Penn State Nittany Lions: Alex Bookser

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

December, 9, 2013
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The Big Ten championship was the main focus this week, but that just gave coaches extra time to put in on the recruiting trail. Here is a look at what happened around the conference over the weekend.


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It's never too early to talk about signing day, especially with so many questions currently unanswered on the recruiting trail. Big unknowns remain for the Big Ten conference, so here are 10 questions leading up to signing day.

1. Last year, Ohio State finished with the No. 3 class in the nation. Can it happen again?


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National signing day sits 106 days away and Penn State is looking to continue its hot streak in recruiting.

Here are five top seniors to watch and a look at where things sit right now as the recruiting circuit heats up to its final fevered pitch:

[+] EnlargeThomas Holley
Courtesy of Thomas HolleyESPN 300 DT Thomas Holley enjoyed a visit to Penn State, but Notre Dame and Ohio State could factor for the prospect.
1. DT Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln)

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Big Ten class rankings analysis 

October, 9, 2013
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Each Wednesday, ESPN RecruitingNation updates its national class rankings. For an in-depth look at the Big Ten conference, check out our conference rankings:

1. Michigan, 15 commits: The Wolverines are No. 6 in the RecruitingNation class rankings, which includes nine ESPN300 prospects -- among them headliner and No. 2 overall Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic High). Michigan could make a move into the top-5 by winning the race for No. 4 Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge High). Defensive tackle and No. 67 Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mi./Southfield High) is another top target still in play. No. 41 overall John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Polytechnic High) will visit Nov. 29, and is another top target remaining.

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There are still a ton of prospects on the board for Big Ten teams, so conference recruiting reporters Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival take a look at the best and worst case scenarios remaining for each team.

Illinois
Best-case scenario: Illinois picked up an offensive line commit on Monday with Peter Cvijanovic (Great Barrington, Mass./East Coast Prep), which gives the Illini two offensive line commits. Despite having four wide receiver commits on board, it looks like the staff would take another receiver in this class.

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Big Ten recruiting mailbag

October, 4, 2013
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It’s time to dip into the Big Ten recruiting mailbag and answer some of your questions. We’ll try to give everyone a chance to get their questions answered. We encourage you to send your questions by Twitter to @bbournival or @TomVH.

@HoosierHolmes: What positions are Indiana most focused on to finish up its class?

Brad Bournival: A look at who the Hoosiers are targeting shows it’s still very much on defense -- at linebacker and in the secondary more specifically. Indiana picked up a tremendous hybrid outside linebacker/safety in Dameon Willis Jr. (Cleveland/St. Ignatius) on Wednesday. With defensive backs Micquell Cotton (O'Fallon, Ill./O'Fallon) and Craig James (Edwardsville, Ill./Edwardsville) out there, as well as linebackers Tegray Scales (Cincinnati/Summit Country Day) and Nile Sykes (Lombard, Ill./Montini Catholic), expect the Hoosiers to turn up the heat defensively on the recruiting front.


@GabeJasinski: What big time recruit do you think Michigan State has a chance at getting?

Tom VanHaaren: The Spartans are in on some big prospects still and have put themselves in the top group of a few ESPN 300 targets. Defensive backs Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) and Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) both have Michigan State in their top group.

I think it might be difficult to pull both, but it seems as though there is a shot.

Nicholson took an unofficial visit to East Lansing, and there is a chance that Westphal will take a visit soon, as well. It’s probably a long shot, as Virginia and Pitt appear to be the leader, but wide receiver Jamil Kamara (Virginia Beach, Va./Bishop Sullivan) might be an option, as well.

Kamara visits Michigan State on Nov. 3, so who knows what can happen once he's on campus.


@buckeyefan686: After Raekwon McMillan and Marshon Lattimore, which uncommitted recruit do you think is the most important for Ohio State to land?

Bournival: It's not one specific player as much it is a position. Ohio State swung and missed last year along the line and needs to fix that this year. Now, they’re doing fantastic with four already in the fold. That said, it is imperative for the Buckeyes to land either Damian Prince (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara), Alex Bookser (Pittsburgh/Mt. Lebanon) or top junior college tackle Chad Mavety (Garden City, N.J./Nassau Community College).


PSUlions1121: Any chance Penn State could get back in on Dravon Henry now that the sanctions are reduced?

Bournival: Henry's father Roland was reached the day the sanctions were reduced, but his son's stance didn't change. "It's more the postseason ban than the scholarship restrictions," Roland told ESPN.com recruiting writer Jared Shanker. Some have said that Henry just didn't get the feeling at Happy Valley like he did at West Virginia. While Henry remains uncommitted, the favorite seems to be the Mountaineers, but Pitt looks like it will be in it until the end, as well.


