As part of National Letter of Intent Signing Day, Times Shamrock newspapers’ Penn State football beat writer Donnie Collins is breaking down every member of Penn State’s 2018 recruiting class. This is a look at linebacker Jesse Luketa, who is ranked as the No. 11 offensive tackle prospect in the nation by both Rivals and 247sports.
School: Mercyhurst Prep
Projected position: Outside linebacker
Ranking: Four stars by 247sports, Rivals.com and ESPN
Status: Signed LOI in December; Enrolled Spring 2018
Other offers: Auburn, Baylor, Boston College, Cincinnati, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Kentucky Christian, Louisville, Lafayette, LSU, Maryland, UMass, Miami (Ohio), Michigan State, Missouri, North Carolina State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Penn, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Stanford, Syracuse, Temple, Vanderbilt, West Virginia.
Projection: During the Fiesta Bowl lead-up, Penn State coach James Franklin said of his defense what should have been obvious to anyone who watches the Nittany Lions play enough: They’re playing a lot more like the 3-2-5 defense that Franklin used at Vanderbilt than the 4-3 scheme that Penn State has implemented pretty much throughout its history. That’s a product of opposing offenses putting more speed on the field, obviously. But it also speaks to Penn State’s relative lack of depth at linebacker the last few years, where there just aren’t enough linebackers good enough in pass coverage to warrant being on the field on a third-and-7. But a guy like Luketa can change that thinking. He’s a pure outside linebacker, because he really excelled at the high school level in pass coverage. He has quick feet and reads the quarterback well, and he compiled four interceptions during his senior season, to boot. Plus, he’s still quite good against the run. When opponents try to stretch the running game sideline to sideline, he’s a difference-maker. He’s slippery for blockers and sheds them easily, plus his tackling form is solid. He’s big enough, strong enough, to compete for immediate playing time in a linebacking corps that could use his help.