Penn State recruiting: Top Nittany Lions prospect performances from first half of season

PJ Mustipher-Penn State-recruiting

Penn State football reached the midpoint of its 2017 regular season last Saturday with a 31-7 victory at Northwestern. The Nittany Lions entered a bye week ranked No. 3 overall in the AP and Coaches polls, which matches the program’s place in 247Sports 2018 composite recruiting class rankings.

Success on the recruiting trail is at an all-time high for James Franklin and the current Penn State coaching regime. Elite targets may add to an outstanding collection of 2018 talent, while efforts are under way with prized high school juniors and sophomores.

Now that we’ve reached the halfway mark of this college football regular season, let’s take a look at 10 of the top performances from players either committed to or considering Penn State. It’s a list loaded with dominant efforts, and features video highlights so you can see for yourself.

Receiver Julian Fleming

  • Class: 2020
  • High School: Southern Columbia (Catawissa, Pa.)
  • Size: 6-foot-1, 175 pounds
  • 247Sports composite ranking: No. 1 receiver; No. 5 overall
  • Recruitment status: Uncommitted; offers include Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Pittsburgh and West Virginia
  • Game: Aug. 25; 55-7 win over Shamokin Area

Julian Fleming knew he wouldn’t sneak up on opponents this season following a 15-touchdown freshman season, but extra defensive attention didn’t make a difference in the 2017 opener. He caught 4 passes for 111 yards and 3 scores despite spending much of the second half sidelined due to an insurmountable lead.

“It’s a big confidence builder for sure,” Fleming said afterward. “I should’ve had 5 touchdowns, but 2 got called back because of penalties.”

Through seven games, Fleming leads unbeaten Southern Columbia with 31 receptions for 722 yards (23.3 per catch) and 15 touchdowns. He added a kickoff return for touchdown along the way, giving him a career-best 16 scores. Fleming attended Penn State’s Sept. 16 game vs. Georgia State.


Running back Devyn Ford

  • Class: 2019
  • High School: North Stafford (Stafford, Va.)
  • Size: 5-11, 185 pounds
  • 247Sports composite ranking: No. 4 running back; No. 45 overall
  • Recruitment status: Uncommitted; offers include Clemson, North Carolina, Ohio State, Penn State and Virginia Tech
  • Game: Sept. 29; 55-14 win over Stafford

Running behind an offensive line that features 4-star Penn State tackle commit Nana Asiedu, Devyn Ford has been largely unstoppable since he hit the field this fall. Multiple 200-yard performances highlighted his early season efforts, but we’ll focus on a 5-touchdown effort here.

Ford, who attended the Penn State spring game in April, finished with 117 yards and 5 scores against Stafford, according to John Hollis of The Free Lance-Star. Perhaps most impressively, he put this game away early with 4 touchdowns before halftime.


Running back Jordan Houston

  • Class: 2019
  • High School: Flint Hill School (Oakton, Va.)
  • Size: 5-10, 178 pounds
  • 247Sports Composite ranking: No. 35 running back; No. 432 overall
  • Recruitment status: Uncommitted; offers include Boston College, Penn State, Tennessee and Virginia Tech
  • Game: Sept. 22; 41-28 win over Collegiate

If there were doubts about whether Jordan Houston was recovered from the fractured left fibula he suffered in September 2016, he erased them with a strong start. His junior season began with 370 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns in the first two games, but it was the third game that really put everyone on notice.

Houston, whose mother is a Penn State graduate, erupted for 388 total offensive yards and 4 touchdowns. This big night included 281 rushing yards on 23 carries and 107 receiving yards, while he added a sack and fumble recovery on defense. The Nittany Lions offered Houston his first scholarship in July 2016 but this recruitment should continue to grow more crowded.




Quarterback Will Levis

  • Class: 2018
  • High School: Xavier (Middletown, Conn.)
  • Size: 6-4, 222 pounds
  • 247Sports composite ranking: No. 23 pro-style quarterback; No. 613 overall
  • Recruitment status: Committed to Penn State on July 15, 2017
  • Game: Sept. 29; 56-3 win over East Haven

Penn State spent approximately six weeks searching for Justin Fields’ replacement in the 2018 Penn State class, ultimately locating Will Levis. A July 14 offer led to his commitment the next morning, and he validated the staff’s confidence with a strong September.

After tossing 7 touchdowns during the first two games, Levis capped off the month by tying his career-high with 5 touchdown passes against East Haven. He completed 21 of 29 throws for 347 passing yards, according to Jim Bransfield of The Middletown Press. Levis notched a sixth score on the ground, reaching the end zone via a 15-yard rush.



Defensive tackle PJ Mustipher

  • Class: 2018
  • High School: McDonogh School (Owings Mills, Md.)
  • Size: 6-5, 290 pounds
  • 247Sports Composite ranking: No. 9 defensive tackle; No. 102 overall
  • Recruitment status: Committed to Penn State on Aug. 7, 2017 
  • Game: Sept. 22; 27-9 win over Malvern Prep

PJ Mustipher already looks the part of a collegiate defensive lineman, but his appeal is about more than size. He is a reigning state wrestling champion and crossover skills prove pivotal as he grapples with opponents, sheds blocks and penetrates the backfield.

