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Penn State football recruiting offers major 4-star defensive lineman from SEC country

The Penn State football recruiting class is looking to add another major defensive talent, a four-star defensive lineman out of Tennessee.

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Penn State football recruiting, Ethan Utley
Oct 12, 2019; Iowa City, IA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions defensive tackle Robert Windsor (54) reacts with safety Garrett Taylor (17) and defensive tackle Antonio Shelton (55) after a sack against the Iowa Hawkeyesduring the third quarter at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Nittany Lions have a top-6 recruiting class in the 2024 cycle and a top-3 recruiting class in the 2025 cycle. This week, the Penn State football recruiting board added a new target to the 2025 list: Ethan Utley, a major four-star defensive line target from Ensworth High School in Tennessee. Utley is one of several southern targets recently offered by James Franklin, notably a trio of major TN targets offered by Penn State football after the spring game.

Penn State football is targeting a major four-star defensive lineman from SEC country

James Franklin used to coach in the SEC before taking the Penn State football head coaching position in 2014. As of late, it appears that he is looking to hit that southern pipeline more often in his current recruiting classes. Penn State football recruiting offers have been flying to major southern recruits in bunches over the past few weeks, including a recent offer to four-star defensive lineman Ethan Utley of the 2025 class.

According to the 247 Sports composite rankings, Utley is a four-star lineman and is ranked as the No. 141 recruit in the nation, the No. 16 defensive lineman, and the No.5 recruit in the state of Tennessee. On3 is also quite high on Utley, rating him as a four-star recruit and ranking him among the top 200 recruits nationally, the top 20 defensive linemen in the class, and the top 10 recruits in TN.

Ethan Utley boasts an impressive 6-foot-4, 275-pound frame as he enters his second-to-final season of high school football at Ensworth. He is already a four-star, and if he stands out this fall, perhaps he could climb the ladder and become a five-star by the time his 2025 class is at the forefront of the recruiting world next year. Seeing as Penn State football is lacking defensive line depth, Utley is a prime target for the Nittany Lions — he won’t be able to contribute any time soon, though ideally, Penn State’s current situation highlights the need for interior defensive linemen when playing a grueling Big Ten schedule.



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Penn State football trending for major top 100 target, among top 5 finalists

Penn State football is currently trending to land a top 100 recruit.

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Penn State football recruiting efforts, Nick Marsh
© Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Today, top 100 recruit Nick Marsh announced his five remaining finalists and the Nittany Lions made the cut. As of late, the Penn State football recruiting efforts have been heating up when it comes to Marsh, and today’s news is yet another step in the right direction for the Lions.

Marques Hagans boosting the Penn State football recruiting efforts

The Blue and White have a new wide receiver coach for the 2023 season. The Nittany Lions moved on from Taylor Stubblefield, who coached from 2020 to 2022. It was a somewhat surprising move, as Stubblefield was a highly talented recruiter and developed skilled receivers like Jahan Dotson, Parker Washington, and KeAndre Lambert-Smith. Penn State has now replaced “Stubbs” with Marques Hagans.

Marques Hagans played wide receiver at the University of Virginia. As a fifth-round draft pick who spent a short time in the NFL, Hagans returned to his alma mater as a graduate assistant. He coached wide receivers from 2013 to 2022. In February, Hagans took the Penn State job, where he will have the opportunity to develop higher-ranked recruits in Happy Valley.

As in every coach hire, it takes time to develop rapport with recruits at your new school. Hagans has quickly become integrated with his new staff and team. On Thursday, Hagans got good news regarding top-100-ranked wide receiver, Nick Marsh.

Nittany Lions trending for Nick Marsh, named a finalist on Thursday

Nick Marsh, the 99th-ranked recruit in the 247 Sports Composite ranking in the class of 2024, has listed Penn State in his top five schools. Penn State joins Kansas, Michigan State, Oregon, and Pitt as finalists for the talented wide receiver. 

Marsh stands at 6 feet 3 inches and weighs 200 pounds. In addition to football, he also competes in track and field and basketball, showcasing tremendous athletic ability despite his large frame. It’s worth noting that the Michigan State insider’s crystal ball prediction for Marsh was made on October 30, 2021, almost two years ago, so the recruitment landscape has likely changed since then. Being from Michigan, the Spartans may have an advantage in recruiting him.

Marsh could be a class-defining commitment for Penn State

Marques Hagans, who would serve as Marsh’s wide receiver coach if he chooses Penn State, is leading the efforts in recruiting Marsh. ON3 gives Penn State football an 81.3% chance of landing Marsh.

Securing a commitment from Marsh would be significant for Hagans as it would be one of his first commitments, and it would bring a highly talented receiver to a team that has not historically had great wide receivers. Marsh has been compared to Calvin Johnson and N’Keal Harry, both of whom were first-round picks in the NFL draft.

