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New WR recruit Jake Smith rises from unknown to top target
Jake Smith entered his junior season at Notre Dame Prep (Scottsdale, Ariz.) as a relative unknown on the recruiting trail. Less than two months later, he’s become a priority prospect for several Power 5 programs, including Penn State.
The Nittany Lions extended a scholarship offer to Smith on Thursday. Arizona State offered a few hours later, pushing his total collegiate options to 12 universities.
“My recruitment has completely changed since the beginning of this season,” Smith explained during our conversation Friday morning. “I was barely even on the radar before this season and coaches wouldn’t even respond to me.”
He shouldn’t have any trouble getting in touch with college staffs moving forward. Smith, who plays receiver and running back for the 7-0 Saints, is enjoying a breakout campaign, and it’s paying off big on the recruiting trail.
During those seven games, he caught 18 passes for 630 yards and 8 touchdowns, according to MaxPreps. That’s an average of 35 yards per catch, and Smith has surpassed 150 receiving yards in two contests.
However, he’s hardly relegated to only one role in this offensive attack.
“Notre Dame uses me in a variety of ways,” Smith said. “In our spread and base offense, I play receiver. But in two other sets we have I play tailback.”
His performance in the backfield has also been highly productive. Smith rushed for 120-plus yards in three of the last five games. He is averaging 10.9 yards per carry en route to 698 rushing yards and another 8 scores.
Smith also serves as a special teams weapon, averaging 29.3 yards per return with 1 touchdown. Through seven games, he has 1,547 all-purpose yards.
His junior-season highlights are filled with long-distance touchdowns:
“Most colleges want me as receiver, including Penn State,” Smith said.
So it makes sense that Nittany Lions receivers coach Josh Gattis, one of many Penn State assistants carrying out recruiting missions during the bye week, made the trip to Notre Dame Prep.
“Coach Gattis came to my school and said he loved my film and they wanted to offer me,” Smith said. “I was kind of expecting it but it was still surprising. … I think the Penn State football program is one of the best in the country.”
Along with his latest offers, he also holds scholarship opportunities from schools such as Cal, Duke, Illinois, Indiana, Vanderbilt and Washington State. Fresh off an offer from Arizona State, Smith will check out the Sun Devils in person this weekend with a visit to campus.
No other college trips are planned at this point, but there is plenty to catch up on following a massive wave of college interest. As for a future journey to Happy Valley?
“I definitely plan on visiting Penn State,” Smith said.
4-star DE Dorian Hardy no longer a member of 2018 Penn State class
Transitioning from a feel-good recruiting story to one at the opposite end of the spectrum, 4-star defensive end prospect Dorian Hardy finds himself in an adverse situation. The talented 6-foot-5, 240-pound athlete was involved in an altercation that bordered on a brawl after a Paramus Catholic (N.J.) practice last Friday.
The incident involved at least three other players and an assistant coach. NJ.com has investigated the matter this week with varying accounts of what happened.
Hardy’s father, Charles Hardy, told NJ.com his son “came to the aid” of a teammate who was struck with a helmet as a fight escalated. He also asserted that Paramus Catholic assistant coach Michael Mitchell “punched Dorian twice in the face.”
Following this initial report, Mitchell detailed his view of the event during a discussion with NJ.com. Mitchell explained that his son, freshman football player Miles Mitchell, was hit by Hardy at least twice and diagnosed with a concussion afterward.
He then suffered a seizure in school Wednesday, requiring a hospital visit.
“They tried to kill my son,” Michael Mitchell told NJ.com. “I just hope he makes it through this and isn’t hurt for the rest of his life.”
The NJ.com report stated that Miles’ right eye was “nearly swollen shut” and his head “heavily wrapped with gauze” during an interview Thursday afternoon. Unlike the first report, this one identifies Hardy as an aggressor in the altercation.
While speaking with NJ.com on Thursday, Hardy’s mother, Sharon Hardy, expressed disbelief about the situation. Dorian is no longer enrolled at Paramus Catholic.
“I don’t understand why my child was wrong for protecting his teammate and fighting him after getting hit with a helmet,” she said. “I don’t understand why my son gets suspended, his scholarship may be in jeopardy, when another kid used a weapon and hit somebody upside the head.”
It wasn’t clear whether she was referencing his scholarship from Penn State or perhaps one from Paramus Catholic, but an incident such as this clearly created need for an internal review by the Nittany Lions staff. Though we don’t know the details of discussions that may have taken place between the two parties, Hardy is no longer a Penn State commit as of Friday afternoon, according to Sean Fitz of 247Sports.
Hardy, considered a top-200 overall recruit in the 247Sports 2018 composite, carries more than 20 college offers and emerged as a high-level talent early in his high school career. It remains to be seen how this incident will impact his future football and academic outlook.
As for Penn State, this development decreases its 2018 commitment total to 22 players. Defensive end was already a major position of emphasis, as top-tier recruits Micah Parsons, Jayson Oweh and Tyreke Smith each view the team as a top contender.
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