Penn State managed to land two high-profile recruits at the start of the last signing window. The Nittany Lions have a shot to repeat the feat on Wednesday.
A pair of four-star prospects — Maryland tackle Rasheed Walker and Arizona receiver Solomon Enis — are the top targets left on Penn State’s board heading into the traditional signing day.
The Lions already managed to climb up to No. 4 in the national team rankings in the 247Sports Composite when they inked 22 players back in December. It was the first year an early signing period existed for college football.
Back on Dec. 20, the Lions got commitments from top-10 overall recruit Micah Parsons as well as highly regarded receiver Jahan Dotson. Securing Walker and Enis this time around would help Penn State hang on to a top-10 class as the rest of the country’s top unsigned talent makes things official.
“There are new challenges that go into it, some that we know and understand right now, and some that we probably don’t know what they are yet,” Lions director of player personnel Andy Frank said of the dual signing windows in December. “This will be an evolving process, not only this year, but the next couple years before things settle down and we can get into a groove of what the whole picture looks like.
“Easier, I don’t know, but smaller regarding numbers so that that part might be easier, but just different, and different types of challenges.”
Walker is set to announce his decision during a ceremony at North Point High School in Waldorf, Md., along with a handful of other players. The event is set for 11 a.m., though Walker will likely speak toward the tail-end of it.
Enis will take his turn a bit later, making the call at 1 p.m. at North Canyon High School in Phoenix, according to The Arizona Republic.
Walker’s finalists are Penn State, Ohio State and Virginia Tech. Enis will choose between Penn State, Utah, USC and Arizona State.
Those are the two biggest names the Lions will be watching on the day, which will feature Penn State streaming a live recruiting show from the Hub on campus at noon. Lions coach James Franklin has a press conference scheduled for 3:15 p.m.
Of the pair, Walker is the bigger need for the Lions, who are looking to add another blue-chip tackle prospect after picking up some interior linemen last year in C.J. Thorpe and Mike Miranda.
Checking in at 6-foot-6, 300 pounds, Walker is rated the No. 65 overall prospect and the No. 4 offensive tackle in the 2018 cycle, per the 247Sports Composite.
Landing Walker would give the Lions six of the nation’s top 100 players in the class. On top of that, it would give them two top-10 tackles along with Virginia’s Nana Asiedu (No. 8), who signed in December.
None of that is to downplay the talent of Enis, who brings a 6-foot-4 frame and football pedigree as the son of former Penn State star running back Curtis. But the Lions have already signed three of the country’s top 50 receivers in Dotson, Daniel George and Justin Shorter, who is now rated the nation’s No. 1 wideout in the Composite.
What will be interesting to watch is if the Lions turn to other prospects on their list if they miss out on either Walker or Enis.
Both Franklin and Frank have said in the past that the Lions prefer to fill up all of their available scholarships in each cycle rather than “bank” one or two that would make the following year’s class larger.
That point was reiterated in December by former assistant coach Josh Gattis, who has since joined Alabama’s staff.
“We aren’t going to leave one scholarship left on the table,” Gattis said. “That’s not the program or the people that we are. We are going to devote all our needs to finishing off this 2018 class strong as well as building for the future.”
This has played out more often than not on signing day under Franklin’s watch. Names such as Torrence Brown, Brenon Thrift and, in the case of last February, Corey Bolds, were all last-minute additions to their respective classes.
One question mark that remains is the status of Shaquon Anderson-Butts. The Harrisburg High School athlete was Penn State’s lone verbal commitment who did not sign with the rest of the class back in December. According to multiple recruiting databases, he took an official visit to Marshall over the weekend.
As of Tuesday evening, he had not announced a decision, though he still lists himself as a Penn State commitment on his Twitter page.
The road continues
Poised to have one of its largest draft classes in recent years, Penn State had eight alums formally receive invitations to the NFL combine on Tuesday.
Led by a potential top-five overall pick in running back Saquon Barkley, the Lions also had safety Marcus Allen, safety Troy Apke, linebacker Jason Cabinda, cornerback Christian Campbell, tight end Mike Gesicki, cornerback Grant Haley and receiver DaeSean Hamilton get the call. The eight invitees will be Penn State’s most since 2009.
While Barkley, Gesicki and Allen were long considered strong draft prospects, Hamilton, Campbell and Apke all boosted their stock with strong performances in senior all-star games with Hamilton and Campbell appearing regularly in full mock drafts.
The combine will be held from Feb. 27-March 5 in Indianapolis. The draft is April 26-28 in Arlington, Texas.
Reach Derek Levarse at 570-991-6396 or on Twitter @TLdlevarse