for the Blue-White Game this past weekend.

Bradley has offers now from the Nittany Lions, Maryland, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Minnesota and Syracuse, so it’s a pretty good list in the early going.

Penn State is pushing hard for offensive tackles in the 2018 class, and the offer goes out to Bradley after Penn State got verbal commitments from a pair of highly rated tackles, Nana Asiedu and Antwan Reed, on Saturday.

Bradley doesn’t have a star rating yet — he’s still pretty new to the recruiting scene — but he’s an intriguing prospect, partly because of his size and quick feet (he also was a pretty decent high school basketball prospect). There’s also the Lackawanna pedigree that goes along with him, and coach Mark Duda and his staff have done a good job finding raw offensive linemen (i.e., Paris Palmer) and turning them into pretty good players, pretty quickly.

Bradley is a good example of that. Here’s a look at him in Lackawanna’s 2016 Spring Practices as a defensive end:

And, here he is almost a year later working on the offensive line:

As you can see, the technique has come a long way, and when you consider that he just hasn’t played much football compared to other prospects, the imagination can run wild on what he might wind up becoming down the road.

Good offer for PSU, but it has a fight on its hands with Maryland and West Virginia, which have been in the mix a little bit longer. The Mountaineers also have a really, really tight working relationship with Lackawanna, so that might be the program to beat. But, it’s early. Lot of decisions to make for Bradley, and a lot of offers likely to still roll in.

PSU taking football, life one moment at a time

PSU taking football, life one moment at a time

On Sunday, I published a column written off the aftermath of Saturday’s Blue-White Game, in which Penn State head coach James Franklin insisted the Nittany Lions would have to put the 2016 Big Ten Championship win into their own personal history books, and firmly out of mind, if they wanted to attain even more lofty goals in 2017.

Franklin used the term “forget” to describe what the Nittany Lions have to do with that 2016 championship, and that’s probably a strong word. Franklin might admit that, too. It’s not possible to put a season like that in the past, after all. And to forget that it happened is to forget, largely, that it was accomplished in the first place. Sometimes — OK, most times — it’s best to feel like you’re the team that accomplished more than your opponent.

So, perhaps the personification of the mindset Penn State needs to take next season can best be summed up by an experience they had on Friday night, when the Nittany Lions players and coaches had an opportunity to be addressed by former linebacker Tim Shaw, who is currently battling Lou Gherig’s Disease.

“Tim Shaw came (Friday) and spoke to our team, and it may be one the greatest, most powerful speeches I’ve ever heard,” Franklin said. “As a father, my daughters will see this. We videotaped it. As a coach, it was the message you want your team to hear. Really, his message is that the disease he is fighting is a gift that he is given. He has been given the gift of perspective.”

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Top DE prospect Parsons no longer committed to PSU

It has been a crazy couple of days for Penn State on the recruiting trail, but this is by far the biggest story: Five-star defensive end prospect Micah Parsons, a Harrisburg product who is a consensus Top-10 player in the Class of 2018, announced last night that he has decommitted from Penn State.

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This is a tough one for Penn State, which badly needs a crop of defensive ends in the 2018 class who can play sooner rather than later. Parsons is also the top player in Pennsylvania this year, and Ohio State wants him badly. So does Alabama, which has conceded he can play some offense in Tuscaloosa, if that’s where he chooses to go. Penn State climbed to the top spot in a few of the top recruiting services’ team rankings in the early going for 2018, and that’s largely based off the momentum of getting Parsons to initially commit in the first place.

Now, the Lions are left picking up the pieces, and while it’s likely they’ll get some really good prospects to fill the void, they aren’t going to find a better one this time. There are no better prospects at that position that Parsons.

Like it seemed to go with Wyoming Valley West tackle Chris Bleich, who decommited from Penn State last week, Parsons gave his verbal commitment to the Nittany Lions a long time ago, then decided that the recruiting process might be fun and that he’d like to go through it. Unlike with Bleich, it seems as if the door remains open for Parsons to commit again to Penn State someday.

And there are some reasons to think he may: For starters, another big season from the Nittany Lions will make them an even more established program, and they’re still going to need a star defensive end in 2018. That’s a position where a big-time prospect can come into the program and play immediately. Another thing to consider: Parsons’ good friend and former teammate at Harrisburg High is Damion Barber, who committed to Penn State as part of the 2017 class. Likely, there always is going to be a draw to Penn State with Barber there. Parsons also said in his statement that Penn State remains one of his top schools.

It very well could be that he just wants to go through the process, figure things out, reaffirm that Penn State is where he wants to be, and ultimatley, recommit closer to signing day. He wouldn’t be the first to do that.

But…it more often than not doesn’t work that way. My experience is, if you decommit, you have another program in mind. You like something more than what you had. And that’s fair. Again, these are teenagers. They generally don’t really know what they want, and this is a life-impacting decision. When they’re 16, the overwhelming majority off high school students don’t know what they want to do when they’re 22. So, very difficult to ask Micah Parsons or Chris Bleich to know.

In any event, Micah Parsons just made the run-up to signing day a lot more interesting.

Make it two verbal commitments for PSU

Penn State is on a recruiting roll today, landing its second offensive lineman of the morning for the class of 2018.

This time, according to Blue-White Illustrated, it’s Michigan offensive lineman Antwan Reed.

Pretty much the same deal as earlier with Nana Asiedu. Reed is a Rivals250 and ESPN 300 prospect. He’s 6-foot-5, 335 pounds. Four-star prospect. Long arms I could see from the press box earlier that he had a terrific hair style. All things that will help him become a top tackle option for Penn State moving forward.

