This one, few who follow the Penn State football program saw coming.
But it sends a clear message that, in the class of 2016, the Nittany Lions coaching staff is intent on rebuilding its defensive line.
Ranked by a pair of national recruiting services as a four-star prospect, 6-foot-3, 240-pound defensive end prospect Daniel Joseph announced Tuesday he has verbally committed to join Penn State's latest recruiting class. That makes him the class' second defensive end and the fourth defensive lineman to commit to Penn State and head coach James Franklin in the last week.
A star at Lake Forest Academy in Illinois, Joseph is ranked as a four-star prospect by 247sports and ESPN Recruiting Nation, while Rivals.com and Scout.com each list him as a three-star. According to 247sports, Joseph is the No. 128 overall prospect in the nation and the fifth-best defensive end.
He reportedly had offers from 18 major-conference programs, but although he gave little indication a decision was imminent, he said a few weeks ago Penn State and Michigan were his leaders.
Joseph joins consensus four-star recruit Shane Simmons — one of the nation's elite prep pass rushers — as the defensive ends in what currently stands as a 15-member class. Together, they form a tandem the coaching staff may be looking at as a future answer to what the 2014 team had with Deion Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan on the line, with Simmons starring as a pass rusher and Joseph the solid, all-around performer on the strong side.
Penn State has been on quite a run bringing big, physically gifted defensive linemen into the fold recently.
Starting with the commitment of three-star defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour of Wayne, N.J., on June 23, the Nittany Lions have run off four consecutive defensive linemen in a week's span. Consensus three-star nose tackle Christian Colon, a 6-foot-3, 309-pound run stuffer out of Charlotte followed, and four-star defensive tackle Ellison Jordan of Baltimore, a 6-foot, 270-pounder who can also get after the passer, rounds out the list.
After losing their two starters at defensive end last season, the Nittany Lions enter 2015 knowing star tackle Anthony Zettel is a senior and that junior Austin Johnson is developing into a pro prospect. Last season, Penn State started restacking the line, bringing in four defensive end prospects — Ryan Buchholz, Kamonte Carter, Shareef Miller and Robert Windsor — who will start their Nittany Lions careers this fall.