Penn State pulled off a recruiting day to remember.
In one of the first big payoffs from the unexpected run to the Rose Bowl by James Franklin and his Nittany Lions, Penn State received verbal commitments from Virginia running back Ricky Slade and in-state linebacker Jesse Luketa to further boost a 2018 recruiting class already ranked No. 1 nationally.
Slade, from Woodbridge, Va., is the nation’s No. 2-ranked tailback by Scout.com and the No. 1 all-purpose back by 247Sports. The powerful, compact runner (5-foot-9, 195 pounds) also reported scholarship offers from Clemson, Florida, Louisville and Ohio State.
“He’s a kid who can come in and play right away. Just a dynamic player,” said Brian Dohn, a national recruiting analyst with Scout.com.
“I don’t like to compare kids, but he’s a lot like the one they have there now,” Dohn said, referring to All-American tailback Saquon Barkley.
The Lions now have a stunning 10 commitments in their next class, which won’t be finalized for another year.
More importantly, they are building serious momentum after their on-field success last fall.
“I think where it’s probably going to have the biggest impact is the ’18 class and the ’19 class,” Franklin said of his program’s rebuilding. “These guys were sitting in their living rooms and at their high schools watching Penn State be really successful and play an exciting brand of football.”
This 2018 class signals the most impressive recruiting start Penn State has enjoyed in recent memory, maybe ever. It’s certainly an upgrade from the productive, if not impressive work done to finish the 2017 class earlier this week.
Headlining this new group are Slade and five-star defensive end Micah Parsons, one of the nation’s highest-rated recruits at any position. Also committed are 6-foot-7 Zack Kuntz, the nation’s top-rated tight end, and Justin Fields, one of the most coveted dual-threat quarterbacks.
Other highly regarded four-star pledges include New Jersey receiver Justin Shorter (6-foot-3, 195 pounds), Massachusetts tight end Pat Freiermuth (6-5, 230) and Texas safety Isaiah Humphries, whose father played at Penn State.
Penn State is stacking significant talent behind Barkley. Miles Sanders, the nation’s top tailback recruit in the 2016 class, will be a sophomore this fall, as will power back Andre Robinson of Harrisburg. Meadville High’s Journey Brown, possibly the fastest high school running back in the nation, officially signed Wednesday.
Maybe even more important is Luketa’s commitment, considering the Lions’ depth issues at linebacker.
Luketa (6-3, 200) is the No. 2 linebacker in Pennsylvania, according to Scout.com. The Mercyhurst Prep star in Erie also reported scholarship offers from UCLA, Stanford, Northwestern and Yale. His commitment comes just a day after one from Cumberland Valley linebacker Charlie Katshir.
“I think Jesse really could be a star,” Dohn said, highlighting his speed, blitzing ability and film study work.