Stay updated as Penn State rises toward the top of the recruiting rankings! Don’t miss the coverage from Tyler Donohue, who brings a decade of experience as a national college football reporter and recruiting department staff member with a Big Ten program. Read his daily notebooks here at 7:20 p.m. ET Monday through Friday and follow us on Twitter for the latest Nittany Lions recruiting news.
Lasch Bash helped seal deal for PJ Mustipher
PJ Mustipher planned to announce a college commitment after his senior football season, using a few official visits to finalize the process. Instead, as his comfort level with Penn State increased, the 4-star defensive tackle felt prepared to issue a pledge days before McDonogh School (Owings Mills, Md.) opens training camp.
“I really want to focus when I go back to work with my guys, and work to win a title with the team before I leave,” Mustipher told Land of 10. “Committing to Penn State really clears my mind up. I can take a deep breath and just go to work.”
He revealed his decision Monday, and returns to the field Thursday. Mustipher became the 22nd member of the Nittany Lions’ 2018 recruiting class, giving the program an all-time high total of 14 blue-chip pledges.
Along with Penn State, Mustipher’s decision came down to Maryland, Michigan State and Tennessee. A pair of recent visits to Happy Valley — especially his experience at the Lasch Bash festivities on July 15 — helped solidify the choice.
“I was always comfortable with Penn State, and for the past few months my parents and I have been talking about Penn State,” he said. “I was still looking at other schools [heading into Lasch Bash] and things weren’t set in stone, but I’ve been comfortable with Penn State since I was 14 years old when they started recruiting me.”
The day before that event, Mustipher attended a Nittany Lions camp and worked under the direction of defensive line coach Sean Spencer. That weekend proved to be a pivotal step.
“Getting a chance to work with Coach Chaos [Spencer] and being around the people I’m going to be with for the next four or five years of my life, that was definitely a key point and something I needed to check off my list,” he said. “That’s when I felt like I could definitely see myself at Penn State.”
Mustipher, considered the No. 6 defensive tackle and a top-100 overall recruit in the 247Sports 2018 composite rankings, noted that the Nittany Lions collected five pledges between July 14-16.
“It was crazy just seeing the energy that everyone had,” he said. “I kind of wish I could’ve done it then to add to the happiness, but me and my family went home and went back to the drawing board. I went to ‘Lift for Life’ [an annual team charity event that preceded Lasch Bash] and there were a lot of fans there asking me to sign stuff and take pictures. It was definitely a great day being able to vibe with the commits.”
Zack Kuntz was among the group of committed recruits who surrounded him in July. The 4-star tight end recalled a blossoming sense Mustipher that would eventually join them.
“We all felt confident about PJ and, especially after the Lasch Bash, I knew he was coming,” Kuntz said. “He didn’t say anything to me that made me think he was coming, but after you spend a weekend with the best coaching staff in the nation in State College, there’s no going back.”
Mustipher mentioned Kuntz as a Penn State pledge who maintained contact leading up to his commitment. He said the diligent group of peer recruiters also included tight end Pat Freiermuth, quarterback Will Levis and linebacker Jesse Luketa, who Mustipher pointed to as the main man on his case.
Now on board with these other talents, he intends to take a similar approach with Penn State targets who remain uncommitted.
Mustipher mentioned fellow Maryland standout Rasheed Walker, a 4-star offensive tackle, as a top priority.
“That’s my guy from back home so I’ve been in his ear,” Mustipher said. “I think I’m already annoying him on Twitter a little bit.”
His relationship with 4-star defensive end Jayson Oweh may also prove beneficial for the Nittany Lions. They worked together in drills at the camp in July and previously shared a visit to State College on May 20.
“I hit Jayson up daily,” Mustipher said.
Oweh, speaking with Land of 10 one day after meeting Mustipher on campus in May, expressed excitement about the possibility of becoming college teammates.
“I’m glad we got to spend time together because he’s cool, open and funny,” Oweh said. “I would definitely like to play together in college. It would be crazy for us to line up next to each other at defensive tackle and defensive end.”
“Coach Chaos [Spencer] always talks about building the best defensive line in the country and the best defensive line class ever assembled,” he said. “I think that’s exactly what he’s going to do.”
Mustipher intends to major in mass communications and minor in political science at Penn State. He plans to use the early signing period (Dec. 20-22). Schedule conflicts may prevent him from attending a Nittany Lions game this fall, so a postseason official visit appears likely, leading to enrollment next June.
Mustipher could have commanded attention from college coaches deep into winter. Instead, he opted to claim his spot in a class that’s quickly become crowded.
“I was ready to pull the trigger and didn’t want to miss this opportunity because I know what Penn State brings to the table,” he said. “I’m done with the recruiting process and I’m 185-percent sure that’s where I want to go.”
Mustipher totaled 47 tackles, 15 sacks and 4 forced fumbles as a junior, according to the Baltimore Sun. Check out his 2016 season highlights below.
New 2019 Rivals.com rankings include several Nittany Lions targets
The Rivals.com staff revealed its initial top 250 rankings of rising high school juniors Tuesday. That list features an array of prospects in the Class of 2019 who have already landed on the Penn State target board.
Ford traveled to Happy Valley for the spring game on April 22 alongside North Stafford (Va.) High School teammate Nana Asiedu, a 4-star offensive tackle who committed to Nittany Lions coach James Franklin that day. Brooks called Penn State his “dream school” upon receiving an offer in May, while Dobbs visited the university in late July.
— Devontae Dobbs (@Devontae_Dobbs) July 31, 2017
A trio of New Jersey products with Penn State offers — DE Antonio Alfano (No. 57), OL John Olmstead (No. 59) and OL Caedan Wallace (No. 79) — also landed in the top 100. Olmstead and Wallace attended the spring game, while Alfano has witnessed two regular-season contests in Beaver Stadium.
Wallace was teammates with Penn State freshman DT Fred Hansard at The Hun School (Princeton, N.J.).
Another connection is in place with two potential Philadelphia targets. Linebacker Omar Speights (No. 192) and defensive back Tykee Smith (No. 244) will line up alongside Nittany Lions safety commit Isheem Young at Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia) High this fall.
Other top-tier recruits on this list who’ve expressed strong interest in the Nittany Lions during discussions with Land of 10 include edge rusher Brandon Smith (No. 100), S Lewis Cine (No. 117) and cornerback Nyquee Hawkins (No. 172). Garrett Shrader (No. 184), a North Carolina product, is the lone uncommitted Penn State quarterback target who made the cut.
Penn State is still searching for its first commitment of the 2019 recruiting cycle.
The post Penn State Recruiting: 4-star DT PJ Mustipher opens up on commitment, targets other prospects appeared first on Land of 10.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.