@pinkelman9876: Where do you think Nebraska will end up in Big Ten recruiting rankings? Is the perception of Nebraska hurting their chances at projected top talent?

VanHaaren: Nebraska currently has the No. 37 overall recruiting class in the country, which is good for No. 6 in the conference. The problem for the Cornhuskers is that there aren’t many big name targets still on the board that would move the dial too much.

Michigan, Ohio State, Northwestern, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Penn State are all currently ahead of Nebraska and have targets still on the board that would keep them ahead of the Cornhuskers.

Something that I see as a problem has to do with the location relative to the rest of the Big Ten. Once Nebraska joined the Big Ten, they left their footprint in the Big 12 behind. Trying to land Midwest prospects from 12 hours away is very difficult, and it has proven to be hard for this coaching staff. The coaches try to recruit nationally, but there isn’t one area where they have a home base to secure top prospects year in and year out.


@kholmes147: Regarding 2015 Michigan quarterback recruiting ... since it's clear [Josh] Rosen has no interest, who do you think is most likely to get the second offer?

VanHaaren: Rosen is currently the only 2015 quarterback with a Michigan offer, and as you mentioned likely will stay on the West Coast.

The coaching staff has been in contact with plenty of other prospects, though, including Kyle Kearns (Pleasanton, Calif./Foothill), Kevin Dillman (LaMirada, Calif./LaMirada), Alex Malzone (Birmingham, Mich./Brother Rice), Sheriron Jones (Moreno Valley, Calif./Rancho Verde), Riley Neal (Yorktown, Ind./Yorktown).

It's tough to say who will get the first offer, but much like the 2014 class, the coaches can stand to be a little picky for now. They can take some time to evaluate the right prospect, gauge interest levels and see who is the right fit.

With any conference there will always be battles on the recruiting trail within the Big Ten. Coaching changes, different philosophies and geographic location all factor in to who battles who.

Here is a look at the top five Big Ten recruiting rivalries.

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Each class within the Big Ten has its strengths and weaknesses, but there is a lot of talent joining the conference. Here is a look at the top classes in the Big Ten by position.

Quarterback
Strongest class: Penn State


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Big Ten recruiting mailbag

September, 6, 2013
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@bwessfootball: How do you see Penn State’s class rounding out? Would you say PSU is now the favorite for Montae Nicholson and Qadree Ollison?

Brad Bournival: The first part of that question is tricky as the Nittany Lions are still in on Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa), Ricky Walker (Hampton, Va./Bethel), Alex Bookser (Pittsburgh/Mount Lebanon), Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) and Mike Gesicki (Manahawkin, N.J./Southern Regional) but may not be the favorite for any of them. As far as Ollison goes, I fully expect him to be part of the 2014 Penn State class by Monday afternoon. The fact he’s visiting the Nittany Lions just before his announcement bodes well for Penn State. As far as Nicholson goes, the jury is still out on that one. He’s visiting Michigan State this weekend, but Pittsburgh is in his backyard and don’t count out Oregon or Florida State. The safety wants to set official visit dates soon so that could be telling.




[+] EnlargeDarius West
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comCould Michigan State land standout cornerback Darius West?
@Collin_Stauder: Any chance Michigan State grabs Nicholson or Darius West down the stretch?

Tom VanHaaren: That’s a pretty relevant question right now as Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) is visiting Michigan State this weekend and West (Lima, Ohio/Central) just recently took a visit to East Lansing.

I think you could probably even throw defensive back Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) in this question because he recently told me that he would like to get out to Michigan State for a game.

It was believed that Northwestern and Vanderbilt had the best shot with Westphal, but if he makes it out to East Lansing that might be an interesting situation. He was originally going to make a decision before his season, but it looks like he could take a few visits.

As for West, he is still committed to Kentucky and publicly is saying the visit to Michigan State wasn’t a big deal. I don’t think a prospect takes a visit this late in the game if it’s not a big deal. If Kentucky continues to struggle that could be something to watch.

Nicholson has had an interesting recruitment recently with Michigan telling him they aren’t recruiting him anymore. I believe he is open at this point, so this visit could help Michigan State. It’s too early to tell with him, though.




@DukeLukeofJuke: Do you see any dark horse recruits that few are connecting to Ohio State at the moment that could end up in Columbus by national signing day?

