- Josh Moyer, ESPN Staff Writer
What 2013 linebackers are most interested in Penn State? And, better yet, what uncommitted linebackers is PSU most interested in?
NittanyNation recently tried to gauge the recruiting temperature for those targets by talking to recruits and analyzing interest. Here's the big board:
1. Zayd Issah, Harrisburg (Pa.) Central Dauphin
Three stars, No. 117 at position (ATH)
Competing schools: Oregon
Odds landing at PSU: Medium
Issah -- a decommitment who's considering a recommitment -- is likely the top linebacker on Penn State's board right now, and he'd immediately become one of the most-athletic linebackers on PSU's roster. He has an official visit scheduled for next week, but the official Penn State fans should really follow is the one to Oregon.
The Ducks likely have the edge right now, and Penn State's going to have to show him something different next week. As long as Chip Kelly stays at Oregon and the visit isn't a disaster, Bill O'Brien might have to move to the next linebacker on the list.
2. Trey Johnson, Lawrenceville (Ga.) Central Gwinnett
Four stars, No. 2 at position (ILB)
Competing schools: USC, Ohio State, Florida, Auburn
Odds landing at PSU: Low
He's already formed a relationship with Ted Roof, the former defensive coordinator at Auburn, but he hasn't yet scheduled an official visit to PSU -- not a good sign. Rumors floated around weeks ago that he might have been considering a PSU visit, but it never materialized.
He decommitted from Auburn earlier this week after Gene Chizik was fired, and it would be pretty surprising to see him select PSU over Ohio State and USC. The Buckeyes have already made an in-home visit with the linebacker, stopped by his school and given him the star treatment on an official.
It will be difficult for Roof and Co. to play catch up here.
3. Jonathan Walton, Daphne (Ala.) Bayside Academy
Competing schools: Minnesota, Louisiana-Lafayette, Mississippi State, Troy
Odds landing at PSU: High
He labeled his interest in the school as "pretty high," but he might be waiting for Mississippi State to finally pull the trigger.
Still, Penn State has a very good chance here. Walton will arrive in Happy Valley on Dec. 7 for his official visit. He said he wanted to get a better feel for the campus and tour the school a little more, and he could very well make a decision soon after.
When he visited over the summer, campus was a little empty. He wants to see what it's usually like because his top priority in a school, he said, is just feeling comfortable.
4. De'Niro Laster, Cleveland Heights (Ohio)
Three stars, No. 131 at position (ATH)
Competing schools: Cincinnatti, Kansas, Minnesota, Temple
Interest in PSU: Very high
He doesn't yet have a Penn State offer, but that's not because of his talent. PSU just wants to make sure he can handle the school academically first. If he can, there's an incredibly high chance he becomes a Nittany Lion.
Laster made an unofficial visit for the Nov. 17 PSU-Indiana game, and the staff told him he could be the next Gerald Hodges. Laster declined to come out and say he'd commit on the spot if PSU offered, but this would clearly be his top option.
Georgia Tech and Illinois have started recruiting him harder, but they haven't offered either. If PSU sends an offer his way soon, Laster could decide to soon commit.
5. George Vinson, Damascus (Md.)
Two stars, No. 152 at position (OLB)
Competing schools: Massachusetts, Temple, Buffalo, Kent State
Interest in PSU: Top school
If Vinson gets an offer, he'll commit. "That would definitely top my other offers in terms of education and football," he said earlier this week.
He expects to find out whether he'll grab an offer by Dec. 4. If he does, he said he plans to redshirt and then hopefully compete by his freshman or sophomore season. He visited PSU on Saturday for the Wisconsin game, and he wants a scholarship bad.
The only question is how bad PSU wants him.
6. Chris Britton, Harrisburg (Pa.)
Competing schools: UConn, Maryland, Toledo
Interest in PSU: Very high
Harrisburg coach Calvin Everett thought a scholarship offer to Britton was inevitable ... but that's probably not entirely true. Britton is a talented player oozing with potential, but his GPA initially caused some concerns with the staff.
That issue's been straightened out a little. Britton only took up football last year, and he's an extremely quick and athletic 'backer. PSU might decide to extend him an offer as a preferred walk-on, or he could become a later scholarship option -- depending what happens with other targets.
7. Jake Plonski, Erie (Pa.) Cathedral Prep
Competing schools: Robert Morris, Pitt, West Virginia, Syracuse
Interest in PSU: High
He last visited the PSU-Ohio State game back in October, and he's still someone PSU's keeping an eye on. But he only holds one offer from Robert Morris so far, and a lot would have to happen for him to earn a scholarship from Penn State.
Still, he's definitely a candidate to become a preferred walk-on, and he still has a game (or three) left to impress and show he's deserving of more consideration.
1hMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy