Two more for PSU: 5-star LB Brandon Smith and 4-star DB Tyler Rudolph

By Derek Levarse - [email protected]

When he was in fifth grade, Brandon Smith told his father he wanted to play in the NFL.

A quick reality check followed — a slam to the family sofa — as Rico Smith told his son to stay grounded.

“Don’t you talk about playing in the NFL,” the elder Smith recounted on Monday during a livestreamed ceremony at Louisa County High School in Virginia. “You make it to middle school, and then you make it to high school, then college, then you talk about that. Until then, don’t mention it.

“But me and your mom, we’re going to give you the tools and the resources to do it. And you’re going to pass or you’re going to fail.”

Safe to say Brandon has made mom and dad plenty proud so far.

The five-star linebacker took another step toward that NFL dream, verbally committing to play at Penn State, one of dozens of major colleges to offer him a scholarship.

Joining Smith on the day was four-star Connecticut defensive back Tyler Rudolph, who pledged to the Nittany Lions less than an hour later to cap off one of the most productive stretches on the recruiting trail in James Franklin’s four-plus years as head coach.

At dinnertime on Thursday, Penn State had three verbal commitments for the 2019 recruiting class and was ranked 48th nationally in the 247Sports Composite team rankings.

At dinnertime on Monday, Penn State had eight commitments and was ranked 14th.

The Lions had previously gotten commitments from three-star Lackawanna College safety Jaquan Brisker on Thursday, four-star Virginia running back Devyn Ford on Friday and four-star Connecticut athlete Marquis Wilson on Sunday.

Smith is in line to be the fifth five-star recruit to sign with Penn State in the last four cycles, nearly doubling the six that the program inked from 2000-15.

The 6-foot-4, 223-pound Smith is the top-rated player in Virginia, the No. 2 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 30 overall recruit at any position. He announced his decision on stage from his high school auditorium, an event that ended with him and his entire family donning Penn State gear.

Smith chose Penn State over Ohio State, primarily, as well as a slew of offers from the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas A&M and USC.

Along with his father, a small parade of Smith’s coaches and school officials spoke at the event.

“Brandon is not just a tremendous athlete and football player, he’s a tremendous person and a tremendous student,” district superintendent Doug Straley said.

“As quiet and humble as he is off the field, between the lines, he plays with immense passion and enthusiasm,” Louisa County coach Will Patrick said during the ceremony. “It’s fun to watch and it’s fun to coach.”

As a junior, Smith racked up 117 tackles (18 for loss) and six sacks, helping Louisa County — also nicknamed the Lions — to the Virginia Class 4A state title game.

Most evident is his ability to hunt down ball-carriers all over the field, reminiscent of former Lions captain Mike Hull. In his first year at Penn State, Franklin praised Hull for being an “eraser” for the defense — but where Hull stood 6-foot-even, Smith is roughly four inches taller.

Rico Smith has told multiple outlets that Brandon aims to graduate in December and enroll at Penn State in January 2019.

His commitment continued Penn State’s run of recruiting success in Northern Virginia, a region that has recently provided the Lions with some of the country’s top talent.

In the 2018 class, Penn State landed five-star running back Ricky Slade and four-star offensive lineman Nana Asiedu, who were rated as Virginia’s No. 1 and No. 3 prospects, respectively. For 2019, it’s Smith and Ford, who are ranked No. 1 and No. 2. All four played high school ball in the same 30-mile radius, with Asiedu and Ford being teammates at North Stafford High School.

Another standout in the secondary

Some 450 miles to the northeast at St. Thomas More School in Connecticut, Rudolph was getting ready to make his own announcement, picking the Lions from a final five that included Clemson, Florida, Michigan and Ohio State.

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Rudolph is rated as the nation’s No. 22 safety and No. 312 overall. He checks in as the No. 3 player in Connecticut, one spot behind Wilson.

Taking to Twitter after his own ceremony, Rudolph wrote, “After this long process and multiple deep conversations with my parents and coaches to find the perfect fit academically and athletically, I would like to announce that I am 1000% committed to the Pennsylvania State University.”

Rudolph has the size and speed to play either cornerback or safety at the next level. Recruiting services have been listing him at both positions.