Bournival: The names are pretty standard at this point in recruits like Noah Brown (Sparta, N.J./Pope John XXIII), Chad Mavety (Garden City, N.Y./Nassau Community College), Damian Prince (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara), Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), Erick Smith (Cleveland/Glenville) and Marshon Lattimore (Cleveland/Glenville). If you’re asking me to go out on a limb, maybe someone like Gesicki or Alex Bookser (Pittsburgh/Mount Lebanon) winds up with the Buckeyes. While it’s not much of a stretch, those two aren’t getting a lot of play lately in recent Ohio State news.




@ssullie71: Has Malik McDowell given a timeline when he will make his decision on colleges?

VanHaaren: He is saying going into this weekend that he plans on waiting to make a decision. This has been a hot topic, because I do believe there is a chance he makes a decision sooner than later.

McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) has been somewhat quiet about all this and doesn’t share much, so he could do anything. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him wait things out, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him make a decision soon.

He initially had been saying he was going to wait until the Army All-American game, but I don’t think that will happen anymore.




jbacevice@gmail.com: Damon Webb is the face of the 2014 class for Ohio State. Eric Glover-Williams has that honor in 2015. Put your prognosticator glasses on, who takes that role in 2016?

Bournival: Early signs point to someone with a familiar last name. While there aren’t a ton of offers out there just yet to 2016 stars, I don’t think it will much matter as defensive end Nick Bosa (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) has all the tools to carry the flag if he picks the Buckeyes down the line.

We all know is brother Joey is already making a name for himself as a freshman at Ohio State, but Nick could be even bigger. St. Thomas Aquinas coach Rocco Casullo has already said he thinks everyone will know all there is about the sophomore by the time he finishes with the Raiders. Buckeyes assistant Mike Vrabel is high on Nick already, but not just because of his play. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound defensive end’s character and maturation at such a young age is what many are talking about.



There are still big holes to fill in recruiting for the 2014 class and top targets still on the board. A lot of position groups are being addressed in recruiting, but not many have been completely filled.

Big Ten recruiting writers Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival take a look at the most important position for each Big Ten team in the 2014 class.


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Who's left in the Midwest 

August, 13, 2013
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Marshon LattimoreBrad Bournival/ESPNMarshon Lattimore, the No. 51 prospect in the ESPN 300, might go to an Ohio State feeder school, but programs such as Alabama and Michigan are making a push for him.
There are currently 198 committed prospects within the ESPN 300. That means that it’s a dogfight for the remaining 102 uncommitted prospects.

The Big Ten schools are recruiting prospects within the ESPN 300 from across the nation, but as always, the Midwest is a big focus. There are currently 11 prospects from the Midwest in the top list that are uncommitted.

Here is a look at those Midwest prospects and where they’re at in the process.


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The latest version of the ESPN class rankings are out, and there are seven Big Ten teams within the top 40 classes.

With movement happening across the board, there are trends and stories developing, so Big Ten recruiting writers Brad Bournival and Tom VanHaaren give you a look at what to watch within the conference:

Trending up:

Tom VanHaaren: The number of ESPN 300 prospects committing to Big Ten schools. The number hasn’t started to increase yet, but there is a good chance it will. As it currently stands the Big Ten has 25 ESPN 300 commitments within its teams. That number is low compared to the 77 committed to SEC schools and 35 to ACC programs. However, there are roughly 18 ESPN 300 prospects still listing Big Ten programs, including No. 4 ranked Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) with Michigan, No. 1 inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield), Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) and more.


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Welcome to NittanyNation's mailbag! We asked you to tweet or email your questions, and we've selected three to answer this week.

Jack Brown writes: What kind of season can we expect from Eugene Lewis? Can he catch 50 balls this season, and do you think he can be as good as Allen Robinson?


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ESPN 300 targets: Penn State 

June, 18, 2013
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As part of a RecruitingNation-wide project, NittanyNation ranked Penn State's top-10 targets based on their likelihood of committing.

Here's the list:


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It was a Thursday night in late April and Alex Bookser (Pittsburgh/Mount Lebanon) was watching the NFL draft. A 6-foot-6, 295-pound prospect, Bookser is being recruited as a lineman on both sides of the ball.

Bookser was an offensive lineman by the end of the night Thursday.

“Ever since I saw the draft I decided to go O-line,” said Bookser, referring to the run on tackles in the first round, including three among the first five picks. “That was the biggest draft I’ve ever seen, so I was like if I can get that far it’ll definitely pay off.”

With more than 20 offers to his name, Bookser was already being recruited mostly as an offensive tackle, where he is ranked No. 14 nationally. As a two-way player for Mount Lebanon, Bookser likes defense a little more because he can play with a little more emotion on the defensive line. He understands why coaches project him best on offense, though.


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