Penn State finally has its first defensive tackle of the 2019 class.
D’Von Ellies, a four-star prospect from Maryland, chose the Nittany Lions early Sunday morning. Ellies competed in the Polynesian Bowl in Hawaii and made his announcement from O’ahu.
Ellies — the No. 292 player overall in the 2019 cycle per 247 Sports’ Composite rankings — isn’t the highest-rated player in the Nittany Lions’ vaunted class. And he certainly doesn’t have the star power of Brandon Smith, Noah Cain or Devyn Ford. But Ellies’ commitment is among the most important for the Nittany Lions.
Depth at defensive tackle was a legitimate concern entering 2018, and questions persisted throughout the campaign. Robert Windsor broke out with 7.5 sacks, and Kevin Givens flew under-the-radar, fighting through double teams to wreak havoc in opposing backfields. But Fred Hansard’s October injury cost him the season, Ellison Jordan didn’t play past Week 3, and CJ Thorpe was forced to move from guard to the D-line to provide backup.
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The unit took another hit after the season when Givens surprisingly declared for the NFL draft. Now, there will be a competition between Hansard, PJ Mustipher and Antonio Shelton to see who fills the vacated starting spot.
Ellies, who can’t arrive on campus until after spring camp, won’t vie for Givens’ old gig. But the McDonough School product could join Mustipher, his former high school teammate, on the field and help fill out the three-deep. Thorpe might move back to guard, Damion Barber is slowly coming along, and Jordan’s future with the program is questionable at best after tweeting during the season about struggling to make it through practice due to an ongoing knee injury.
Ellies, the No. 20 defensive tackle in the country, held offers from 26 schools, including USC, Ohio State, Michigan, Florida and West Virginia. Ultimately, the Nittany Lions and Trojans were the favorites to land Ellies, and he picked James Franklin and Sean Spencer.
Ellies was the second defensive lineman to commit to Penn State over the weekend. Three-star defensive end Smith Vilbert chose the Nittany Lions over Florida, Oregon and Miami on Friday.
Franklin and Spencer might not be done recruiting new “Wild Dogs,” either. With nine confirmed transfers and more likely on the way out, the staff will have at least a few more spots in this 2019 class to utilize if it wants. Four-star Jaquaze Sorrells (No. 12 DT) and three-star prospects Joseph Darkwa and Jared Harrison-Hunte are on Penn State’s radar. So are four-star safety Nick Cross, four-star guard Doug Nester, three-star wideout TJ Jones and three-star cornerback MJ Devonshire.
But in the meantime, Franklin, Spencer and the Nittany Lions will be happy with Ellies’ commitment.