The new early signing period in college football occurs Dec. 20-22, and Penn State is primed to finalize key recruitments with many impressive prospects. We’ll highlight anticipated Nittany Lions newcomers throughout the week.
Justin Shorter has officially signed with Penn State. Here’s what you need to know about the 5-star receiver.
High School: South Brunswick (Monmouth Junction, N.J.)
Size: 6-foot-4, 213 pounds
247Sports composite ranking: No. 3 receiver; No. 15 overall; No. 1 in New Jersey
When he committed to Penn State: Aug. 6, 2016
Other college offers: Miami, Michigan, Rutgers, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin
— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) December 20, 2017
The path to Penn State
Justin Shorter is the longest-standing member of this Nittany Lions recruiting class. He received a Penn State offer in April 2016, and later pledged to the program a few weeks prior to his junior season.
Shorter filled a variety of roles for South Brunswick, helping lead the team to state championships in 2015 and 2017. His athletic prowess led to big plays at receiver, running back, quarterback, kick returner and safety.
Despite playing in a run-dominated offensive attack, he consistently showcased the receiving skills that ultimately sent his stock soaring on the college football recruiting scene.
Shorter collected 119 receptions for 1,908 yards and 22 touchdowns during the past three seasons. He snagged a season-high 7 passes in the Dec. 2 state title game, including 1 touchdown catch in an 18-14 victory over Manalapan.
His senior season also featured more than 300 rushing yards (approximately 10 yards per carry), 4 rushing touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
Shorter surged in recruiting rankings last offseason by dominating the national camp circuit. He earned first-team honors at The Opening, an annual invite-only showcase event held at Nike’s world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., and ultimately climbed more than 100 spots between the end of his junior season and the start of his senior campaign.
“Once I saw that jump in the rankings, I just thought now it’s time to work harder and get to that first spot [in receiver rankings],” Shorter told Land of 10. “Getting moved up was great but I’m always trying to take that next step. I’m working nonstop every day.”
His ability to consistently beat top-tier defensive back prospects made him a favorite target for the quarterback recruits who participated in high-profile camp settings.
“Justin is the type of receiver who can get open no matter what,” N.C. State commit and Elite 11 finalist Devin Leary said. “It seems as if wherever you throw the ball — even if it’s behind him or a little above his head — he’s going to come down with it. As a quarterback, a guy like him makes your job 10 times easier. … I think he’s going to be a huge factor for Penn State, probably as soon as he gets to campus.”
Shorter combines formidable size and physicality with outstanding route-running technique and surprising speed. He earned the “fastest man” title at The Opening’s New Jersey regional in April, finishing the 40-yard dash in 4.50 seconds.
Shorter’s size presents matchup issues before his route is even run. That length is augmented by tremendous extension that often eludes other top-tier high school receivers, who tend to wait on the football.
Shorter attacks each pass at its highest point, ensuring well-placed darts will be difficult for any defender to claim. He uses above-average speed and large strides to get behind opponents, and then further complicates the situation by going airborne to cap off the completion. Even when those passes aren’t on point, Shorter can erase mistakes with a catch radius that coaches crave.
Shorter will wrap up his prep career Jan. 4 in the Under Armour All-America Game. Considering the level of domination he displayed in earlier marquee prospect events, don’t be surprised if Shorter makes a strong final case for the No. 1 ranking among all 2018 receivers.
He’ll provide more size to a Penn State receiver rotation that features fellow 6-4 New Jersey product Juwan Johnson, who Shorter followed closely during his early football development. The Nittany Lions say goodbye to all-time receptions leader DaeSean Hamtilon and record-setting tight end Mike Gesicki after the Fiesta Bowl, so substantial target volume will be up for grabs entering 2018.
Shorter must compete with Penn State veterans, a pair of redshirt freshmen and members of his own class for reps, but he has the physical and mental makeup to do it. His long-term potential is unmatched in this class, as Shorter could quickly assert himself as one of the Big Ten’s premier playmakers and an absolute matchup nightmare for defenses.