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Penn State continues recruiting success in Michigan, lands four-star linebacker

DEREK LEVARSE
(Wilkes-Barre) Times-Leader (TNS)
Penn State

Hampered by recruiting restrictions during a pandemic, Penn State continues to find comfort in enemy territory.

The state of Michigan — specifically Detroit — has formed the foundation of the Nittany Lions’ defensive recruiting for the 2021 cycle. And the importance of the Motor City to the Lions grew even more on Friday when four-star linebacker Jamari Buddin committed to Penn State.

That continued the program’s surge there, as Buddin became the fourth 2021 recruit from the metro area, joining fellow linebacker Kobe King and defensive backs Kalen King and Jaylen Reed.

All of them were recruited by Lions safeties coach Tim Banks, a Detroit native himself who went to Martin Luther King High School, same as Reed.

Twin brothers Kalen and Kobe King play for Cass Tech in the city while Buddin hails from Belleville High School, which sits between Detroit and Michigan’s campus in Ann Arbor.

“The recruiting process has been stressful, and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking,” Buddin said Friday in his commitment video. “Like I’ve said before, it’s about the best fit for you and your family — and I meant that.

“There has been one school that I feel is the best fit for me and my family, and where I also built a neverending relationship with. And who I can also call family. With that being said, I am truly blessed to announce that I am committed to the Pennsylvania State University.”

With college coaches across the country unable to meet prospects in person for the past four months because of the coronavirus pandemic, prior relationships have won the day on the recruiting trail.

Banks’ familiarity with Detroit in particular has paid off, as the Lions now have more pledges from Michigan than any other state for 2021 thus far. The Lions have three apiece from Pennsylvania and Maryland.

The Lions’ class remains small in part because college football as a whole is stuck in limbo. Buddin becomes the 13th member, with the Detroit group making up four of the seven recruits on defense.

“I know the young men that come out of the area,” Banks said during the spring in a video call with reporters. “A lot of them are very blue collar, and hard-working, and are just looking for an opportunity to continue to grow.

“It is a competitive area in general. I think if you’re in the Midwest, the Big Ten footprint, you’re fighting all the major players. Obviously I grew up there, played in the area, coached in the area, and that’s awesome. But at the same time, you still have to do a great job of vetting the right people, and making sure the kids truly understand what Penn State brings to the table. And it’s a challenge.”

Early predictions on the 247Sports recruiting network had the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Buddin headed to Michigan. But the Wolverines “decided to go in a different direction,” according to Buddin’s father, Eric, in an interview with 257Sports’ Michigan affiliate in May.

Jamari Buddin still had his sights set on the Big Ten, with Penn State, Michigan State, Minnesota and Purdue among his top choices.

He checks in as the nation’s No. 305 overall recruit in the 247Sports Composite rankings and No. 20 among outside linebackers. Buddin is the fourth-highest member of the Lions’ class behind Maryland offensive lineman Landon Tengwall, Reed and Maryland quarterback Christian Veilleux, a Canadian transplant.

Despite the COVID-19 crisis that has put a fall football season in jeopardy, no changes have come yet to the usual recruiting calendar, which allows recruits to officially sign with schools as early as December.

Should he sign with the Lions, Buddin would join one of the deeper linebacker units in the country. But it will be a room that will likely be losing All-American Micah Parsons, who is projected as a first-round pick in the next draft.