Penn State signed four more players to national letters of intent Wednesday for the incoming class of 2019, but perhaps none more intriguing than a defensive tackle from Germany who checks in at 6-foot-5 and a “skinny” 272 pounds, as described by head coach James Franklin.
Meet Joseph Appiah Darkwa, originally from Ghana, who played football in Europe and with the help of Brandon Collier, a coach who played at Massachusetts and spent a brief time with the Eagles, landed a scholarship from the NIttany Lions.
“We were able to watch him on game tape,” Franklin said Wednesday of Darkwa. “He’s probably a lot more advanced than we anticipated him being. Being able to watch all his workout tapes, very athletic and excited about his future.”
Franklin said Collier played at UMass when Sean Spencer, now the Nittany Lions’ defensive line coach, was on the Minutemen staff. Collier is CEO of Premier Players International, a firm that trains European players for football opportunities in the United States.
“I think our relationship with the coach helped,” Franklin said. “I think how we communicated with not only the kid but the parents helped. He speaks four languages. When they came on the visit, they came with his brother, who is fluent in English. Came with mom, who understands English but is a little shy and also isn’t comfortable necessarily communicating back.”
Two of the Nittany Lions’ final commitments – 5-foot-9, 160-pound athlete Daequan Hardy of Pittsburgh, and 5-11, 191-pound wide receiver T.J. Jones of Lake City, Fla. – came less than 24 hours before their signings Wednesday.
Hardy scored 22 touchdowns during his senior season at Penn Hills High School on receptions and punt, kickoff and interception returns. Jones announced his decision Wednesday morning at his high school, Columbia, choosing the Lions over his other two finalists, Indiana and Texas A&M.
Also signing Wednesday was 6-6, 250-pound defensive end Smith Vilbert of St. Joseph’s Regional High School in Montvale, N.J., who played his first full season of football in 2018.
The latest signees gives Penn State 23 players in the 2019 class, 19 of whom were signed during the early period in December. One player, defensive end D’Von Ellies of Burtonsville, Md., signed in December but asked the program not to publicize his decision until after the Jan. 19 Polynesian Bowl high school All-Star game.
Penn State was ranked 11th in the 2019 recruiting standings by Lions247 and Rivals. Franklin said it was “hard to say” whether recruiting the class has concluded.