Penn State recruiting: TE Jahleel Billingsley lists Lions in top 7; DE Derick Hunter to visit

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Stay updated as Penn State rises toward the top of the recruiting rankings! Don’t miss the coverage from Tyler Donohue, who brings a decade of experience as a national college football reporter and a recruiting department staff member with a Big Ten program. Read his daily notebooks here at 7:20 p.m. ET Sunday through Thursday, and follow us on Twitter for the latest Nittany Lions recruiting news.


Penn State among favorites for 4-star TE Jahleel Billingsley

Penn State expanded its efforts to target top tight ends this winter, adding several talents to the 2019 recruiting board after a lengthy lull. The Nittany Lions made its first scholarship offers at the position last May, identifying Hudson Henry and Austin Stogner as priorities, then didn’t add to that list until late January.

Jahleel Billingsley and Jackson Lowe ended the offer gap on Jan. 29. Now, six weeks later, Billingsley has confirmed the Nittany Lions are under serious consideration.

The 6-foot-5, 225-pound prospect tweeted a list of his seven favorite universities on Tuesday night. It features four Big Ten programs.

Penn State must compete against conference foes Illinois, Michigan and Ohio State. Florida, Ole Miss and TCU round out his collection of top options.

Considered the nation’s No. 9 tight end and a top-5 Illinois product in the 247Sports 2019 composite rankings, he provided some bad news for those that didn’t make the cut.

Billingsley, a junior at Phillips Academy, carries more than 20 offers. Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Syracuse and West Virginia are among the schools left off his list.

His first offer arrived last July from Purdue. With Billingsley fresh off a visit with the Illini, this recruitment is clearly shaping up as a showdown between Big Ten teams.

Billingsley delivered as a key contributor for undefeated Phillips Academy during the 2017 season, helping the Wildcats win a Class 5A title state championship. A pair of his finest performance occurred under playoff pressure.

He pulled in a touchdown reception during the state semifinal victory, according to SaukValley.com’s Eric Ingles, then collected 5 catches in the title game, according to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Michael O’Brien.

Billingsley quickly reciprocated interest from Penn State, attending a junior day event in Happy Valley less than one week after receiving the offer. The Nittany Lions will attempt to get him back on campus this spring, when an official visit perhaps could be in play.

Penn State’s 2019 tight end board has swelled to include seven recruits. Recently offered talents include Isaiah Foskey (Concord, Calif.), Patrick Herbert (Eugene, Ore.) and Keon Zipperer (Lakeland, Fla.).

The Nittany Lions signed two top-10 tight end prospects this winter: Pat Freiermuth and Zack Kuntz. Penn State must replace accomplished starter Mike Gesicki in 2018.

Watch Billingsley’s junior-season highlights here:

Nittany Lions line up official visit with 4-star DL Derick Hunter

We’ve spent significant time discussing Penn State’s shift toward creating a larger recruiting footprint in Florida. More 2019 prospects in Florida carry a Nittany Lions offer than in any other state, and it isn’t even close.

These offers create a starting point, but visits will prove valuable as Penn State attempts to overcome a lack of proximity with elite talent. On-campus experiences helped seal the deal last cycle with Tampa-area standouts Judge Culpepper (defensive tackle) and Jordan Miner (cornerback).

Expect a substantial group of Florida talent to make the trip north during these months ahead. One of the state’s premier defensive linemen already has finalized travel plans.

Derick Hunter, who attends Dunbar (Fort Myers) High School, announced Tuesday afternoon he will use an official visit at Penn State in September.

As you can see in the tweet, he tagged first-year Penn State assistant and ace Florida recruiter Ja’Juan Seider.

Hunter, a 6-4, 281-pound junior, will attend the Nittany Lions’ highly anticipated showdown vs. Ohio State. Along with the April 21 spring game, that matchup figures to attract the most official visitors for a 2018 matchup in Beaver Stadium.

I first spoke with Hunter midway through his sophomore season, shortly after he secured offers from Florida and Notre Dame. Approximately 40 pounds lighter then, his potential collegiate outlook spanned several positions, including tackle and tight end.

While he’s grown into a larger athlete and potential interior defender, Hunter has maintained impressive athleticism. He could fill a variety of roles along the defensive front, depending on which scheme awaits in college.

Hunter spent five months verbally committed to the Miami Hurricanes. However, he reopened his recruitment last November and has since established rapport with new coaching staffs at Florida and Florida State.

But Georgia is the most notable contender for Hunter, as noted by DawgNation’s Jeff Sentell. Based on their late-February conversation, it sure sounds as if the Bulldogs are far out in front.

“I don’t even have any other top school,” Hunter told Sentell last month. “Georgia is number one. Georgia is number one. Period. Point blank. All the other schools are just there to be there. Georgia is number one.”

This indicates a steep climb for other programs, despite his intention to attend a game at Penn State. He intends to announce his college choice next winter during a postseason All-America event, according to Ryan Green of Gridiron Now.

Hunter is listed 15th among strongside defensive ends and 185th overall in 2019 composite rankings. Penn State entered this pursuit during a January offer spree in South Florida.

Watch his 2017 highlights here:

Miss any previous editions of our daily Penn State recruiting notebook? You can find them all here.

The post Penn State recruiting: TE Jahleel Billingsley lists Lions in top 7; DE Derick Hunter to visit appeared first on Land of 10.

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