After signing three defensive linemen in the early signing period in December, Penn State continued to focus on that position and is expected to have two more linemen sign national letters of intent on Wednesday.
One of the expected new signees is 6-foot-5, 270-pound defensive tackle Joseph Appiah Darkwa, of Dusseldorf, Germany, the first European recruit brought in by head coach James Franklin and his staff. Darkwa committed on Friday, less than one month after receiving an offer from the Nittany Lions.
“He’s long and he’s athletic,” Brian Dohn, national recruiting analyst for 247Sports, said Tuesday. “He’s really raw, but you can’t teach legit 6-5, 270 and be able to move like that. So you teach him all the technique stuff. He’s a hard worker, a smart kid.”
The Lions also are expected to sign another raw defensive lineman, 6-6, 250-pound Smith Vilbert of Montvale, N.J. Vilbert’s senior year at St. Joseph Regional High School marked his first full season of football.
Dohn said Vilbert almost went with Penn State during the early signing period, but decided to take a recruiting trip to Florida, then entertained offers from Florida State and Syracuse before committing to the Nittany Lions.
Another defensive tackle, 6-2, 280-pound D’Von Ellies of Owings Mills, Md., signed a national letter of intent with Penn State during the early signing period, but did not announce his choice of college until Jan. 20.
“The questions coming out of the early signing period were, what’s going to happen on the defensive line of scrimmage?” Dohn said. “They wound up with a pretty good haul on the defensive line. They did what they needed to do.”
The additions of Vilbert, Ellies and Darkwa enabled Penn State to maintain a No. 10 team ranking from both 247Sports and Rivals, and No. 11 from ESPN.com for the incoming class of 2019. All three place the Lions second to Michigan in the Big Ten rankings.
Some players remain out there for Penn State. One intriguing possibility is 6-foot, 206-pound defensive back Nick Cross of Hyattsville, Md., who made an oral commitment last year to Florida State. The Nittany Lions, Maryland, and Georgia have continued to recruit him.
“That’s an interesting one,” Dohn said. “There’s very few where you go into signing day not knowing where a kid’s going.”