National Signing Day Recap

With National Signing Day wrapping up, now is a good time to take a look at what Penn State has done since mid-December when the Early National Signing Day Period took place. Back in December, Penn State signed 18 prospects, with 11 of them enrolling early in January. Among those that signed and enrolled early were the two five star prospects in this 2019 class, linebackers Brandon Smith and Lance Dixon. Over the last month and a half, Coach James Franklin and his staff have bolstered what was already considered a top recruiting class in the country into a class that is considered by most recruiting services including 247 Sports and ESPN to be in the top 10 or just outside the top 10 in the country. Let’s take a look at the five new prospects who have committed to Penn State since the Early Signing Period.

DT D’Von Ellies- 6′ 2″ 280 lbs Owings Mills, Maryland

Ellies committed to Penn State during the Polynesian Bowl on January 19th. However, with the game starting at 7 PM in Honolulu, Hawaii, many Penn State fans learned of Ellies commitment the next morning. Wanting to announce his decision during the Polynesian Bowl, Ellies kept his commitment a secret up until the game and actually signed with Penn State in the Early Signing Day Period. The four star prospect is ranked the 7th best prospect from the state of Maryland and the 21st ranked prospect at defensive tackle. With the development abilities of defensive line coach Sean Spencer, Ellies is an exciting prospect considering his size at 6′ 2″ 280 lbs and already has the body frame of a run stopping force in the middle of the defensive line. Ellies was also a high school teammate of current Penn State DT PJ Mustipher, who was very pleased to be reunited with his former high school teammate.

Mustipher and Ellies sporting their high school colors in Mustipher’s tweet welcoming Ellies to the program

DE Smith Vilbert- 6′ 6″ 250 lbs Montvale, New Jersey

Vilbert committed to the Nittany Lions after visiting Penn State in December and then later visiting Florida in January. Once he completed his visits, the three star prospect out of New Jersey decided to stay up north, committing to the Lions in mid-January. Vilbert has excellent size for a defensive line prospect, however, he just completed his first full season playing football, where he had nine sacks and 17 tackles for loss. So, for Vilbert, who focused on basketball when he moved to the United States from Haiti, he will become more of a developmental project on the Penn State defensive line. Fortunately for both Vilbert and the Lions, Sean Spencer has a tremendous background in being able to develop players on the line.

DT Joseph Appiah Darkwa- 6′ 5″ 270 lbs Germany

The third defensive line commit since the Early Signing Day Period, Darkwa had perhaps the most interesting path in becoming a Nittany Lion. Darkwa is from Germany and had a sort of late blooming recruiting process. He had at least six scholarship offers, with all of them coming after Christmas 2018. Penn State offered a scholarship to Darkwa on January 9th, hosted him for an official visit, and received his commitment on February 1st,  a less than month long process that some players take a couple years to complete. Even with DT Kevin Givens declaring for the NFL Draft following the 2019 VRBO Citrus Bowl, expect Darkwa to fall into the same category as Vilbert, more of a devlopmental project for Coach Spencer who could pay huge dividends down the line.

CB Daequon Hardy- 5′ 10″ 160 lbs Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Coach Franklin landed another in-state defensive back recruit in Daequon Hardy the day before the National Signing Day Period on February 6th. Hardy committed to Penn State the same day he received the offer from Franklin on February 5th. Hardy, a three star prospect from Pittsburgh, is an exciting prospect despite his size, most notably his 160 lb frame. However, he has very dynamic speed, with James Franklin consistently citing Hardy’s 40 yard time of 4.4 seconds at a Penn State camp he attended as something that caught the eyes of the coaching staff from the very beginning of Hardy’s recruiting process. Franklin also noted in his Signing Day press conference that they may use Hardy as a corner, wide receiver, return man, special teams player, basically whatever they can do to get his speed on the field.

WR TJ Jones- 6′ 1″ 185 lbs Lake City, Florida

Penn State wanted one more wide receiver to join John Dunmore in the class of 2019, especially following the decommitment of Emery Simmons to North Carolina. To find their man, Franklin and his staff went back to the well that gave them Dunmore and landed TJ Jones out of the state of Florida on National Signing Day. Jones now joins two other prospects from the Sunshine state, John Dunmore and Noah Cain. Jones was also a target of new WR coach Gerad Parker when he was at Duke. With both Parker and RB coach JaJuan Seider, who has strong connections to Florida, involved heavily in recruiting Jones, Penn State became a perfect fit for Jones with their need for another wide receiver prospect in this class of 2019.

The 2019 Penn State recruiting class may still continue to grow as they await the final decision of current Florida State DB commit Nick Cross. His addition would make Penn State’s great class even better, potentially moving them up in the top ten in terms of overall classes and perhaps moving them up ahead of Michigan for the top spot in the Big Ten rankings. Penn State could potentially also stake claim to the top class of defensive backs for the class of 2019, as well. However, until his decision is made, here is where Penn State stacks up with their Class of 2019.

  • 11th in the country (247 Sports)
  • 2nd in the Big Ten
  • 2 top-15 prospects
  • 11 early enrollees
  • 23 signed prospects

With the high success of Coach James Franklin and his coaching staff on signing day, continue to expect Penn State to continue their high rate of success on the field, where they have finished in the AP top 25 for three years straight, played in two New Year 6 Bowls, and won on average over 10 games per season since 2016.


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