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Penn State continues run on defensive backs, adding recruit from Connecticut

DEREK LEVARSE
(Wilkes-Barre) Times-Leader (TNS)
James Franklin

In a span of eight days, Penn State has managed to construct an entire future secondary.

Not that four of the Nittany Lions’ newest recruits are guaranteed to ever be on the field at the same time. Far from it.

But with Connecticut’s Jeffrey Davis committing to Penn State on Friday, it shows just how quickly things can build in recruiting as a position group begins to fill up.

At the start of last week, the Lions had no pledges on defense at all before four-star Michigan defensive back Jaylen Reed announced for them on April 9.

That started a run in the secondary that continued with Michigan’s Kalen King and Maryland’s Zakee Wheatley a day later along with linebacker Kobe King, Kalen’s twin brother.

Davis joined the group a week later becoming the eighth member of Penn State’s 2021 class, making his decision public on Twitter.

“I have put in countless hours into this game that I love so much and wouldn’t trade that time for nothing in the world,” Davis wrote. “I am truly blessed to be able to bring my hard work and dedication to Penn State University for the next few years of my life, where I will continue my academic and athletic journey.

“I would like to thank (Penn State coach James Franklin) and the rest of the coaching staff for believing in me and gifting me with this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

At 6-foot, 170 pounds, Davis was being recruited by some schools as a receiver and others, like Penn State, as a cornerback. A three-star prospect, he checks in as the No. 39 corner in the country and the No. 2 player overall in Connecticut for the 2021 class in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Davis had previously named Boston College, Michigan, Rutgers, Tennessee and Wake Forest as his other finalists and showed his academic prowess by mentioning that Yale and Princeton were also recruiting him.

A standout on both sides of the ball at Kingswood-Oxford School in West Hartford, Davis continued Penn State’s run of success for defensive backs in New England. Last cycle, the Lions landed corner Marquis Wilson and safety Tyler Rudolph, with Wilson already making an impact as a true freshman.

Out of the new recruits, Davis and Kalen King project as corners while Reed and Wheatley project as safeties, though it’s typically a fluid situation once they actually make it on campus.

In all, it’s been an eventful stretch for Lions safeties coach Tim Banks and cornerbacks coach Terry Smith. Banks, a Michigan native, was integral in landing the three Detroit prospects in Reed and the King brothers while Smith was the lead recruiter for Davis.

“Recruiting has really picked up. It’s super busy,” Smith said earlier this week on a video call with reporters. “From the time I wake up, I’m on my phone till the time I lay down and just say, ‘Enough is enough, I gotta go to sleep.’ You’re just constantly recruiting and communicating with prospects. And it’s been great.”

And Penn State hopes it isn’t over yet in this cycle for the secondary.

The Lions are one of the top candidates in the recruitment of the country’s top-rated cornerback, Virginia’s Tony Grimes. The nation’s No. 2 safety, Derrick Davis, plays in the Pittsburgh area for Gateway High School, where Smith used to be the head coach and athletic director.

Another Penn State 2021 commitment, Liam Clifford, could potentially play safety as well if he doesn’t end up at wide receiver. He is the brother of Lions starting quarterback Sean Clifford.

Rounding out the Lions class is the group’s top-rated recruit, Maryland offensive lineman Landon Tengwall, and Harrisburg offensive lineman Nate Bruce.

According to the 247Sports composite rankings, the 2021 PSU recruiting class is No. 15 in the nation and No. 8 in the Big Ten.