The latest in Nittany Lions recruiting news

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.

4-star Penn State target Shayne Simon picks Notre Dame

New Jersey standout Shayne Simon announced his collegiate choice Tuesday evening, pledging to Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish beat out schools including Ohio State, Penn State and UCLA.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound prospect hinted at a preseason commitment throughout this summer and saw enough to decide before training camp begins at St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City, N.J.). He previously traveled to Happy Valley in April, attending a spring practice.

“They have a focus. They’re ready to go and keep getting better,” Simon told Land of 10’s Corey Masisak about the Penn State visit. “It’s just a comfortable environment. All of the coaches are down to earth, high energy.”

Simon, considered the No. 6 outside linebacker and a top-200 overall recruit in 247Sports composite rankings, is considered an extremely versatile defender in the defensive back seven. Several college staffs took a long look at him as a potential safety.

“I don’t have any preference. I just want to be on the field,” Simon told Masisak. “Some at safety, some at outside linebacker. Some have a position where it is like a hybrid.”

It’s a recruiting miss for the Nittany Lions in a state where coach James Franklin has enjoyed tremendous success. However, this is by no means a surprise since the Fighting Irish emerged as a near-unanimous favorite in the 247Sports Crystal Ball and he didn’t attend the Lasch Bash festivities on July 15.

The Nittany Lions currently carry commitments from a trio of 2018 linebacker recruits: Charlie Katshir, Jesse Luketa and Nick Tarburton. It remains to be seen whether Penn State secures a fourth player at the position.

Jack Lamb, a 4-star California prospect and the son of two Penn State graduates, is focused on Notre Dame and UCLA after previously viewing the Nittany Lions as a top choice. Other names to know include Ohio product Brian Asamoah, who attended the team’s spring game, and Isaak Togia, who landed an offer last week.

A rundown of top Nittany Lions RB targets in the 2019 class

The Penn State staff has pieced together a tremendously promising group of running backs who should keep things moving on the ground in Happy Valley for years to come. Still, like every position in college football, it’s imperative to target elite depth that creates a competitive environment.

Heisman Trophy hopeful Saquon Barkley is the Nittany Lions’ obvious backfield catalyst, and expectations are that another strong season will leave little doubt about an early NFL draft entrance. Behind him, sophomore Miles Sanders and freshman Journey Brown provide substantial potential for future rushing efforts, as does 4-star 2018 commit Ricky Slade.

It’s important to always have at least two starter-quality running backs on the roster, considering the injury risk this position presents and the importance of occasionally changing pace. The Nittany Lions will learn a lot more about its younger athletes in a post-Barkley era, while aiming to enhance the corps with 2019 recruiting efforts.

Penn State has been pretty selective in its search for 2019 running back prospects to this point. Here’s a review of the top three targets on that list, and a glimpse at where things stand in their respective recruitments.

Devyn Ford

High School: North Stafford (Stafford, Va.)

Size: 5-11, 185 pounds

When Penn State offered: April 28, 2016

Other notable offers: Clemson, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio State, Southern Cal, Virginia Tech

The Nittany Lions have a built-in connection with Devyn Ford, as high school teammate Nana Aseidu committed to Penn State in April. That pledge occurred before the April 22 spring game, and Ford was alongside him throughout the day.

“It meant a lot to me to see a person who I’ve played with have that chance to commit to a school, go to college and do something with his life,” he told Land of 10 the next day.

Ford emerged as a compelling prospect during the 2015 season, which featured 1,865 yards rushing yards, 24 touchdowns and MaxPreps Freshman All-American honors. He told Land of 10 his goal is to trim an offer list that features nearly 30 schools down to 5-10 after his junior campaign.

Jordan Houston

High School: Flint Hill School (Oakton, Va.)

Size: 5-9 1/2, 170 pounds

When Penn State offered: July 17, 2016

Other notable offers: Boston College, Old Dominion, Tennessee, Virginia Tech

Jordan Houston is the son of a Penn State graduate and has deep family ties in the Nittany Lions fan base. He attended two camps in Happy Valley after his freshman season, which featured 1,846 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns, and earned an offer from Franklin on the second trip.

Though he suffered a fractured left fibula in his sophomore season opener, Houston had an expansive 2017 camp circuit. Penn State represented his only offer for nearly a full year, but this recruitment now extends to three Power 5 conferences.

He returned to campus for a July 14 camp and stayed in State College for the Lasch Bash.

“I absolutely loved it,” Houston told Land of 10. “That was the best PSU visit yet probably. They are all great. But this one was special because all of the commits and the kids who have an offer from PSU got up on stage and introduced themselves.”

RB Jordan Houston escapes defenders during a 2015 game. (The Flint School/courtesy)

Keilan Robinson

High School: St. John’s College (Washington, D.C.)

Size: 5-9, 175 pounds

When Penn State offered: June 16, 2017

Other notable offers: Maryland, Michigan State, North Carolina, Rutgers

One of three St. John’s College prospects to receive a Penn State offer during June camp action, Robinson is a speedster. He clocked a 4.34-second 40-yard dash during that showcase in Happy Valley, and the staff swiftly extended a scholarship on the field.

“They love my speed,” Robinson said. “Speed is a game-changer, speed kills. They also love how versatile I am coming out of the backfield. I can run anywhere on the field, and I can catch the ball or sometimes line up in the slot.”

He gained momentum in six games as a sophomore, averaging 9.7 yards per rush attempt and scoring 7 touchdowns, according to Sean Fitz of 247Sports. Robinson looks like one of the most scintillating offensive prospects in the Mid-Atlantic region, and his production could skyrocket this season.

“In my opinion, Keilan is the best running back in the nation no matter the class,” said St. John’s College defensive back and fellow Nittany Lions target Quinten Johnson. “I know he will have a monster season this year and will be a Sunday [NFL] player.”

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