Jones becomes the third player from a Florida high school in the 2019 class. Jones (6-1, 185) announced his decision Wednesday at Columbia High School. He caught 42 passes, eight for touchdowns, last year and was an all-state nominee.
“We have a strong opinion of him,” said Penn State receivers coach Gerard Parker, who recruited Jones while coaching at Duke last season. “I think he can be a special young player.”
Penn State also received a commitment Tuesday from Daequan Hardy, a three-star athlete from Penn Hills High, the 2018 PIAA Class 5A champ. The Lions offered Hardy earlier this week.
Hardy was the star of Penn Hills’ 36-31 victory over Manheim Central in the state-title game last December. He scored four touchdowns, including one on a 100-yard interception return, and totaled 340 all-purpose yards.
Penn State listed Hardy (5-9, 160) as an athlete, suggesting the program has multiple options with him. Hardy can play cornerback or receiver, with the potential to follow a career path like KJ Hamler. He also impressed the Penn State staff by running the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds at a summer camp.
“ I think what happens sometimes with coaches is, you get so caught up in the eyeball test and measurements,” Franklin said. “Daequan's not a big, imposing guy at this point of his career. But if you put the tape on and watch his production, he had as good of a senior year as anybody in the country.”
Further, Penn State has been recruiting Nick Cross, a four-star safety from DeMatha (Md.) Catholic High who previously committed to Florida State. Cross did not sign his letter of intent Wednesday.
Meet the new recruits
Penn State received three official commitments in January, one from a player who signed his letter of intent in December.
D’Von Ellies, a four-star defensive tackle from Maryland, announced his commitment publicly at the Polynesian Bowl in January in Hawaii. Ellies, however, had informed Penn State of his decision in December, choosing to save his announcement for the all-star game.
Darkwa is an intriguing player, a 6-5, 272-pound tackle who played for Dusseldorf’s under-19 team in the German Football League. He received plenty of recruiting interest, choosing Penn State over Rutgers, UCLA and Colorado, among others.
Franklin called Darkwa a “skinny 272 pounds” with room to grow.
“He's probably a lot more advanced than we anticipated him being,” Franklin said.
The recruiting map
Four of Penn State’s 23 commits hail from Pennsylvania, the result of of what Franklin last year called a “down year” in recruiting statewide. Penn State still focused on its traditional territory, though, picking up 12 commitments from New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Connecticut.
The players who composed Penn State’s 2019 class during the December signing period had a combined 3.98 ranking, according to Rivals.com, which was the third-highest in the country. It was the program’s best such rating since 2002.
Six players were the top-ranked recruits in their states: Running back Devyn Ford (Virginia), defensive end Adisa Isaac (New York), quarterback Michael Johnson Jr. (Oregon), cornerback Joey Porter Jr. (Pennsylvania), linebacker Brandon Smith (Virginia) and offensive lineman Saleem Wormley (Delaware).
“At the end of the day, I thought our staff did a great job of identifying high, high-character kids that want to come to a great institution like Penn State and compete in the classroom and compete on the football field and keep chipping away at where we're going,” Franklin said in December. “And that's kind of what I see.”
Miss any recruiting stories from the past few months? Here are just a few covering the 2019 class and more.