Penn State played host to its first junior day of the James Franklin era during the weekend and it payed off in the form of three Class of 2015 commits.
The state of Maryland will always be important recruiting territory for the Nittany Lions and four-star defensive end Kamonte Carter (Gaithersburg, Md.) was the first pledge from that state this cycle for Franklin and company. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Carter had 16 sacks during his junior year, despite missing a couple of games with a minor knee injury.
Landing a four-star Maryland prospect was a good sign for another reason -- most of the top prospects from that state who have headed to State College for nearly two decades have been recruited by former assistant Larry Johnson, who is now on staff at Ohio State. Carter's commit is a sign that Penn State will continue to sell in the state despite Johnson being at another program. Granted it isn't a big surprise considering the proximity of State College to Baltimore and Washington, DC, and the tradition of the program, but still there were some anxious fans concerning Johnson's departure and the ability to recruit Maryland. So Carter's commitment is a good sign that will help alleviate some of the concerns expressed around the water cooler, on the message boards and on talk radio.
There is an uptick in talent for the 2015 recruiting cycle in eastern Pennsylvania and the Nittany Lions landed one of the best in that area during the weekend in the form of offensive tackle Ryan Bates (Warminster, Pa./Archbishop Wood). The 6-5, 280-pound Bates was considered a heavy lean to the Lions, reinforced when he told Lions247, "There is no other place I would rather be than Penn State" after his commitment. Bates currently is the No. 15 offensive tackle prospect in the country for the 2015 cycle, according to 247Sports Composite rankings.
Safety Jarvis Miller (Suffield, Conn.) was the first commitment of the day and the cycle for Franklin and company. The two-star prospect is a 6-2, 188-pound prospect who has good speed and athleticism (4.64 laser-timed 40-yard dash and finished third in SPARQ testing -- which measures overall athletic ability -- at the New Jersey Nike Combine. He has a high upside.
Penn State likely isn't finished. Bates' teammate, linebacker Jake Cooper, plans to visit the Nittany Lions on Monday and could commit while on campus. Defensive end Ryan Buchholz (Malvern, Pa./Great Valley) is a heavy lean and the 6-6, 235-pounder could commit to the Nittany Lions any day as well. Both are three-star prospects.
Other weekend highlights
• LSU landed in-state defensive end Isaiah Washington (New Orleans, La./Edna Carr) while he was on campus for the Tigers' "Boys from the Boot" junior day. The 6-4, 225-pound Washington is the third in-state pledge for the Tigers for 2014. Washington has the ability to be a high-upside pass rusher and is the No. 21 weakside defensive end prospect in the 2015 cycle, according to 247Sports Composite rankings. LSU's 2015 class currently ranks No. 3 nationally.
• Three-star running back Ryan Williams (Lees Summit, Mo./West) committed to Missouri during the weekend while on campus for an unofficial visit and is the first pledge this cycle for the Tigers. The 5-11, 185-pound Williams will enroll next January and has back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Williams is the No. 50 running back prospect nationally, according to 247Sports Composite rankings. Williams has good speed and vision and is an excellent scheme fit for Missouri.
• Georgia continued to assemble a very impressive 2015 class when the Bulldogs flipped defensive end Chauncey Rivers (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson) from South Carolina. A pair of new Georgia coaches who came to Athens with a big reputation for recruiting -- Tracy Rocker and Jeremy Pruitt -- were the primary and secondary recruiters for Rivers. Rivers is the No. 11 weakside defensive end prospect nationally, according to 247Sports Composite rankings, and is commitment No. 5 for Georgia this cycle. He's a big-bodied, athletic prospect who can develop into an excellent pass rusher.
• Oklahoma started the weekend off by striking in the Dallas Metroplex -- three-star safety Jamile Johnson (Dallas/South Oak Cliff) committed to the Sooners. Johnson was commitment No. 5 for Oklahoma this cycle -- all from either the state of Oklahoma or the state of Texas. That's an interesting mini-trend to start this cycle considering the Sooners made more headlines in 2014 by hitting California and Arizona for top targets and landing sleepers from the southeast. Oklahoma currently has the No. 13 class nationally for the 2015 cycle.