PSU adds new verbal commitment on Blue-White morning

Well, it didn’t take long for Penn State to replace Chris Bleich in its 2018 recruiting class.

The coaching staff got a verbal commitment this morning from Virginia tackle prospect Nana Asiedu, a four-star prospect who Rivals.com ranks among its top 250 prospects in the nation. ESPN Recruiting Nation rates him in its top 300.

Asiedu is 6-foot-6, 270 pounds and looks the part of offensive tackle with his long arms. The thing that stands out on film with him, though, is his feet. He actually plays some tight end, and he can move a little bit. He has a good first step on the defensive line and is athletic enough to let his footwork help him get around linemen. That sort of thing projects to offensive tackle, where you have to be able to be quick on the backpedal. He’s probably a true tackle, with some work.

All in all, it’s a promising start to the Blue-White Game, which is also the highlight of a big recruiting weekend for the Nittany Lions.

5 Nittany Lions to Watch Today: No. 1 Lamont Wade

5 Nittany Lions to Watch Today: No. 1 Lamont Wade

Penn State will host its annual spring scrimmage on Saturday, even if established stars like running back Saquon Barkley, tight end Mike Gesicki and linebacker Jason Cabinda are likely to be watching from the sidelines. However, that doesn’t mean there will be less for fans to see. A slew of players likely to be competing for and ultimately assuming important roles on the team this fall will see significant action, and this week on the Penn State Blog, we’ll be looking at the Top 5.

Today, we scout the last of the list and one of the newest Nittany Lions, true freshman Lamont Wade.

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Blue-White Game rosters released

Blue-White Game rosters released

If Vegas were involved here — and thank God it isn’t — it would be smiling on the Blue roster in Saturday’s annual Blue-White Game at Beaver Stadium.

It appears as if most of the first- and second-team players can be found on the Blue roster for tomorrow’s spring-practice-ending scrimmage. Most of the younger players and those fighting for playing time will be playing for the White.

Here’s how it will break down:

Position

Blue

White

QB

Fessler
McSorley
Stevens
Fessler
Shuster
Zembiec

RB

Mark Allen
Barkley
Robinson
Sanders
Eury
Josh McPhearson
Thomas

WR

Blacknall
Hamilton
Juwan Johnson
Lutz
Shoop
Thompkins
Charles
Darien
Hamler
Hodgens
Maxwell
Polk
Welde

TE

Gesicki
Holland
Arcangelo
Bowers
Dalton
Grampp
Pancoast

OL

Bates
Mahon
McGovern
Menet
Miranda
Nelson
Simpson
Wright
Fries
Gellerstedt
Gonzalez
Jenkins
Kelly
Shuman

DL

Buchholz – DE
Brown – DE
Castagna -DE
Cothran
Cothren
Givens
Miller – DE
Windsor
Chavis
Iyke
Jordan
Joseph – DE
Monk
Shelton
Simmons – DE
Toney – DE

LB

Bowen
Cabinda
DiLeo
DuMond
Farmer
Brandon Smith
Cam Brown
Cooper
Faison-Walden
Jan Johnson
Miller
Vranic

DB

Marcus Allen – SAF
Apke – SAF
Campbell
Haley
Oruwariye
Reid
Scott – SAF
Taylor – SAF
Wade
Blair – SAF
Butler
Davis
T.J. Johnson
Zech McPhearson
Monroe – SAF
Petrishen – SAF
Shorts – SAF
Vallone- SAF

SPECIAL

Davis – K
Gillikin – P
Vasey – LS
Barbir – K
Pasquariello – P
Wombacker – P/K

Clearly, a few players won’t be in the game, even though they appear on the roster.

WVW star Bleich decommits from Penn State

WVW star Bleich decommits from Penn State

What has long been speculated is now official: Wyoming Valley West offensive lineman Chris Bleich announced this morning that he’s no longer committed to Penn State’s football program.

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Bleich is a pretty solid prospect, a three-star recruit according to Rivals.com who likely would have fit in at tackle or guard. He verbally committed to Penn State a little more than a year ago, but since, he has been one of the most interesting recruits to follow because he clearly was not one of those prospects who committed somewhere to keep the attention away. Other programs were still beating down his door, and it wasn’t like he didn’t welcome their respective pitches.

More recently, Bleich took unofficial visits to Mississippi State, Pittsburgh and Nebraska, and it was after that visit to Lincoln that it really seemed as if a decommitment from Penn State was inevitable. In fact, he told Husker Online that the visit was so good, he’d have to strongly consider his future plans.

Best way for Penn State fans to look at this: A kid who liked their school enough to commit happened to get the itch to go through the full recruiting process. And that’s great for him. You only get to do that once, after all. Bleich will find the program that fits him best this way, and Penn State will be in great shape regardless.

Citizens Voice photo by Mark Moran.

5 Nittany Lions to Watch on Saturday: No. 2 Juwan Johnson

5 Nittany Lions to Watch on Saturday: No. 2 Juwan Johnson

Penn State will host its annual spring scrimmage on Saturday, even if established stars like running back Saquon Barkley, tight end Mike Gesicki and linebacker Jason Cabinda are likely to be watching from the sidelines. However, that doesn’t mean there will be less for fans to see. A slew of players likely to be competing for and ultimately assuming important roles on the team this fall will see significant action, and this week on the Penn State Blog, we’ll be looking at the Top 5.

Today, we scout emerging receiver Juwan Johnson, the talk of spring camp.

read more…