May 6, 2010

Big-Ass 2011 Recruiting Update, Part 3 of 4

Maryland all-purpose star Darius Jennings could be one of Penn State's finest pickups in this recruiting class.
Here's the third of four big recruiting updates coming the rest of this week... Part two was a bit scrawny in terms of juicy recruiting goodness (I know, can't believe I just said that. What was that? Oh, there's a Mr. Hansen here to see me?), but this one has a bit more to gnaw on.

Donovan Smith
Owings Mills, MD

Smith is a two-way lineman out of Penn State's prime recruiting territory--Maryland. The rising senior is projected to play on the offensive line in college, filling the tackle role at the high school level. Smith is an All-America candidate going into his senior season, after having been invited to the U.S. Army All-American Combine in January, just one of many honors he has been raking in.

Smith is now up to about 12 scholarship offers, with Wisconsin being the latest BCS program to formally court him. Besides the Badgers, there are plenty of other high-profile BCS automatic qualifiers jockeying for Smith's verbal. West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, UCLA, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, and Maryland have all extended offers. Alabama, Ohio State, and Notre Dame are also rumored to have taken an interest in Smith the last few weeks.

When it comes to Penn State... The Nittany Lions are in excellent shape. Smith has taken two visits to Happy Valley since early April, including a Blue-White Game trip with his entire family in tow. He came away raving about almost everything to do with Penn State. Although teams like Rutgers have been pushing hard the past month or so, I would dare to say that if Penn State signs just one player in May--which would be the first in PSU's 2011 class--it would not at all shock me if that player was Smith.

Darius Jennings
Baltimore, MD's No. 4 quarterback for 2011, Jennings had blown past the 20-offer threshold all the way back in February. Every school from the eastern seaboard to the Mississippi River has sent a scholarship offer Jennings' way. Including Penn State, five Big Ten teams have offered Jennings, nine of the 12 ACC programs, and even three Pac 10 schools have gotten into the mix. Throw in about a half-dozen more offers from the Big East and Big XII, and you've got yourself a hot ticket for Jennings' services.

However, all that early attention has been doused a bit the past few weeks, as Jennings has not been taking many visits, or making much news otherwise. On April 1, he told Josh Helmholdt of, "My family and I are really just putting this [recruiting] thing on the backburner until the school year is over so I can finish out the school year strong and stay focused on my books. Once the summer hits, we'll sit down and try to knock a few schools off my list early ... just schools I don't connect with and don't have that feeling with..."

When it comes to Penn State... Michigan appears to be a serious contender, but only because that's the only school he has visited. So, take that for what it's worth. Jennings did come up for the Blue-White Game on April 24, which is always a good sign from a kid that just said he wasn't taking any visits. Penn State has been mentioned as a leader in this race, due in no small part to the complete recruiting awesomeness that is Larry Johnson, Sr. He has single-handedly pillaged Maryland on a nearly annual basis since 2006, and doesn't appear to be interested in offering mercy anytime soon. Jennings would definitely become Penn State's newest favorite position--the "D-Wheelz" (not an official term, FYI)--using the complete football skill set of throwing, running, and catching.

Aundrey Walker
Cleveland, OH

To the Buckeye State we go. Walker started out with only a handful of scholarship offers, but as word spread of his incredible size (6-5, 335 lbs) and skill on the offensive line, he gained a national profile among the top programs. Walker sits on about 12 offers right now, with six Big Ten teams--Ohio State and Michigan State are supposedly in the lead--Notre Dame, and a few Big East teams calling his number. USC offered Walker back in March, and can be considered in the top three with MSU and OSU.

When it comes to Penn State... Walker admitted to Brian Snow of that he "doesn't know anything about them (Penn State)." That's not the kind of image you want inside a recruit's head, especially one as highly touted as Walker. But that was in mid-March, and things could change as long as Walker's recruitment remains open. However, the Nittany Lions might be going up against the clock on this one. With Ohio State and USC already gaining so much traction with Walker, it'll be an uphill, but not impossible battle for Penn State.

