TD’s Take: Penn State recruiting target Tyreke Smith a force across defensive front

Land of 10 writer Tyler Donohue breaks down a Penn State recruit every  week . In this edition, he evaluates defensive lineman Tyreke Smith. Be sure to review his past analysis of many potential Nittany Lions  here.

Penn State is on the prowl for elite defensive line talent during its final push toward National Signing Day, with sights set on a few top-tier prospects. Tyreke Smith, a coveted Cleveland standout, is among them.

Considered the No. 4 weakside defensive end and a top-100 overall recruit in the  247Sports composite rankings, Smith presents plenty of versatility to impact matchups in a variety of roles up front. He is a dynamic and dominant force who remains in early phases of his progression.

Though Smith played football at an early age, he spent time away from the sport until his junior season of high school, as noted by Matt Goul of It didn’t take long for him to turn heads.

A blend of desirable size (6-foot-4, 260 pounds) and natural athleticism made him an immediate need-to-know-about prospect. During the past year and a half, he’s wrecked opposing offensive game plans at Cleveland Heights High School while attracting attention from college coaches across America.

He had collected scholarship offers from schools such as Louisville, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Penn State and UCLA by the end of 2016. The list expanded to include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, LSU, Oklahoma and Texas by the end of his junior year this last spring.

Smith is considering five finalists at this stage: Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State and USC. He has said he plans to announce a commitment Jan. 4 while competing in the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando, Fla.

The roster for this annual showcase event already features four Penn State pledges, and that total could swell to six players by game’s end. New Jersey defensive end Jayson Oweh also is scheduled to reveal his college choice during the nationally televised contest, presenting a paramount opportunity for James Franklin and Nittany Lions defensive line coach Sean Spencer.

Smith spent time in Happy Valley on Oct. 21, part of the record-setting Beaver Stadium crowd (110,823) that watched Penn State defeat Michigan. He is expected back on campus Dec. 8-10 for an official visit, likely to be joined by several members of the 2018 Nittany Lions recruiting class.

This group has been persistent in its pursuit of Smith, who previously shared conversations with those commits throughout the July 15 Lasch Bash festivities.

“I try to speak with Tyreke as much as possible,” Penn State linebacker commit Jesse Luketa said after they both attended the Penn State-Michigan matchup. “Seeing him last weekend, for me, it was just making sure he was around all the commits, making sure he knows we consider him a part of the family. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure he makes the move — the right move — to join the family.”

Penn State staff members have been diligent. Franklin paid a visit to Cleveland Heights in late October.

Much like fellow blue-chip Penn State defensive line target Oweh, Smith spent much of his adolescence focused on basketball. Working against lumbering offensive linemen at the prep level, his coordination and quickness is clearly at another level, and that lethal combination can be attributed, at least in part, to skills translated from the court.

Smith totaled 70 tackles, 23 tackles for loss and 11 sacks this season,  according to Goul. He was named Northeast Lakes District Defensive Player of the Year in Division I.

There is a suddenness to his approach in the trenches that should continue to challenge offensive linemen in Power 5 action. Though Smith certainly won’t get the same jump against top-caliber college blockers as he does against high school foes, there’s a lot about his game that should carry over as he transitions to a new level.

Smith stays low at the point of attack, peeking into the backfield while working toward his next move. He manages to shed blocks by shooting gaps with quick feet and impressive hand work.

His length is difficult to contend with, as Smith extends his arms to create space before dialing up a devastating speed rush that leaves linemen reaching for air or tugging his jersey. This length also provides support against the pass since he manages to disrupt lanes in which the quarterback wants to throw. Smith puts in solid effort deflecting pass attempts, and he’s also a threat to come down with an interception, especially when you consider his experience at tight end.

He appears to possess excellent vision while penetrating the offensive backfield, not falling for misdirection by being overly aggressive. Smith lines up his target and uses a wide wingspan to eliminate wiggle room before bringing down the ball carrier.

He is a threat in pass-rush settings, whether lined up on the edge or along the interior. It would require continued physical maturation and some patience, but I believe Smith’s greatest potential landing spot might be a 3-technique role, lined up off the guard’s outside shoulder.

Penn State is loading up on versatile defensive linemen in the class, and the addition of Smith would give Spencer yet another versatile talent to eventually implement in his rotation.

“Coach Chaos [Spencer] always talks about building the best defensive line in the country,” Nittany Lions defensive tackle commit PJ Mustipher said in August. “I think that’s exactly what he’s going to do.”

Landing Smith in January would represent a substantial step toward this goal, while Oweh and 5-star in-state edge rusher Micah Parsons are also considering joining forces in State College. Whichever team ultimately signs Smith secures a college-ready talent who still has vast development ahead of him.

The post TD’s Take: Penn State recruiting target Tyreke Smith a force across defensive front appeared first on Land of 10.

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