Penn State

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

Class of 2019 Scouting Report: T.J. Jones

Class of 2019 Scouting Report: T.J. Jones

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 receiver T.J. Jones, who is ranked as the No. 48 receiver prospect in the nation by ESPN.

Height: 6-1

Weight: 175

School: Columbia HS (Fla.)

Projected position: Wide receiver

Ranking: Four stars by ESPN; Three stars by Rivals.com and 247sports

Other offers: Arkansas, Boston College, Cincinnati, Duke, East Carolina, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Illinois, Indiana, Louisville, Marshall, Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Michigan State, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers, South Carolina, South Florida, Southern Mississippi, Tennessee, Temple, Texas A&M, Troy, UCF, Utah, Virginia, Wake Forest.

Enrolling: Summer semester

Strengths: Jones plays like a bigger receiver than he is. He has good height at 6-foot-1, but he runs after the catch like a 200-pounder. … Very physical with the ball in his hands. Not afraid to lower his shoulder and get the extra yard or 2. Not a lot of video out there of him choosing to run out of bounds rather than seek out the contact. … Not afraid over the middle. … Good, strong hands that enable him to take an initial hit, protect the call and still make a push to get physical. … Jones has a style that is reminiscent of the way a good tight end would play. But, every once in a while, he shows quick enough feet to be able to get around a defender in a tight space.

The questions: Jones was a really good prospect as a junior who was expected to take a big jump as a senior. And, he just didn’t. … He doesn’t always show an extra burst of speed in the open field, and while he shows flashes of quickness in the box, they’re just flashes. … He’ll need to improve as a route runner at the next level, as he doesn’t show every route consistently on film. … He had a ton of big offers, but many of those programs lost interest over time. The big question with Jones is where his potential can get him, and at the end of the day, can he get to another level?

Projection: Jones is interesting, because he shows you a little bit of everything. But mostly, he looks like a possession receiver. If Penn State can get him to that next level, it might have a real steal on its hands. If not, there’s no reason Jones can’t give Penn State the same kind of presence that Juwan Johnson conceivably could have: A toughness over the middle, and a chain mover. One thing is for sure, the competition isn’t going to scare Jones, and with as physics as he is, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him carve out a role by 2021.

Class of 2019 Scouting Report: Joseph Darkwa

Class of 2019 Scouting Report: Joseph Darkwa

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 tackle Joseph Darkwa, who is ranked as the No. 67 defensive tackle prospect in the nation by ESPN.

Height: 6-5
Weight: 260
School: Dusseldorf (Germany) Panthers
Projected position: Defensive tackle

Ranking: Three stars by Rivals.com, 247sports.com and ESPN
Other offers: Cincinnati, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Rutgers, UCLA

Enrolling: Summer semester

Strengths: Darkwa is the true definition of the word prospect. At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, he has the build you want to play anywhere along the defensive line. … He has long arms and looks leaner than his 260 pounds, which means he can put on some good weight and build himself into a more prototypical defensive lineman. … On film, he can dominate a game. He beats double teams frequently. He can stuff the run and get after quarterbacks, and on special teams, he is a force up the middle on punt coverage and field goal block teams.

The questions: He looks like a man amongst boys on film because, in most every way, he is one. He plays in Germany, where the competition isn’t anywhere near as good as it is in the states, and that makes it very difficult to determine if Darkwa has skills or if he just has more athleticism than anybody around him. … The jump in competition for him is going to be an immense hill to climb.

Projection: Darkwa is a total wild card. He can come in and be a dominant player, or he’ll never get on the field. It’s difficult to predict which way he’ll go, because it all depends on how he adjusts to that jump up in competition. But he’s got a terrific frame for the position Penn State is going to want him to play, and the program can probably get by with building him into the type of player he needs to be for a few years without needing him to actually get on the field and contribute. If he can, it will be a major plus for the Nittany Lions defense, but he’s a purely developmental prospect at this point.

Class of 2019 Scouting Report: Smith Vilbert

Class of 2019 Scouting Report: Smith Vilbert

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.

Height: 6-6
Weight: 250
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.

Class of 2019 Scouting Report: Daequan Hardy

Class of 2019 Scouting Report: Daequan Hardy

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 cornerback Daequan Hardy, who is ranked as the No. 26 overall prospect in Pennsylvania by ESPN.

Height: 5-10

Weight: 160

School: Penn Hills HS

Projected position: Cornerback

Ranking: Three stars by 247sports.com and ESPN. Two stars by Rivals.com

Other offers: Akron, Army, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Kent State, Michigan, Michigan State, Navy, Nebraska, Toledo.

Enrolling: Summer semester

Strengths: Hardy has been one of the better playmakers on both sides of the ball in the WPIAL, and that’s saying something. … He has run a 4.5 40-yard dash, which speaks to his speed. But what separates him is his elite change-of-direction skills, in combination with his ability to accelerate to top speed quickly. … As a receiver, he can locate the ball in the air, adjust and make a play on a poorly thrown pass, a skill that translates to the defensive side of the ball. … He plays absolutely without fear. He’ll bring a big hit, and he gets in the mix against the run, too. … Looks like he can play on an island or in the zone equally as well because of his instincts. … There’s potential with Hardy to be an effective kickoff and punt return man.

