There's no doubt that the winter months were tedious on the Penn State recruiting front. And while the momentum from the Class of 2013 didn't immediately build into a runaway train of Class of 2014 scores, it did lead to two -- as Fairfax (Va.) High (Va.) running back Nicholas Scott joined the fold Feb. 23 with Salesianum School (Wilmington, Del.) linebacker Troy Reeder coming aboard three days later.
Now the question turns to who might be next to join a class that Fight On State estimates has nine scholarships to fill -- and as many as 12 with three early enrollee spots open. It's that question that leads into the first Pick Six of April, breaking down the key recruits, names to know and more as spring practice rolls on.
If Feb. 23 marked one big recruiting day for Bill O'Brien and company, April 13 will represent another. We've already noted that Thomas Jefferson (Clairton, Pa.) linebacker Chase Winovich will be in town, and he'll be joined by a pair of WPIAL league mates. Mt. Lebanon (Pa.) High head coach Mike Melnyk confirmed Wednesday that FOX Sports NEXT four-star wide receiver Troy Apke will make his second trip to University Park in just over a month, and also said that fellow four-star and teammate Alex Bookser, an offensive lineman, will also visit (as Brian Dohn reported Tuesday). I'd expect a few more players to be in attendance, but that is all that are confirmed for now. Keep in mind, that date likely coincides with the Lions first spring scrimmage, meaning that the group could see live action.
At least one visitor will be on campus when Penn State hits the field for its eighth spring practice this Friday, as Central Valley (Monaca, Pa.) 2015 cornerback Jordan Whitehead will be on campus. It continues the foray into the 2015 class that the staff has been on recently, which has recently seen offers extended to Cretin Derham Hall (Saint Paul, Minn.) defensive end Jashon Cornell, Frostproof Middle High (Fla.) linebacker Cecil Cherry and St. Edward High (Lakewood, Ohio) cornerback/wide receiver Shaun Crawford. There is no question this is different from the tactics of the old staff, but with limited scholarships and no bowl games hampering the recruiting effort, there is also no question that the staff identifying and showing interest in current sophomores is a must to get the ball rolling.
It's never too early to start thinking about the Blue-White Game (April 20), but early there have been more regrets and unknowns than acceptances. Leading off with players that have confirmed visits, there is Sothern Regional High (Manahawkin, N.J.) tight end Mike Gesicki, Red Bank Catholic (Red Bank, N.J.) offensive tackle Quenton Nelson, Swansboro High (N.C) wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins and Class of 2013 signee and linebacker Brandon Bell from Oakcrest High (Mays Landing, N.J.). Wise High (Md.) defensive back Marcus Allen wants to come, but his father tells me this week that the plans are not quite set in stone yet. Aliquippa (Pa.) defensive back Dravon Henry is unsure yet where he will visit this spring, as is Gateway (Monroeville, Pa.) defensive back Montae Nicholson. Middletown, Del., wide receiver Chris Godwin will visit Virginia Tech that day, and Governor Mifflin (Shillington, Pa.) lineman Connor Morehart was invited, and is deciding between it, Wisconsin's spring game or a recruiting service camp.
Not much has changed in the last few weeks with the recruitment of offered offensive tackle Jermaine Eluemunor out of Lackawanna College (Scranton, Pa.), save for a canceled trip. The junior college standout was originally scheduled to attend the Blue White Game but informed me earlier in the week that NCAA rules don't allow him to attend the game, and therefore, he would not be coming. He hasn't rescheduled the unofficial trip yet, but thinks he will. Eluemunor is still very interested in Penn State, and the Lions are without a doubt in the hunt to land his services. But he also has 16 offers, and is in no rush to make a decision at this point with scheduled visits to Alabama, Arkansas and Florida State coming this summer, as well as a visit to Ohio State this month.
With Eluemunor a potential early-enrollee, there is still room in the Class of 2014 for an offensive tackle, and the pursuit to find one saw a new player enter the mix March 27. Knock High (Saxonburg, Pa.) offensive tackle Connor Shinsky is the latest tackle to visit, though he did not leave campus with an offer. The junior is being recruited by PSU quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher, and it was he that the lineman first spoke to late in the 2012 high school season. Fisher visited the school in January, leading to the March visit. They talked up their program and told me to keep working hard and they will come see me in the spring, Shinsky said of the program's message on the visit. I loved how up-tempo and intense the practices are. It seems like a great place to play football at. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound tackle is unsure where he'll go next for an unofficial visit, but is excited for State's visit later this spring.
New safeties coach Anthony Midget said Tuesday he will be recruiting Southern Florida and the Cleveland area of Ohio. For starters, we know that Jerome Baker from Benedictine High (Cleveland) is one player who Midget has spoke with early on, and the 2015 outside linebacker offered rave reviews of the new assistant. But who else might he go after? One name to keep an eye on is St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) 2014 defensive back Al Harris Jr., who the Lions offered in March. In the Buckeye State, Midget could hop into the recruiting of Galion High wide out Dareian Watkins, who lists Penn State in his top four, along with the aforementioned Crawford. The safeties coach will also likely handle a portion of Pennsylvania, though he has not said exactly where are of yet.