Penn State picks up football commitment from ex-Clemson baseball recruit Lonnie White Jr.

(Wilkes-Barre) Times-Leader (TNS)
Lonnie White

For the second time in as many weeks, Penn State won a recruiting battle against Clemson. The twist? The Nittany Lions’ newest commitment was originally headed to play baseball for the Tigers.

Last week, it was four-star quarterback Christian Veilleux who chose the Lions with Clemson as one of his finalists. On Thursday, Malvern Prep all-around star Lonnie White pledged to coach James Franklin and Penn State, where he will most likely catch passes from Veilleux.

White has had plenty of experience throwing it himself as Malvern’s do-it-all quarterback last season as a junior. But the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder has excelled at pretty much any position in any sport. He has also played receiver and safety in football, thrown down dunks on the basketball court and was considered one of the state’s top five high school baseball prospects.

Originally committed to Clemson baseball, White had the makings of a center fielder at the next level because of his athleticism. And those same skills ultimately began landing him football scholarship offers this year from the likes of Boston College, Georgia Tech, Michigan, Michigan State, Pitt, Syracuse, Tennessee, and Virginia Tech.

It was just three weeks ago that the Big Ten offers began rolling in, and the chance to play for the home state Lions eventually won him over.

“I want to thank (Tigers coach Monte Lee) and Clemson University Baseball for an amazing opportunity. After much thought, I have decided to change my commitment,” White wrote Thursday on social media.

“Thank you to Coach Franklin and the rest of the staff for the opportunity to play in front of the best fans in the nation!”

White is rated as a three-star athlete in the 247Sports Composite rankings — comprised of ratings from 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN — though that is trending upward as he turns his attention to football and a specific position.

ESPN still has White rated as a quarterback whereas 247Sports’ own in-house rating pegs him as a four-star athlete.

White becomes the 12th member of Penn State’s rapidly growing 2021 class, which has added nine players in the last four weeks. He is the second pledge his week alone after the Lions flipped Indiana defensive end Rodney McGraw from the home state Hoosiers on Sunday.

Those additions have boosted the Lions’ class up to No. 11 in the national team rankings, according to the Composite.

Targeting all-around athletes: Penn State hasn’t been shy about targeting strong all-around athletes in this cycle, as White is one of multiple prospects who has received scholarship offers to play multiple positions, some on different sides of the ball.

As things stand now, two of them — White and Cincinnati’s Liam Clifford, brother of Lions quarterback Sean — project as wideouts at Penn State. Those two, along with Maryland four-star recruit Zakee Wheatley are rated as athletes by 247Sports. Wheatley is in line to start his college career at safety.

White is Penn State’s third in-state commitment for 2021, joining Harrisburg offensive lineman Nate Bruce and Bethlehem kicker Sander Sahaydak.

Rucci battle Another head-to-head battle with Clemson could be coming for Pennsylvania’s top prospect, Warwick High School offensive lineman Nolan Rucci.

The 6-foot-8 Rucci has a five-star rating as the country’s No. 14 overall recruit in the Composite. His father, Todd Rucci, is a Penn State letterman, but Nolan’s last trip before the coronavirus pandemic shut things down was to Clemson.