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 versatile defensive lineman Judge Culpepper, who is ranked among the top 20 strongside defensive ends in the nation by 247sports and among the top 25 defensive tackle prospects in the country by Rivals.
School: Plant Senior HS (Fla.)
Projected position: Defensive end
Ranking: Four stars by Rivals.com; Three stars by 247sports and ESPN
Status: Signed LOI, expected to enroll Summer 2018
Other offers: Alabama, Boston College, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Colorado, Duke, East Carolina, Florida, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Iowa State, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Nebraska, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Mississippi, Oregon State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, South Carolina, Syracuse, Tennessee, USC, South Florida, Wake Forest, Wisconsin.
Projection: The big question for Culpepper in the early stages of his Penn State career will be where he ultimately will fit best, and if the coaching staff will start him out in that spot. Some see him as a defensive end, others as a defensive tackle, and he played both in high school. (I actually think he could make a rather immediate impact as a tight end, if Penn State wanted to use him on offense.) But to me, while he’d be a solid contributor at defensive end, I see his ceiling being quite a bit higher on the inside. His feet are really good, good enough even to play on offense. But while he will need to get quite a bit bigger and stronger to slot as a prototypical defensive tackle, he shows all the tricks you like from a much more experienced interior lineman. He has a terrific swim move, and he might rely on it a bit too much because it’s so good. But he also uses his hands very well, and guards always seem to be reaching for him. He gets to gaps really quickly, which will make him a handful on passing downs as well, as evidenced by his 13 TFLs and eight sacks during his senior season. He’s a likely redshirt in 2018 at a fairly deep position for the Nittany Lions, but watch the son of a really good player — former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Brad Culpepper — crack the rotation in 2019.