Penn State lands pledge from nation’s No. 3 running back, Devyn Ford

By Derek Levarse - [email protected]
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Devyn Ford stood up from his chair. Before he announced his college choice, he had his mother help with the reveal by unzipping his jacket while he held the microphone.

It just took a few tries to get the zipper unstuck.

“Suspense,” Ford said Friday to laughs during a livestreamed event at North Stafford High School in Virginia.

For Penn State, there was plenty of confidence that one of the country’s top running backs would pick the Nittany Lions over Virginia Tech. Long-time followers of Penn State recruiting, however, may have had some unpleasant flashbacks to another star rusher — Philadelphia’s Kevin Jones — who unexpectedly took off a sweatshirt to show a Hokies jersey in the summer of 2000.

No surprises this time.

Ford made the call for the Lions by unveiling a Penn State shirt, making it two straight years the Lions have managed to pluck Virginia’s No. 1 running back prospect. Ricky Slade, who played 20 miles away from Ford’s school, signed with the Lions in December.

It was part of an eventful 18 hours for the Lions, who also landed a commitment from Lackawanna College’s Jaquan Brisker — the nation’s top-rated junior college safety — and missed out on defensive lineman Antonio Alfano — the No. 1 recruit in New Jersey, who chose Alabama over Penn State and Georgia.

The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Ford immediately becomes Penn State’s highest-rated recruit for the 2019 signing class. The four-star prospect checks in as the nation’s No. 3 running back and the No. 65 overall recruit, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Ford picked the Lions over Virginia Tech and had roughly 40 scholarship offers from the likes of Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas, USC and Wisconsin. He timed his announcement to coincide with the birthday of his grandmother, who was seated to his right during the event.

“Whatever school is getting Devyn Ford is easily — easily — getting the best running back in the nation,” North Stafford coach Joe Mangano said while introducing Ford during the ceremony. “Hands down.”

Mangano said that both Penn State coach James Franklin and Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente “said it, and they meant it, that Devyn Ford is a type of player you build your program around.”

As a junior last fall, Ford rushed for 2,056 yards and 32 touchdowns last fall and also displayed his chops as a receiver out of the backfield and as a return man.

As expected, Saquon Barkley is still paying dividends for the Lions after departing for the NFL, especially when it comes to recruiting top-flight running backs.

“I feel like Saquon Barkley is a trailblazer for Penn State,” Ford told ESPN. “You didn’t really have a back like that come out until he actually did it. Now that’s set the tone for other backs behind him. … So I feel like having a back like that, go the first round, second pick, it was amazing to see what they did with him and how versatile you can be (in that offense).”

It also didn’t hurt Penn State during the recruiting process to have one of Ford’s teammates in his ear. Offensive lineman Nana Asiedu, who signed with the Lions in December and is finishing up his senior year at North Stafford, predicted on Twitter Friday morning that it would be a big day for the Lions.

Things had picked up on the recruiting front at last month’s Blue-White Game when four-star New Jersey offensive lineman Caedan Wallace came aboard. Prior to that, the Lions had been stuck at just two 2019 recruits since October — State College defensive back Keaton Ellis and New Jersey quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson.

Late Thursday night, Brisker became the fourth member of the class when he gave his pledge to Franklin.

Originally from Gateway High School outside of Pittsburgh — the same school Penn State assistant coach Terry Smith helmed for years as head coach and athletic director — Brisker starred as a freshman for Lackawanna in 2017. He led the team with four interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, and finished second with 54 tackles.

He will play his sophomore season this fall for the Falcons and then arrive at Penn State having three years to play two seasons of eligibility.


Below is Penn State’s updated recruiting map, which can be expanded by clicking on the full-screen icon in the upper right corner of the frame.

All recruit rankings and offers represent the 247Sports Composite, which averages the ratings of prospects from 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN.


PENN STATE SCHOLARSHIP CHART
QB 2018 2019 2020 2021
Trace McSorley Senior (RS)
Tommy Stevens Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Jake Zembiec Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Sean Clifford Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Will Levis Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Ta’Quan Roberson Freshman Sophomore Junior
Totals 5 5 4 3
RB 2018 2019 2020 2021
Mark Allen Senior (RS)
Johnathan Thomas Senior (RS)
Miles Sanders Junior Senior RS available
Journey Brown Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Ricky Slade Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Devyn Ford Freshman Sophomore Junior
Totals 5 4 3 3
WR 2018 2019 2020 2021
DeAndre Thompkins Senior (RS)
Juwan Johnson Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Brandon Polk Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
K.J. Hamler Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Mac Hippenhammer Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Cam Sullivan-Brown Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Justin Shorter Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Daniel George Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Jahan Dotson Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Totals 9 8 6 6
TE 2018 2019 2020 2021
Jonathan Holland Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Nick Bowers Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Danny Dalton Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Zack Kuntz Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Pat Freiermuth Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Totals 5 5 3 2
OL 2018 2019 2020 2021
Chasz Wright Senior (RS)
Ryan Bates Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Steven Gonzalez Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Sterling Jenkins Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Connor McGovern Junior Senior RS available
Will Fries Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Michal Menet Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Alex Gellerstedt Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Mike Miranda Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
C.J. Thorpe Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Des Holmes Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Rasheed Walker Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Nana Asiedu Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Juice Scruggs Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Bryce Effner Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Caedan Wallace Freshman Sophomore Junior
Totals 15 15 11 8
DL 2018 2019 2020 2021
Torrence Brown Senior (RS)
Shareef Miller Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Ryan Buchholz Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Kevin Givens Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Robert Windsor Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Shane Simmons Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Shaka Toney Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Ellison Jordan Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Daniel Joseph Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Antonio Shelton Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Yetur Gross-Matos Sophomore Junior Senior RS available
Fred Hansard Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Damion Barber Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Corey Bolds Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Brailyn Franklin Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Nick Tarburton Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Jayson Oweh Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
P.J. Mustipher Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Aeneas Hawkins Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Judge Culpepper Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Totals 20 19 15 9
LB 2018 2019 2020 2021
Koa Farmer Senior (RS)
Jake Cooper Senior RS available
Jarvis Miller Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Cam Brown Junior Senior RS available
Dae’Lun Darien Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Brelin Faison-Walden Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Ellis Brooks Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Micah Parsons Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Jesse Luketa Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Charlie Katshir Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Totals 10 8 6 5
DB 2018 2019 2020 2021
Amani Oruwariye Senior (RS)
Nick Scott Senior (RS)
John Reid Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Ayron Monroe Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Garrett Taylor Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
John Petrishen Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Zech McPhearson Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Lamont Wade Sophomore Junior Senior RS available
Tariq Castro-Fields Sophomore Junior Senior RS available
Jonathan Sutherland Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Donovan Johnson Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
D.J. Brown Freshman (RS) Sophomore (RS) Junior (RS) Senior (RS)
Isaiah Humphries Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Trent Gordon Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Jordan Miner Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Jaquan Brisker Junior Senior RS available
Keaton Ellis Freshman Sophomore Junior
Totals 15 15 11 7
ST 2018 2019 2020 2021
Blake Gillikin Junior Senior RS available
Jake Pinegar Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Totals 2 2 1 1
TOTALS 86 80 60 46
AVAILABLE 0 5 25 39

Players in italics are non-binding verbal commitments

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By Derek Levarse

[email protected]

ON THE WEB

To watch Devyn Ford’s highlight film, see this story online at timesleader.com/sports/penn-state

Reach Derek Levarse at 570-991-6396 or on Twitter @TLdlevarse

Reach Derek Levarse at 570-991-6396 or on Twitter @TLdlevarse