Penn State football will discover its fate with Marsh when he announces his commitment on July 7.



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Penn State football staff talks impact of NIL on recruiting

This Penn State football staff member went into great detail about the impact of NIL on recruiting.

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Penn State Football staff, NIL, recruiting
Nov 20, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Noah Cain (21) runs onto the field carrying the American flag to honor members of the military prior to the game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the day today, Penn State football is making its coaching staff and other personnel available to the media to discuss the team’s progress throughout the summer. This morning, our own CJ Mangum spoke with several Penn State football staff members. This includes General Manager of Personnel and Recruitment Andy Frank, who spoke at great length about the impact of NIL on the recruiting landscape.

How has NIL impacted college football recruiting?

Andy Frank has served as a director of player personnel in the Penn State football program for the better part of the last decade and also worked on James Franklin’s staff at Vanderbilt. Frank has seen the development of college football recruiting from a niche topic into a major sports industry. He’s also currently on the front lines of the changing landscape of college football today and described his experience with NIL and recruiting:

“It adds another element to a decision-making process for the kids. And in reality, it’s a big element. You’ve recruited for a long time, and you’ve basically tried to show kids and their families the things that your school has to offer. The people. I think that’s first and foremost, it has probably always been our biggest thing, and recruiting is the people we have here. And that’s that’s our football staff. That’s this community. The school. You know, how the school can provide for you and set you up for the rest of your life. And then obviously, the football program and what you know it can do, what the atmosphere is that you can play in front of, the chances of playing in the NFL, all of those things.”

Frank went on to explain how NIL impacts each recruitment in its own unique way. “You add NIL to the equation; where does that fit? It fits a little bit different for every kid and every family,” Frank said. “But all of us considered what income you were going to have when you were looking at what you were going to do with your life. So I think for these kids, it’s something they have to they have to factor in.”

Penn State football staff believes it is behind in NIL, but catching up

Andy Frank also discussed where he believes Penn State football is currently situated in the NIL landscape. In his opinion, Penn State was initially behind the pack, but has gained ground over the last year. “I think it’s an area that, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we were probably behind to start with and we’re doing our best right now to catch up,” Frank noted. “And I think we’ve made a lot of progress. But I think we’ll continue to make more progress.”

Frank concluded by outlining the vision that James Franklin and the Penn State football staff has for NIL and recruiting moving forward. The progress that Penn State has made with NIL can be seen firsthand. Several Nittany Lions have signed NIL deals in recent weeks, and Penn State football currently has some of the top NIL earners in all college athletics. But in this rapidly changing landscape, if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.

“As time goes on, hopefully, we’ll be in a position where it can be a strength and something for us that can actually help us get a kid as opposed to right now,” Frank said. “We’re still, I think, in a position where we work on the relationships, work on the other things, and have enough to offer in NIL. Eventually, you’d like to be in a position where it can push a kid over the top as opposed to keeping you back.”



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Penn State football moves up in recruiting rankings just one week into June

Just one week into June, Penn State football has moved up in the recruiting rankings.

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Penn State football recruiting
Sep 25, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin reacts from the sideline during the second quarter against the Villanova Wildcats at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

As we enter the second week of June, the Nittany Lions of Penn State are making significant strides in the 2024 recruiting class composite team rankings. Currently, Penn State football recruiting boasts an impressive tally of 17 hard commitments, with the potential for more additions as official visits ramp up throughout the month. The start of June was particularly fruitful for the Nittany Lions, as they secured three new commitments on a single Sunday, propelling them up the team rankings.

Penn State football recruiting moves up in newest rankings just one week into June

Among all teams in the 2024 recruiting class, Penn State football holds the highest number of commitments. Head coach James Franklin and his staff have successfully secured the commitments of 17 players and continue to make progress, with no signs of slowing down. As the second weekend of official visitors descends upon the campus, the Nittany Lions are poised to further solidify their position.

Last Sunday proved to be a momentous day for Penn State, as they secured commitments from three highly sought-after prospects: Dejaun Lane (LB/S), Xavier Gilliam (EDGE), and Deryc Plazz (OT). The simultaneous commitments provided a significant boost to Penn State football recruiting in this week’s composite rankings.

As a result, the Nittany Lions currently hold the No. 6 spot nationwide and rank No. 3 within the Big Ten per the 247 Sports composite team rankings. This ranking is expected to ascend even higher as Penn State continues to secure commitments from some of the nation’s top talents.

2024 class is gaining steam this month

One of the most notable victories for Penn State in recent recruiting efforts was the commitment of four-star linebacker/safety Dejaun Lane. His addition to the 2024 class is highly regarded, and he brings exceptional versatility to the team’s defense. Lane has expressed his intention to play safety during his tenure in Happy Valley, and both he and the coaching staff are aligned in their vision for his role.



Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at basicbluesnation@gmail.com or direct message us on our social media. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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