His team made a trip to Pennsylvania in September, when Mustipher made a statement in front of several Penn State fans. Mustipher made frequent pushes past the line of scrimmage, stuffing rush efforts and securing 3 sacks against Malvern, according to Daniel Gallen of PennLive. It was a “man among boys” kind of showing in the trenches, and further reinforces my belief Mustipher has a legitimate shot at immediate playing time at Penn State.



TE Zack Kuntz

  • Class: 2018
  • High School: Camp Hill (Pa.)
  • Size: 6-8, 221 pounds
  • 247Sports composite ranking: No. 4 tight end; No. 100 overall
  • Recruitment status: Committed to Penn State on Nov. 26, 2016
  • Game: Oct. 6; 40-7 win over Boiling Springs

While Zack Kuntz’s physical frame and athleticism would be enough to warrant attention from Power 5 football coaches, his production makes him a can’t-miss prospect. The longtime Penn State pledge surpassed 2,000 career receiving yards in September, then again served up evidence of elite receiving skills during his first game of October.

Kuntz caught 5 passes for 110 yards and 3 touchdowns against Boiling Springs, according to Brian Linder of PennLive. His scores came from distances of 10, 18 and 39 yards. For good measure, he added a fourth touchdown off an interception return.


DE Jayson Oweh

  • Class: 2018
  • High School: Blair Academy (Blairstown, N.J.)
  • Size: 6-5, 236 pounds
  • 247Sports Composite ranking: No. 7 strongside defensive end; No. 158 overall
  • Recruitment status: Uncommitted; offers include Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State
  • Game: Sept. 16; 44-21 win over Haverford School

Jayson Oweh jumped onto the national recruiting landscape after the 2016 season, which was his first time playing football since fifth grade. Expectations continued to rise during a productive offseason in which he impressed at several camps and earned an invitation to the Under Armour All-America Game.

Oweh delivered immediately in his senior season opener, recording 4 sacks, 5 quarterback hurries, 11 tackles and 1 forced fumble. He also blocked a punt and caught a 61-yard touchdown pass. The most compelling factor here is Oweh doesn’t feel like he’s close to a finished product, which sets a high bar for his collegiate development.


Defensive end Micah Parsons

  • Class: 2018
  • Size: 6-3, 235 pounds
  • 247Sports Composite ranking: No. 1 weakside defensive end; No. 5 overall
  • Recruitment status: Uncommitted; offers include Alabama, Florida State, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State.
  • Game: Sept. 15; 45-0 win over Pottsville

Micah Parsons commands nationwide attention for his defensive prowess, and he should be in the mix for several postseason Defensive Player of the Year awards. But another aspect is also becoming increasingly obvious: Parsons is the best senior running back in Pennsylvania.

He’s overwhelmed opponents all season with the ball in his hands, dazzling with a blend of burst and power that routinely leaves defenders grasping at turf in his wake. Parsons did plenty of damage against Pottsville, rushing for 142 yards and 3 touchdowns on 12 carries, according to Brian Linder of PennLive. He is on pace for more than 20 touchdowns and Penn State is among programs Parsons has spoken with about offensive possibilities.

RB Ricky Slade

  • Class: 2018
  • High School: C.D. Hylton (Woodbridge, Va.)
  • Size: 5-9, 185 pounds
  • 247Sports composite ranking: No. 2 all-purpose backs; No. 27 overall
  • Recruitment status: Committed to Penn State on Feb. 3, 2017
  • Game: Oct. 6; 64-35 win over Colgan

You won’t find many players in high school football more scintillating in open space than Ricky Slade. Already over 1,000 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns this season, he had his greatest performance to date last weekend during a game that produced nearly 100 total points.

Slade set Hylton High School records for single-game touchdowns (8) and rushing yards (353) in the victory. His rrushing total required only 13 carries, while 3 scoring sprints occurred from more than 50 yards out. Slade added a touchdown reception and scored twice on kickoff returns.


LB Nick Tarburton

  • Class: 2018
  • High School: Pennridge (Perkasie, Pa.)
  • Size: 6-4, 245 pounds
  • 247Sports composite ranking: No. 17 inside linebacker; No. 378 overall overall
  • Recruitment status: Committed to Penn State on Feb. 3, 2017
  • Game: Oct. 6; 26-6 win over Central Bucks West

Closing in on 300 career tackles, Nick Tarburton destroyed the offensive game plan for Central Bucks West last weekend. He also disrupted special teams efforts, blocking a kick during his dominant performance.

Tarburton tallied 8 tackles, 5 of those for loss, and 3 sacks. He attacks opponents with a tremendous motor and appears capable of developing into a top-tier collegiate player at either linebacker or defensive end.

The post Penn State recruiting: Top Nittany Lions prospect performances from first half of season appeared first on Land of 10.

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