FOS Recruiting Report: DBs

With the departure of Alan Zemaitis and Anwar Phillips, among others in the coming years, the Nittany Lion staff is looking to supplement the speed of young defensive backs like Justin King, Knowledge Timmons and Anthony Scirrotto with some depth in the backfield.

Safety

The Penn State coaching staff has only one safety prospect in mind for this recruiting class at the moment. That one prospect is Myron Rolle, Scout.com's top-ranked prospect overall for the Class of 2006.

Myron Rolle (6-2, 210, 4.5, The Hun School, Princeton, NJ)

Most players say that academics are an important factor in their decision, but not all of them truly mean it. When Myron Rolle talks about the importance of academics, you can believe every word. Perhaps the only thing more impressive than Rolle's abilities on the field is his accomplishments in the classroom.

Rolle carries a 4.0 GPA at the prestigious Hun School and scored 1970 on the new version of the SAT this spring. That score translates into a 1340 on the old SAT and should give you an idea of just how seriously Rolle takes his schoolwork. He plans to attend medical school at some point after graduating from college and would like to become a neurologist.

Rolle has been a household name with college football recruiters since his sophomore year. In 2003, he rushed for 1,038 yards and 13 touchdowns and added 12 catches for 250 yards and two more scores. On defense, Rolle racked up 103 total tackles from his cornerback position.

He improved on his offensive numbers last season with 1,501 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. Teams tried to game plan around Rolle on defense, but he still managed 83 tackles, six sacks and four interceptions. Following the 2004 season, the Newark Star-Ledger named Rolle their New Jersey Prep Defensive Player of the Year.

Rolle decided very early on that he would graduate in December and enroll at his college of choice next January, forcing him to pare down the number of schools he would consider in order to announce a final decision in August. Out of the 53 scholarship offers Rolle has received, he has chosen to concentrate on six schools, and Penn State is one of them. The others are Florida, Florida State, Miami, Michigan, and Oklahoma.

Penn State looked like it was out of the picture earlier this spring, but when Rolle visited Happy Valley to participate in the Penn State Nike Camp, his opinion of the program changed. Derrick Williams and Justin King were on hand at Nike Camp and spoke to Rolle about their love for Penn State football and began recruiting him to join them. Following that visit, he added Penn State to the list of schools under consideration.

Rolle is being recruited by a trio of Penn State coaches – Dick Anderson, Tom Bradley and Brian Norwood. In addition, Joe Paterno has also gotten involved, making a plea for help in the defensive secondary at his annual alumni gathering in York earlier this month with Rolle and his family in attendance. Rolle's sister-in-law is the secretary of the York chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association and both she and his brother are Penn State graduates.

Rolle would like the opportunity to use his physical style at cornerback in college, but at 6'2" 210 pounds, he would make an imposing safety as well. Could Penn State nab the country's top player two years in a row? We'll soon find out.

Cornerback

With Allen Zemaitis and Anwar Phillips graduating after the 2005 season, Penn State needs one or two cornerback prospects to provide depth next season. The coaching staff is looking near and far in their search for pass defenders.

Jovani Chappel (5-8, 170, 4.5, Trotwood-Madison HS, Trotwood, OH)

If Jovani Chappel were two or three inches taller, he would have every major program in the country after him. Chappel has almost everything you want in a lockdown corner – speed, footwork, and technique. The only item missing is size. At 5'8", Chappel will be at a height disadvantage at the college level, but he has plenty of skill along with a 34-inch vertical leap to make up for it.

Chappel finished his junior season with 65 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 13 passes defended. He also caused two fumbles and recovered another. In addition to being a polished pass defender, Chappel is also a physical hitter in run support and plays much bigger than his size.

He possesses better technique than most high school corners thanks in part to the teachings of Trotwood head coach Maurice Douglass, who played cornerback for the Chicago Bears after a successful college career at Kentucky.

Currently, Chappel claims five written scholarship offers including Penn State. He has strong interest in the Nittany Lions and is being recruited by Jay Paterno. In an interview with Scout's Jamie Newberg this spring, Chappel said "Penn State is a place where you can't go wrong. The tradition is great, you could play for Joe Paterno, their depth chart is favorable to me and I could play with Derrick (Williams) and Justin (King). Penn State is just a great situation for me."

Chappel has his eyes on the Nittany Lions now, but he is on a mission to get the attention of Ohio State. Chappel has drawn favorable comparisons to former Buckeye Antoine Winfield, currently with the Minnesota Vikings, and badly wants a scholarship offer from the Buckeyes.

Chappel planned to attend several camps this summer, including Ohio State, in an effort to garner more scholarship offers. He expects to take some official visits during the football season and make his verbal commitment near the end of the season.

Jacques Rickerson (5-10, 180, 4.4, St. Augustine HS, St. Augustine, FL)

Brandon James is not the only player at St. Augustine being heavily recruited by Penn State this year. His half-brother, Jacques Rickerson, is one of the nation's top cornerback prospects and, like James, has a scholarship offer from the Nittany Lions.

Rickerson did it all for St. Augustine as a junior last season. On offense, he scored five touchdowns, but it was on defense where Rickerson did the most damage, collecting 62 tackles, eight interceptions, and two defensive touchdowns.

He was also a star on special teams, scoring two touchdowns and blocking three punts. Following the 2004 season, Rickerson was named a second-team All-State selection on defense. This year, he will almost certainly make the first team.

Rickerson is an explosive player and combines blazing speed with good instincts, allowing him to break on the ball for knockdowns and easy interceptions. Penn State is one of a slew of major programs to like what they see on Rickerson's game film. He currently holds 22 scholarship offers including SEC powers Auburn, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.

Earlier this spring, Rickerson was very high on Penn State, telling DawgPost.com's Dean Legge "I just would love to play under a legendary coach like Joe Paterno – that does not happen that often." Mike McQueary is recruiting Rickerson for the Nittany Lions and has convinced him to schedule an official visit to Penn State for the October 8 clash with Ohio State.

However, Rickerson may not wait that long to announce a decision. Florida and Auburn have jumped ahead of the other schools, and Rickerson may very well choose between the Gators and Tigers prior to the end of the summer.

Aaron Berry (5-10, 170, Bishop McDevitt HS, Harrisburg, PA)

With so much recruiting attention going to teammates LeSean McCoy, Jason Kates, and Jeremy Ricker, Aaron Berry flew under the radar for much of the spring. Berry is no longer being overlooked by major programs, however, and with good reason.

Last season, Berry was McDevitt's best wide receiver, hauling in 40 receptions for 999 yards and 11 touchdowns. On defense, he recorded five interceptions. Berry's statistics are even more impressive when you consider the fact that he missed five games in 2004 with a separated shoulder. He earned first-team All-Mid-Penn Conference recognition following the season.

Standout performances at the Penn State Nike Camp and Elite College Combine this spring opened the eyes of college coaches, and Berry now has more than 25 written scholarship offers. Some of his offers include Penn State, Florida, Michigan State, Minnesota, Oregon, Purdue, Pitt, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Berry made an unofficial visit to Penn State for Blue-White weekend and enjoyed himself. While he does not have an official list of favorites, the Nittany Lions are definitely in good shape with Berry, which is not surprising given that Larry Johnson is recruiting the talented cornerback prospect.

Berry expects to narrow his list soon and could make a decision before the season starts, but it's more likely that he will wait and take some official visits before making a verbal commitment.

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