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Penn State football recruiting: James Franklin fighting for 2024 top 100 recruit Nigel Smith

Can the Nittany Lions turn the tide and land one of the top defensive players in the country?



Penn State Football, 2024 top 100 recruit Nigel Smith
Pressure from Penn State's Adisa Isaac (20) and Zane Durant (28) force Minnesota quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis (8) to throw an incompletion and bring up fourth down during the second quarter at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in State College. Hes Dr 102222 Whiteout

James Franklin and Penn State football are gearing up for a massive summer on the recruiting trail. The Nittany Lions’ 2024 recruiting class currently sits at No. 6 in the nation according to the 247Sports Composite team rankings. While many of the most notable pickups for the 2024 cycle this spring have been at running back and along the offensive line, Penn State will need to make up ground at several prominent positions in the coming months, including quarterback and on the defensive front. Franklin and his staff took a positive step in this direction on Monday when the Lions were named a finalist for 2024 top 100 recruit Nigel Smith.

Who is 2024 top 100 recruit Nigel Smith?

Nigel Smith has stood out on the Texas high school football circuit since his freshman year. The 6-5, 260 prospect from Melissa, Texas, was rated as a top 25 overall prospect when 247Sports released its first recruiting industry composite rankings for the class of 2024 in March of 2022. Although he has fallen in the overall rankings, the four-star recruit is still rated as the 10th-best defensive line prospect and 73rd overall player in the country for the 2024 cycle. Smith had a standout junior season last fall, earning Class 5A First-Team All-State honors from the Texas Sportswriters Association. The Melissa High School product comes from an athletic background, as his father – also named Nigel Smith – played basketball at SMU two decades ago.

On Monday, Smith released his list of top eight schools via On3’s Hayes Fawcett. Penn State finds itself included along with national powers such as Ohio State, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas A&M. Arkansas and Rutgers also made the list as Smith narrowed his recruitment to eight programs.

Can Penn State football land one of the top defensive recruits in the nation?

Despite being named a finalist, Nigel Smith’s recruitment is currently not trending in Penn State’s direction. According to On3, Smith is highly favored to cross the Red River and land at Oklahoma. However, James Franklin is apparently determined to go down swinging. Smith, who made his second visit to Happy Valley for the Blue-White Game, noted that James Franklin informed him that he is the Lions’ top defensive line prospect. Smith recently told On3 that Franklin “made it very clear that they’re not going to let me go to Ohio State or Texas A&M or any of my other top schools” and that “they’re not going to lose me to anyone else.”

Nigel Smith is expected to visit Penn State again this summer. As things stand now, I wouldn’t expect this top 100 prospect to be jumping into the class of 2024 any time soon. But Smith has a good relationship with the coaching staff, especially new defensive line coach Deion Barnes. Penn State is building on the success of a Rose Bowl victory with a solid recruiting cycle, and the Lions’ are poised to make waves in the Big Ten championship race this fall. Time will tell if James Franklin can also shake things up in Smith’s recruitment.

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Matt is a co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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