Land of 10 writer Tyler Donohue breaks down a Penn State recruit every week . In this edition, we evaluate linebacker Nick Tarburton. Be sure to check out recent analysis on receivers Justin Shorter and Julian Fleming, defensive linemen Judge Culpepper, Aeneas Hawkins and PJ Mustipher, running back Ricky Slade, tight ends Pat Freiermuth and Zack Kuntz, linebacker Jesse Luketa, safety Isheem Young, edge rushers Micah Parsons and Brandon Smith, cornerbacks Keaton Ellis and Jordan Miner, and offensive lineman Fredrick Scruggs.
Penn State secured a commitment from in-state standout Nick Tarburton on Feb. 9, making the Pennridge (Perkasie, Pa.) High School junior an early component of an impressive 2018 Nittany Lions class. Now midway through his senior season, Tarburton continues to show why he warrants widespread attention from Penn State fans.
Standing approximately 6-foot-4, this highly productive linebacker competes at nearly 250 pounds. His fiery leadership and consistent impact help set the tone for a 5-2 Pennridge squad.
Tarburton recorded three double-digit tackle totals during those first seven games. He is fresh off arguably the finest performance of his final prep campaign. Tarburton tied a career-high with 3 sacks Friday night in a 26-6 victory over Central Bucks West, according to MaxPreps. His latest effort featured a season-best 5 tackles for loss.
Tarburton, who also holds scholarship offers from Louisville, Maryland, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse, has a chance to reach 300 career tackles by the end of this season.
According to MaxPreps, Tarburton has 249 tackles since the start of his sophomore season, averaging 8 per game. Along the way, he’s tallied 40 tackles for loss, 16 sacks and 7 offensive touchdowns.
This is an immense defensive workload, especially when you consider how his expanding reputation commanded increased focus from opposing game plans. Tarburton and Pennridge counter these strategies by placing him in different locations during the course of a contest.
Often, he is the centerpiece at middle linebacker, operating between the tackles. Other times, he’ll line up off the edge, creating an extremely difficult matchup for offensive tackles or other blockers in pass support.
In this example below, Tarburton bursts into the backfield, blows through a running back’s block attempt and closes on the quarterback.
Tarburton does a great job on blitzes against both pass and run attempts. While he is an aggressive defender who goes full speed each snap, it’s good to see him maintain body control while taking proper angles. You’ll rarely witness Tarburton over-pursue while tracking the ball, enabling him to bring down a ball carrier without sacrificing leverage.
The term “sideline to sideline” is tossed around pretty liberally when analysts discuss linebacker prospects, but it truly applies to Tarburton, as he displays tremendous back-side hustle. An enormous wingspan helps him wrap up, while his quickness is quite impressive for an athlete of this physical stature.
Tarburton, one of three linebackers committed to Penn State’s 2018 class along with Charlie Katshir and Jesse Luketa, also looks like a very viable option at defensive end. He carries 250 pounds well, and a physical frame that could continue to grow offers potential for the addition of several more pounds without impacting his athleticism.
“Coach [James] Franklin has talked about that with him, and he said, ‘You get bigger, we’ll put you down at defensive end,’ and he’s certainly up for that,” Pennridge coach Jeff Hollenbach told Greg Pickel of PennLive in February. “He wants his first shot at linebacker, but I could also see him as a rush end.”
This versatility is what encouraged me to list Tarburton at No. 7 overall in Land of 10’s most recent edition of 2018 Pennsylvania prospect rankings. Only Luketa (No. 3) and 5-star edge rusher Micah Parsons (No. 1) graded higher among defensive prospects.
Franklin and the Nittany Lions have done excellent work assembling a defensive front seven loaded with athletic, big-bodied players who present potential in multiple roles. This is a key attribute of what Penn State defensive line coach Sean Spencer does with rotations in the trenches, and developing members of the freshman class and 2018 recruits will further strengthen a successful situation.
The Nittany Lions remain in the hunt for a trio of top-tier defensive ends this cycle: Parsons, Jayson Oweh and Tyreke Smith. A 23-player class currently features one full-fledged defensive end prospect in Dorian Hardy, as Judge Culpepper is expected to join Aeneas Hawkins and PJ Mustipher inside.
Tarburton is a penetrative force who identifies offensive flow and reacts accordingly. Again, his length becomes a major factor while lunging to stack up tackles for loss.
I could absolutely see Tarburton evolve into a Nittany Lions defensive leader along the front line. A relentless approach and superb read-react tendencies may grow even more dangerous when envisioning a 6-5, 275-pound version of this playmaker.
There obviously isn’t a downside to keeping him at linebacker, where he’s become one of Pennsylvania’s best defensive leaders. Penn State coaches are surely excited about the different avenues his collegiate career may take, and these options seemingly provide the program with an excellent prospect at multiple positions.
The post TD’s Take: Penn State commit Nick Tarburton a versatile tackling machine in defensive front 7 appeared first on Land of 10.