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Thursday, May 9, 2013
PSU's big board: Defensive backs

By Josh Moyer

The secondary is a focus with this class, so the recruits here will play a big role in whether this 2014 class will be considered a success.

As a result, NittanyNation decided to produce a top-five list that attempts to mirror the Lions' big board. Daquan Worley already committed, but there's at least two more open spots here.

1. CB Jabrill Peppers, Paramus (N.J.) Catholic, 6-foot-1, 205 pounds
Five stars; No. 2 in ESPN 150

Main competition: Michigan, Stanford and LSU are at the front of the pack right now with the Wolverines as the clear favorite.

Jabrill Peppers
Penn State is still a longshot for Jabrill Peppers, but the Nittany Lions will have another chance to host the nation's No. 2 prospect.
Scouting report: "This young man is a game changer and could project at a few different positions at the next level but DB, likely corner, might be the spot." -- ESPN scouting report

Synopsis: He's the top overall guy on the Lions' recruiting board, and he has the ability to instantly contribute on both sides of the ball. If PSU can somehow reel him in, just one year after picking up top-rated QB Christian Hackenberg, that would send quite the message to other recruits that PSU remains a top destination.

PSU's chances: Low. It's great news for PSU's staff that he'll be back for a visit May 18, but he's still a longshot to commit to the Nittany Lions right now. Maybe that changes May 19. But, for now, it would be a huge surprise -- one of the biggest in PSU's recruiting history -- for Peppers to pledge to the Blue and White.

2. CB Dravon Henry, Aliquippa (Pa.) High School, 5-foot-11, 181 pounds
Four stars; No. 127 in ESPN 150

Main competition: Pittsburgh is definitely the favorite right now because his family -- such as cousin Darrelle Revis -- has a history there. Ohio State and West Virginia also made his initial top four, and Florida State is pretty intriguing as a recent offer.

Scouting report: "Henry is a versatile, smooth athlete with production as a running back, but might be best suited as a safety. Overall, he is a well-rounded prospect who has many good qualities on both sides of the ball." -- ESPN scouting report

Synopsis: It's clear he boasts the versatility that this staff craves, and his father said PSU is among the teams going after him the hardest. Henry is very high on PSU's big board, and it's likely that the Lions would take him whenever he would be ready to commit.

PSU's chances: Medium. Penn State might be the No. 2 school here, but the Panthers aren't going to be an easy team to overcome. Henry will be training with Revis a few weeks this summer, and the NFL star will undoubtedly have some advice ready for Henry.

3. CB Troy Vincent, Baltimore (Md.) Gilman, 5-foot-9, 189 pounds
Four stars

Main competition: Maryland and Wisconsin are pretty high on his list right now. The Terrapins are close to home, while his father played for the Badgers.

Scouting report: "Overall, Vincent is an instinctive athlete and quality football player with consistent production. Our only question is if he possesses the speed and explosiveness to continue making plays at the next level." -- ESPN scouting report

Synopsis: ESPN lists him as an athlete, but PSU clearly wants him in the secondary. He's versatile but still polished as a DB because he's been trained by his father and the father of PSU cornerback Stephon Morris, Roman Morris.

PSU's chances: High. Vincent enjoyed his recent visit to PSU, and the Nittany Lions probably have the edge right now. He's a fan of the aggressive scheme and is good friends with early enrollee Jordan Smith.

4. S Marcus Allen, Upper Marlboro (Md.) Wise, 6-foot-2, 190 pounds
Not rated

Main competition: Maryland and Pitt are high up on his list -- the Terrapins because they're close and Pitt because, like Henry, he has some family connections there.

Synopsis: He's a former linebacker, and you can definitely see that influence when he plays safety. The staff told Allen it believes he's capable of playing early, and he definitely boasts a high ceiling.

PSU's chances: High. He's been on campus twice in two months, so that obviously bodes well for the Nittany Lions. He didn't know much about PSU in February but, come March, the Nittany Lions shot up his chart.

5. S Montae Nicholson, Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway, 6-foot-2, 195 pounds
Four stars

Main competition: Pitt is always a distinct possibility with players such as Nicholson who are so close to campus, and the DB said Temple is also a potential landing spot. He's also intent on soon visiting Florida State and Georgia Tech.

Scouting report: "Nicholson is a dynamic, two-way player whose athleticism and ball skills create big-play productivity on both sides of the football. He is big, physical and athletic with playmaker instincts." -- ESPN scouting report

Synopsis: He earned an offer over the summer, so PSU liked what it saw in Nicholson pretty early. He also plays some cornerback. ESPN lists him as an athlete, and PSU visited Gateway on Monday.

PSU's chances: Medium. It's difficult to get a good read on Nicholson, but he said Wednesday night he continues to be interested in the Nittany Lions. His recruiting picture might become a bit clearer when he spends more time on campus.