Shaun Underwood
Fuquay-Varina, NC

One player other than Donovan Smith that I really think could end up committing to a college very soon is Underwood. The junior tackle has received offers from mostly regional powers, like North Carolina and South Carolina. Underwood has reportedly narrowed his top choices to three schools: North Carolina, Wake Forest, and Penn State. I'm not sure if Underwood thinks that he has reached his recruiting ceiling, but it would seem about right if you said there's no reason for him to wait until after the football season to commit somewhere.

When it comes to Penn State... You have to think the Nittany Lions are the top pick for Underwood at this point. He has chosen two defense-heavy programs--PSU and UNC--with outstanding defensive line coaches. The big bonus for the Nittany Lions is that Larry Johnson, Sr. uses defensive linemen in a rotation, meaning that the younger players can get time early in their careers. Underwood's got to like that. But there is a question in my mind about this quote by Underwood, told to Phil Grosz of BWI, "I also like the overall stature of the program, even though Joe Paterno might not be there all four years I'd be there." Is there a bit of negative recruiting going on here? That kind of quote doesn't just pop out without hearing it from a coach first. Regardless of all that, Underwood is a very good possibility for Penn State in 2011.

Marquise Wright
Paramus, NJ

My dad won a state track championship for Paramus Catholic, and many of my family friends have strong connections to the school, so this recruit is particularly interesting for me. Wright was only hovering around seven offers or so back in the winter, but that number has risen to more than a dozen. These are no ho-hum offers, either. Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, South Carolina, and West Virginia are just some of the offers extended to Wright. He did say last week, however, that Rutgers hasn't offered, and that he's pretty much lost all interest in the Knights.

Earlier this week, Wright was also nominated for the 2011 U.S. Army All-American game in San Antonio, Texas. With the nomination, Wright joins several Penn State recruits from New Jersey, including Savon Huggins, Gary Nova and Angelo Mangiro.

When it comes to Penn State... Even though Wright has Penn State as his leader, he appears to want to wait until the end of the summer before pulling the trigger. But that doesn't take away from his interest in the Penn State, which Wright previously referred to as his "dream school." Wright has been to University Park twice since opening up his recruitment. One of those trips was to the Blue-White Game. Wright could be the headliner in a fantastic crop of defensive linemen for Penn State's 2011 class.

Deion Barnes
Philadelphia, PA

Barnes recently said that he wants to take his recruitment slow. With so many offers coming in, he can afford to do just that. About eight BCS programs have offered Barnes over the last few months. Michigan was the most recent school to offer Barnes, joining Louisville, Maryland, Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Virginia, and Virginia Tech. More offers are expected this summer.

The Philly defensive end just came back from the NIKE Camp in State College, where he finished the day as one of the most impressive recruits on the field. With size (6-5, 220 lbs) and speed like his, Barnes will only gain more attention as the recruiting season goes on.

When it comes to Penn State... With a frame like Barnes, you have to think Penn State will experiment with him at both defensive end and tight end. Following the NIKE Camp, he said that Penn State is definitely in his top schools right now, and that it was very impressive to him how the Nittany Lions focus on their players' families. Ron Vanderlinden is handling Barnes' recruitment, but Larry Johnson, Sr. has been involved here and there, since the recruit is a defensive line prospect.

Shawn Oakman
Lansdowne, PA

Despite his huge frame at 6-foot-8, 250 pounds, Oakman hasn't gained quite the attention as I had expected by this point in the spring. But I'm not reading any further into it, because he's still a fantastic prospect, and I fully believe that he will get plenty more offers before the summer is done. Oakman now holds about eight scholarship offers, including UConn, North Carolina State, South Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Rice.

When it comes to Penn State... Oakman has repeatedly said Penn State is either his leader, or at least in the top two or three college choices. For all this talk about how Penn State doesn't have any verbals yet, one must remember that within the traditional recruiting calendar, this is still just the end of the first stage, with summer beginning the next. But Oakman has all the signs that Penn State will be his school. Unless some other juggernaut program out there, like a Florida or Ohio State or Alabama, offers him, it looks like the Nittany Lions are leading the way.

Al Page
Bronx, NY

Page committed to Rutgers on April 14. This looks pretty concrete, so it's a slim chance of anything changing. Page had been offered from Kansas, Maryland, and Syracuse, but Rutgers sent in the big guns for him. Two coaches were in charge of courting Page. It worked.

Next up: Part 4

Part 1
Part 2

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