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Tuesday, April 9, 2013
PSU's big board: Defensive tackles

By Josh Moyer

PSU is expected to take just one DT this class -- and no defensive ends -- so the commit here obviously will play a critical role.

As a result, NittanyNation decided to produce a top-six list that attempts to mirror the Lions' big board. Four defensive tackles already hold offers, and two more are waiting in the wings. Here they are:

1. Jeremiah Clarke, Alexandria (Va.) T.C. Williams, 6-foot-4, 272 pounds

Main competition: Virginia, North Carolina State

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Decision time: He wants to commit sometime in the summer, before his senior season begins.

Synopsis: Clarke is likely the DT that PSU has the best chance at reeling in right now. Penn State would happily take any of the four DTs it offered, but Clarke seems to be slightly ahead of the No. 2 target on its board. The staff told the No. 2 there was no rush, while Clarke was told the staff would give him a heads-up if it appeared any other DT was planning to commit. Also, defensive line coach Larry Johnson spent about one-third of Clarke's unofficial visit alongside him, so it's clear the interest is high -- and that feeling is mutual.

PSU is likely his favorite at this point, and Clarke plays under a defensive line coach who played under Johnson. He hears about PSU all the time. Johnson told him he reminds the staff of NFL-player-to-be Jordan Hill.

2. Ricky Walker, Hampton (Va.) Bethel, 6-foot-2, 270 pounds

Main competition: Tennessee, Maryland, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, West Virginia

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Decision time: He'd like to take his recruitment slowly and wishes to make all five of his official visits before coming to a decision. He said he doesn't have any favorites at this point, which is why it's not quite clear yet who the main competition might be.

Synopsis: Walker became the first 2014 DT with an offer by impressing the staff over the summer, and despite his desire not to name a top five this early, Walker said PSU almost certainly will make his short list. Like Clarke, he reminds the staff of Hill -- and he would be a solid addition to this class. PSU has a strong chance to land Walker ... if it doesn't nab someone else in the meantime.

3. Thomas Holley, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Abraham Lincoln, 6-foot-4, 285 pounds

Main competition: Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Syracuse

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Decision time: His recruitment has blown up since February, so it's still early for Holley. He has quite a few visits to make before he even narrows down his list.

Synopsis: Holley's interest right now is more of the "medium" variety. He likes PSU, but there's a lot of competition here with schools such as Alabama and Ohio State. He's a bit of a project player, because he has about one year of experience playing football, but he has high upside. Johnson likes him because he's very mold-able and hasn't picked up any bad habits -- but PSU knows it has a better chance with the other two scholarship-worthy defensive tackles.

4. Peyton Newell, Hiawatha (Kan.) High School, 6-foot-2, 275 pounds

Main competition: Georgia, South Carolina, Nebraska, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma

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Decision time: He wants to take all of his official visits, and he now hopes to decide a few weeks after his senior season ends.

Synopsis: He's the most recent defensive tackle to receive an offer, but PSU might have come in too late here, since he already holds more than 30 offers. He said he's open to the Nittany Lions, but he has no plans to take any other unofficial visits. The only shot PSU really has with a visit is if Newell chooses to take an official there. And that's far from a guarantee. He'll release his top five sometime over the summer, so the picture should become clearer then.

5. Antoine White, Millville (N.J.) High School, 6-foot-3, 250 pounds

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Synopsis: White appears to be the next man up when it comes to a scholarship offer. He was on the short list of invited players for PSU's junior day, and he said he already has received several handwritten letters from the staff. White doesn't want to stray too far from home, so he said PSU's in good shape with him. Linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden already has visited his school, and White thinks highly of Johnson.

6. Ryan Stout, Sylvania (Ohio) Southview, 6-foot-5, 243 pounds

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Synopsis: The staff didn't even broach the issue of a scholarship offer when he came up for a visit last month. They want to see him on campus in June for a one-day camp, and Stout will have to do some impressing there. He's not a Plan-A recruit -- and most places are looking at him as a defensive end -- but could be a nice backup plan if other recruits fall through for whatever reason.