Three-Point Stance: Battle in the trenches, Penn State, predictions
National recruiting analyst Adam Friedman weighs in on three topics: Who is winning the battle in the trenches this recruiting cycle, Penn State bounces back after losing a few key commits and five commitment predictions.
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1. Who is winning the battle in the trenches?
There is still a lot to unfold in the battle for linemen in the 2023 class. Of the 98 uncommitted prospects in the Rivals250, 44 of them are offensive or defensive linemen. Take a look at the teams that already have a solid foundation of linemen in their 2023 class.
1. Notre Dame - This was a really tough call picking between Notre Dame and Clemson for the top spot, but the Fighting Irish get the nod. Led by five-star defensive end Keon Keeley and top 25 prospect Brenan Vernon, Notre Dame's defensive front consists of higher-end pass rushers at this point in the evaluation process. The Fighting Irish also have arguably the best offensive line class in the nation so far. Charles Jagusah, Sam Pendleton and Sullivan Absher are all inside the Rivals250 and, along with four-star Elijah Paige, they give Notre Dame one of only two teams that has four offensive linemen that are rated at least four-stars.
2. Clemson - Clemson has the best and deepest defensive line class right now. All five commitments on the defensive front are four-stars and three of them (Peter Woods, Victor Burley and Stephiylan Green) are ranked inside the Rivals250. Ian Reed, Harris Sewell and Zechariah Owens are the only commitments for the Tigers on the offensive line right now, but each of them are Rivals250 prospects.
3. Ohio State - The Buckeyes have done a great job recruiting top offensive linemen early in the recruiting cycle and those efforts have paid off with arguably the top offensive line class in the nation at this point. Luke Montgomery, Joshua Padilla and Austin Siereveld are all ranked inside the top 170 of the Rivals250, plus four-star Miles Walker sits just outside the Rivals250. On the defensive line, Ohio State just reeled in the No. 1 defensive tackle in Jason Moore and holds a commitment from three-star defensive tackle Will Smith.
4. Michigan State - Mel Tucker and his staff are putting together a nice class in the trenches, highlighted by Rivals250 defensive ends Bai Jobe and Andrew DePaepe. Offensively, the Spartans have high hopes for Clay Wedin and Cole Dellinger, who are both Rivals250 prospects. Three-star Jonathan Slack brings plenty of upside to the table as well.
5. Penn State - Alex Birchmeier, Penn State's top-ranked commit and first commitment in the 2023 class, is one of the leaders of this recruiting class and highlights the Nittany Lions' haul on the offensive line. Rivals250 prospect Jven Williams, along with Birchmeier, should give the Nittany Lions two very reliable pieces up front for the foreseeable future. Penn State has just one Rivals250 commitment on the defensive line in Tomarrion Parker, but four-star Jameial Lyons is just scratching the surface of his potential, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him end up in the Rivals250 at the end of his senior season. Anthony Donkoh, a three-star offensive lineman, and Tyriq Blanding, a three-star defensive lineman, should help provide reinforcements as well.
2. Penn State is bouncing back.
This past week has been a roller coaster ride for Penn State fans as they have watched names get added to and taken off their commitment list. James Franklin and his staff were counting on Marcus Stokes to be the future leader of their program, but he opted to flip to Florida last week. Losing a quarterback commit at this point in the recruiting process is a gut punch for any team because there aren't many highly ranked options left uncommitted. Stokes was the second decommitment in the last month after offensive lineman Joshua Miller flipped to Georgia.
Still, Penn State fans shouldn't feel all that down on themselves after adding a couple important commitments in the last few days in four-star DB Elliott Washington and three-star RB London Montgomery. Things could get better by the end of this weekend, too. Rivals250 linebacker Tony Rojas is set to announce his commitment Thursday and all signs point to Penn State. The Nittany Lions are also in good shape for Rivals250 linebacker Ta'Mere Robinson, who announces his commitment on Friday. Penn State seems to be trending for offensive lineman Evan Link as well. The three-star offensive lineman out of Washington (D.C.) Gonzaga hasn't set a decision date, but he's indicated he wants to end his recruitment prior to his senior season.
While there is work to be done, especially on the quarterback front, Penn State should still finish with a quality recruiting class.
3. More predictions for another busy week of commitments
There have been almost 60 commitments from Rivals250 prospects since June 26, and a few more from the East region will be coming off the board in the next seven days. Here are predictions for five of them.
Tony Rojas: Rojas is scheduled to announce his commitment Thursday. He'll be choosing between Penn State, Clemson, Georgia and Miami. He took visits to each of them, but only Penn State, Clemson, and Georgia got official visits. Penn State has been the favorite for months and my FutureCast prediction has pointed to the Nittany Lions since February. No reason to change my mind now.
Daylan Smothers: Figuring Smothers out has been a little tricky. He is committing Thursday also, with Alabama, Florida State, NC State and Oklahoma getting hats on the table. Oklahoma and NC State seem to have risen to the top of his list, but the Sooners appear to be in the best shape heading into his decision.
Ta'mere Robinson: Robinson is committing on Friday and narrowed his long list of options down to three. Penn State, Virginia Tech and Miami are hoping to add him to their class, but the Nittany Lions have the best chance. They've laid the groundwork to land Robinson's commitment for years and it should pay off for them. My FutureCast prediction has been Penn State since February.
Jamaal Jarrett: Auburn, Georgia and North Carolina are Jarrett's top three, but his decision will come down to the Bulldogs or Tar Heels. I placed a FutureCast prediction for him to land at North Carolina very early in the process but changed it to Georgia back in April. I'm sticking with that prediction for now but there is still time for something to change before he commits on July 19.
Jayden Bonsu: Alabama, Miami, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State are the main contenders for Bonsu. He originally was scheduled to commit on Aug. 20, but moved his decision date up to July 20 shortly after naming his top five. Ohio State had momentum early for Bonsu, but that momentum appears to have shifted to Miami. Mario Cristobal and the Canes have been rolling on the recruiting trail lately and that should continue with Bonsu.