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.
Penn State is set to sign 4-star defensive tackle PJ Mustipher this week. Here’s what you need to know about the future Nittany Lions player.
High School: McDonogh School (Owings Mills, Md.)
Size: 6-foot-5, 290 pounds
247Sports composite ranking: No. 6 defensive tackle; No. 111 overall; No. 5 in Maryland
When he committed to Penn State: Aug. 7, 2017
Other college offers: Maryland, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Tennessee
The path to Penn State
PJ Mustipher spent most of his high school career on the radar of college football recruiting departments. The younger brother of Notre Dame offensive lineman Sam Mustipher, he received a scholarship offer from Penn State in March 2015.
“I’ve been comfortable with Penn State since I was 14 years old when they started recruiting me,” Mustipher told Land of 10 while discussing his decision to commit.
Though he was only a freshman at that time, plenty of other Power 5 programs also identified him as a priority prospect early. Mustipher ended his sophomore year with an offer list featuring Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Tennessee.
He matched the mounting hype as an upperclassman.
Mustipher collected 47 tackles, 15 sacks and 4 forced fumbles as a junior, according to The Baltimore Sun. He then earned a state wrestling championship last winter.
Mustipher attributes part of his development on the football field to those successes in wrestling.
“It’s just 1-on-1. If you lose, it’s all on you. If you win, it’s all on you,” he said. “How much work you put in alone is going to translate to how well you do against an opponent. I think that’s the same focus on the football field, because you’ve got to whoop that offensive guard’s behind every play. You’ve got to make grown men do what they don’t want to do.”
An intelligent, savvy defender. His size, anticipation and technique combine to create a premier interior lineman. Though his size draws a spotlight, Mustipher’s demeanor is a major plus. Drive and diligence are factors that can be difficult to gauge when projecting a high school standout’s transition to college, but he checks those boxes based on several conversations I’ve had with coaches and scouts.
Mustipher is a load to handle for offensive linemen, delivering a devastating initial punch that routinely provides him the all-important advantage in leverage. He discards blockers with precise handwork and gains space with lateral agility that often eludes athletes of his stature.
There will be plenty of focus on the progression of Penn State’s defensive line class during these upcoming days and weeks. The Nittany Lions currently carry commitments from three prospects in the defensive trenches: Mustipher, Aeneas Hawkins and Judge Culpepper.
Hawkins and Culpepper present the size and versatility to vie for consideration at defensive end, but both players anticipate largely lining up along the interior. Penn State may soon add blue-chip edge rushers Micah Parsons (announces Dec. 20) and Jayson Oweh (Jan. 4), while dynamic defensive lineman Tyreke Smith (Jan. 4) is also in the mix.
Mustipher already competes with a college-ready physical frame. Now underway with wrestling season, expect him to arrive on campus next summer looking more like a third-year college veteran than a program newcomer.
Penn State used a redshirt on 2017 defensive tackle signees Corey Bolds and Fred Hansard, so they’ll also be motivated to make a move up the depth chart toward collegiate debuts. It’s not a clear path toward playing time, but Mustipher is the kind of penetrative force and mature young man who could give Nittany Lions coaches plenty to consider next season.