That flexibility is important for the 2019 class, which already has half of its commitments pegged for the secondary. Brisker plays safety for Lackawanna, Ellis is a corner for State College High School and Wilson was primarily a corner on defense for Avon Old Farms School while also standing out at wide receiver.

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.

QB 2018 2019 2020 2021
Trace McSorley Sr. (RS)
Tommy Stevens Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Jake Zembiec So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Sean Clifford Fr. (RS) So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Will Levis Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Ta’Quan Roberson Fr. So. Jr.
Totals 5 5 4 3
RB 2018 2019 2020 2021
Mark Allen Sr. (RS)
Johnathan Thomas Sr. (RS)
Miles Sanders Jr. Sr. RS open
Journey Brown Fr. (RS) So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Ricky Slade Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Devyn Ford Fr. So. Jr.
Totals 5 4 3 3
WR 2018 2019 2020 2021
DeAndre Thompkins Sr. (RS)
Juwan Johnson Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Brandon Polk Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
K.J. Hamler Fr. (RS) So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Mac Hippenhammer Fr. (RS) So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Cam Sullivan-Brown Fr. (RS) So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Justin Shorter Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Daniel George Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Jahan Dotson Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Totals 9 8 6 6
TE 2018 2019 2020 2021
Jonathan Holland Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Nick Bowers Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Danny Dalton So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Zack Kuntz Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Pat Freiermuth Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Totals 5 5 3 2
OL 2018 2019 2020 2021
Chasz Wright Sr. (RS)
Ryan Bates Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Steven Gonzalez Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Sterling Jenkins Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Connor McGovern Jr. Sr. RS open
Will Fries So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Michal Menet So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Alex Gellerstedt So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Mike Miranda Fr. (RS) So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
C.J. Thorpe Fr. (RS) So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Des Holmes Fr. (RS) So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Rasheed Walker Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Nana Asiedu Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Juice Scruggs Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Bryce Effner Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Caedan Wallace Fr. So. Jr.
Totals 15 15 11 8
DL 2018 2019 2020 2021
Torrence Brown Sr. (RS)
Shareef Miller Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Ryan Buchholz Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Kevin Givens Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Robert Windsor Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Shane Simmons So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Shaka Toney So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Ellison Jordan So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Daniel Joseph So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Antonio Shelton So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Yetur Gross-Matos So. Jr. Sr. RS open
Fred Hansard Fr. (RS) So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Damion Barber Fr. (RS) So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Corey Bolds Fr. (RS) So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Brailyn Franklin Fr. (RS) So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Nick Tarburton Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Jayson Oweh Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
P.J. Mustipher Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Aeneas Hawkins Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Judge Culpepper Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Totals 20 19 15 9
LB 2018 2019 2020 2021
Koa Farmer Sr. (RS)
Jake Cooper Sr. RS open
Jarvis Miller Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Cam Brown Jr. Sr. RS open
Dae’Lun Darien So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Brelin Faison-Walden Fr. (RS) So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Ellis Brooks Fr. (RS) So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Micah Parsons Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Jesse Luketa Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Charlie Katshir Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Brandon Smith Fr. So. Jr.
Totals 10 9 7 6
DB 2018 2019 2020 2021
Amani Oruwariye Sr. (RS)
Nick Scott Sr. (RS)
John Reid Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Ayron Monroe Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Garrett Taylor Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
John Petrishen Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Zech McPhearson So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Lamont Wade So. Jr. Sr. RS open
Tariq Castro-Fields So. Jr. Sr. RS open
Jonathan Sutherland Fr. (RS) So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Donovan Johnson Fr. (RS) So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
D.J. Brown Fr. (RS) So. (RS) Jr. (RS) Sr. (RS)
Isaiah Humphries Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Trent Gordon Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Jordan Miner Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Jaquan Brisker Jr. Sr. RS open
Marquis Wilson Fr. So. Jr.
Tyler Rudolph Fr. So. Jr.
Keaton Ellis Fr. So. Jr.
Totals 15 17 13 9
ST 2018 2019 2020 2021
Blake Gillikin Jr. Sr. RS open
Jake Pinegar Fr. So. Jr. Sr.
Totals 2 2 1 1
TOTALS 86 84 63 47
AVAILABLE 0 1 22 38

Players in italics are non-binding verbal commitments

By Derek Levarse

[email protected]

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

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