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Lions commit Smith nominated as nation’s top LB

The impressive prep football career of five-star linebacker recruit Brandon Smith ended last Friday when previously undefeated Louisa County (Mineral, Va.) High School suffered a loss in second-round state playoff action. The Penn State commit, who earned more than 30 scholarship offers, is listed among elite company in contention for a significant national award.

Smith, a 6-foot-4, 228-pound prospect, is one of five finalists for the Butkus Award, presented annually to the premier linebacker in high school football. The other candidates are fellow blue-chip recruits Nakobe Dean (Horn Lake, Miss.; uncommitted), De’Gabriel Floyd (Westlake Village, Calif.; Texas commit), Owen Pappoe (Loganville, Ga.; Auburn commit) and Henry To’oto’o (Concord, Calif.; uncommitted).

Considered the No. 2 inside linebacker and No. 24 overall talent in 247Sports 2019 composite rankings, Smith verbally pledged to Penn State on May 21. He visited Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech during the weeks preceding his commitment announcement.

Smith remains the Nittany Lions’ top-rated recruit one month shy of the early signing period. This winter, he’ll finalize long-term plans for early enrollment in Happy Valley.

“After the season, I’m going to be working out and making sure I’ve got the little things down,” Smith said before the 2018 campaign. “I want to make sure I get to Penn State in the best athletic shape possible and mentally prepared to compete.”

James Franklin and the Nittany Lions staff will welcome him to campus in January, when Smith will get a head start in the classroom, film room and weight room. Two months later, he’ll put on pads for his first spring practice session, joining a young linebacker nucleus set to feature freshmen Jesse Luketa and Micah Parsons, redshirt freshmen Ellis Brooks, and fellow 2019 prospect Lance Dixon, a four-star standout from Michigan.

Smith has been firmly committed to the program since issuing his pledge. He’s helped spearhead peer recruiting efforts via group text threads and in-person encounters during Penn State football events.

His athletic prowess and impressive prep-level production suggest Smith could make an immediate impact in the Nittany Lions defense. That group will enter 2019 viewed among the Big Ten’s most impressive defensive units, and the continued infusion of top-tier talent is likely to continue considering the program’s implementation of true freshmen under a new redshirt rule.

Smith totaled 128 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, six sacks and three forced fumbles in 2018. During the last three seasons as a Louisa County linebacker, he collected 367 tackles, 55 tackles for loss, 21 sacks and 10 forced fumbles.

Here’s how 247Sports director of scouting Barton Simmons described Smith this summer following the decision to bump him into five-star territory:

“This move is really based on film and traits than any single camp performance. Smith just feels like a can’t miss prospect because of the God-given length, verified athleticism and the ability to strike and play downhill as a 6-4 linebacker.”

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