Graphic courtesy of Penn State Athletics
Times Shamrock newspapers’ Penn State football beat writer Donnie Collins is breaking down every member of Penn State’s 2019 recruiting class who has signed their letter of intent. This is a look at defensive end Smith Vilbert, who is ranked as the No. 15 overall prospect in New Jersey according to 247sports.com.
School: St. Joseph’s Regional (N.J.)
Projected position: Defensive end
Ranking: Three stars by Rivals.com, 247sports.com and ESPN
Other offers: Baylor, Boston College, Central Florida, Florida, Florida State, Kent State, Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple, Tulane, Virginia, Virginia Tech.
Enrolling: Summer semester
Strengths: You can’t teach 6-foot-6, 250 pounds with long limbs, and Vilbert has that. In every way, Vilbert looks the part of a big-time defensive end, and that alone makes him a high ceiling prospect for a team that has done a good job developing rush ends. … Length is his biggest attribute as an end, and he uses it to his advantage. … Vilbert has proven himself to be one of the best pass rushers in the Garden State, and he has played with his hand in the dirt and as a stand-up rusher, so he has pretty good experience with both. … He is a basketball star too, and that speaks both to his athleticism. But, he is also a competitive kid. He stays with plays and does a good job rallying to make a play after he appears out of contention to make a stop. … Diagnoses plays well, too, and shows good instincts.
The questions: Vilbert looks like a good athlete, but on film, he doesn’t always look like a natural football player. … He doesn’t appear to play with great leverage, relying mostly on his speed and athletic ability to get around blockers. … He doesn’t have the number of pass rush moves you’d expect from a big-time prospect at defensive end. He needs to use his hands better. … He’s not a dominant run stuffer yet, either. … While he’s 250 pounds, he’s going to need to add plenty of strength and weight.
Projection: There are going to be scouts who look at Vilbert and love his potential. There are others who will watch his video and see that he’s a down-the-road type of contributor and move on to someone who can help more immediately. There are players in this class for Penn State who look like they can get on the field this year — even if it’s only for the four games you can play and keep your redshirt. Vilbert probably won’t play in four games. But he’s a really good project who, once he focuses on football, has the type of athleticism where you’d think he can become a regular contributor. His ceiling is pretty high. The flip side is, the floor for Vilbert might be lower than some of the bigger prospects in the class.