The questions: If Hardy was merely an undersized prospect, he’d have twice the scholarship offers he wound up getting. But he’s small, at 160 pounds. And that might be a generous listing. He looks slight. … He’ll need to add between 20-30 pounds to be the kind of player who can push for a starting job on a Big Ten defense. … With that size, he’d also need to become much more aggressive at the line with bigger receivers at the college level. He can get by with his speed and ball skills in high school, but he’ll need to be a more complete defender in big-time college ball.

Projection: Hardy is absolutely a boom or bust type of add to the 2019 class, and the fact he received a scholarship offer as late as he did last weekend speaks to that. But he’s a good gamble. He has speed. He is tough. He plays hard. He’s a winner who comes from a winning program. And, he has a chance to compete for playing time in all three phases of the game. Certainly, Penn State will look to start him out on defense and hope he can add the size to that speed and tenacity to help him become a pretty good all-around cornerback down the road. But he’ll certainly redshirt in 2019 and would do very well coming in at 160 pounds to compete for time as the slot corner in a few seasons.

Lackawanna adds third member to PSU class

About a week after he received an offer to join the Penn State football program, Lackawanna College punter Bradley King accepted it.

Via his Twitter account on Monday, King announced he accepted the chance to join the Nittany Lions this fall as a preferred walk-on.

He’s an interesting case, for sure. A guy who averaged about 33 yards per punt during his career with the Falcons but who also has a strong leg and manages consistently good hang time. Once he gets into a program where he can get some consistent looks and attention from a coach devoted to special teams, he’s expected to be a guy who can take a big leap. Blake Gillikin returns for his senior season in the fall, but the Penn State punting job will be wide open in 2020, and King being in the program a year ahead of that gives him a fighting chance.

German DT commits to Penn State

I’m spending some time away with my family leading up to signing day, part deux. So I’m going to try to keep you updated as best I can through the blog the next few days. But it might be once a day, like today.

The news today for the Nittany Lions is that Joseph Darkwa, a defensive lineman from Germany, verbally committed this afternoon.

Not a big surprise here. A few programs were in on Darkwa late. But Penn State really made a big push, and he visited last weekend. Big guy at 6-5, 260. But the step up in competition will be significant. He’ll be a project for defensive line coach Sean Spencer.

Here today, gone tomorrow: Transfer situation clearing up for Penn State

Here today, gone tomorrow: Transfer situation clearing up for Penn State

Penn State safety Lamont Wade makes a play on receiver K.J. Hamler during last April’s Blue-White Game at Beaver Stadium. PHOTO BY JOE HERMITT/PENNLIVE.COM via ASSOCIATED PRESS

The transfer portal got crowded quickly earlier this month, but it has since calmed down as players decide the next step.

Over the weekend, two players in Penn State’s portal announced 2019 destinations, and one of them might come as a little bit of a surprise for the doom-and-gloomers.

Safety Lamont Wade announced he is actually going to stay with the Nittany Lions for the upcoming season.

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That’s that… See you guys in the National Championship ✌🏾 pic.twitter.com/89r3WOv6AS

— LaMontWade 🦍 (@Goony_38) January 28, 2019

Meanwhile, tackle Alex Gellerstedt will head a few hours south as a graduate transfer, signing on with Virginia.

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pic.twitter.com/GFe5jVJhgo

— Alex Gellerstedt(@alexgellerstedt) January 27, 2019

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Lackawanna punter gets offer from Penn State

Lackawanna punter gets offer from Penn State

Penn State has already added two prospects from Lackawanna College to its 2019 recruiting class. It’s apparently pushing to add a third.

Falcons punter Bradley King announced on his Twitter account that he received an offer to play for the Nittany Lions this fall. It’s likely a preferred walk-on spot.

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Scranton Chapter sets PSU Recruiting Night

Scranton Chapter sets PSU Recruiting Night

I look forward to this one every year, and I’m hoping you can make it out on in two weeks to discuss some Penn State football in Old Forge.

The Greater Scranton Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association will hold its annual Penn State Recruiting Night on Feb. 8 in the banquet room at Arcaro & Genell’s restaurant, 443 S. Main St., Old Forge.

I will serve as the guest speaker, which it has been my honor to do at this event each of the past three years. We’ll begin at 7 p.m., but doors open at 6. Cost to get in is $15, with Chapter members getting in free of charge. If you want to buy a membership, you can pick one up at the door.

Here’s what Recruiting Night is all about: I discuss every member of the Nittany Lions’ 2019 recruiting class individually. We watch some videos. We share some laughs. We talk about how it all relates to the future.

Then, when that’s finished, I lead a Q&A and try to answer your questions about the program and the previous season and the upcoming season and the coaching staff and…well, whatever you want. It always becomes one of the most fun nights of the year for me, and I always enjoy meeting everyone who arrives.

If you have nothing else scheduled and are in the area, consider stopping by to talk some football!