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Thursday, February 22, 2024

High school football: 21 top recruits in Pennsylvania in Mid-Penn Conference in 2023

Top to bottom, the Mid-Penn Conference is stacked with talent that will find its way to football fields across the country on Saturdays. 

There are obvious talents like Bishop McDevitt QB Stone Saunders, who recently verbally committed to Kentucky. But the glam positions aren’t the only ones with next-level talent. 

With the 2023 PIAA high school football season days away from kicking off, here are 21 players from every division of the Mid-Penn who have caught recruiters’ eyes and are worth watching on Friday nights. Not every top recruit is included to provide a mix from Commonwealth studs to Liberty standouts, and more players are sure to establish themselves as bona fide stars this fall. Who else do you think should be mentioned?

(Names are listed alphabetically.)

Jarome Benjamin, OL/DL, Gettysburg

Year: Senior

Recruiting status: Unranked recruit holds an offer from Albright

Scouting report: Between Benjamin and a teammate we’ll see shortly on this list, the Warriors have a pair of big space-eaters with multiple college offers. Benjamin can line up at tackle and guard on the o-line and routinely stands up defensive lineman. 

Kevin Brown, Harrisburg

Year: Sophomore

Recruiting status: 4-star recruit holds offers from Penn State, Pitt, West Virginia and several other Division I programs

Scouting report: Keep an eye on the years and positions of the top Commonwealth prospects, because you’ll sense a theme. Brown checked in last week as one of three Pennsylvania products in the Class of 2026 to make 247Sports’ initial Top 100. His game film proves why. Brown, who played right tackle last year, moves well laterally and gets to the second level to open up big holes in the run game or on screens better than most linemen his age and size. The Cougars seem to have a lot of fun using him as a blocking weapon.

Aubrey Carter, DL, Susquehanna Township

Year: Senior

Recruiting status: Unranked recruit holds offers from Lehigh, Navy, Miami (Ohio), Central Michigan and other Division I programs

Scouting report: Group of Five and FCS schools have been all over the game-wrecking lineman, who shows a penchant in his highlights for penetrating the gaps not because of his power but because of an impressively quick first step that routinely beats guards to the point of attack. Carter’s speed is also on display chasing down terrified quarterbacks or swallowing up running backs before they can bounce a run outside. 

Lex Cyrus, WR, Susquehanna Township

Year: Junior

Recruiting status: Unranked recruit holds offers from Penn State, Wisconsin, Pitt, Texas A&M and other Division I programs

Scouting report: ‘Hanna looks like the runaway favorite for the Mid-Penn Colonial title, and Cyrus will be a big reason why. Few in the state have his level of speed — he set the District 3 100-meter record in the spring. Everything portends his first 1,000-yard season and a breakout campaign for a skilled pass catcher who already has the attention of multiple Power Five programs. More could be on the way.

Jaceb Dickerson, DL, Gettysburg

Year: Senior

Recruiting status: Unranked recruit holds offers from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon, University of Chicago

Scouting report: Mostly rushing off the edge, Dickerson is more than just a lineman who can plug up space for his linebackers to get all the glory. He had 66 tackles (13 TFLs) and 3 ½ sacks last season in just eight games and has good burst to blow up plays.

Alex Erby, QB, Steel-High

Year: Senior

Recruiting status: 3-star recruit holds offers from Pitt, Nebraska, Louisville, Maryland, Minnesota and other Division I programs

Scouting report: Erby has a chance to lead the Rollers to their third PIAA Class 1A championship in four years, and a good one at that. The Power Five recruit, who should make his decision sometime this season or shortly after, is on pace to become the greatest Steel-High QB in history and one of the best the Mid-Penn has seen. He threw for 3,389 yards and 40 touchdowns last season en route to his second state title.

Andrew Erby Jr., OL/DL, Steel-High

Year: Senior

Recruiting status: 3-star recruit holds offers from Penn State, Nebraska, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio and other Division I programs

Scouting report: Alex’s brother, Erby Jr. is a destructive force in his own right in the trenches. On offense, he can line up along the line and even as a hulking fullback to open up cavernous running lanes and provide time for his brother to survey the field. On defense, he recorded an eye-popping 11 sacks in his junior season and has caught the eye of several marquee college programs, including Penn State. 

Michael Gaul, LB, State College

Year: Junior

Recruiting status: Unranked recruit holds Division I offers from Virginia Tech, Akron, Connecticut and Toledo

Scouting report: Gaul plays wide receiver on offense and uses that speed to his advantage on defense, where he can combine it with power to lay some devastating hits. But his film shows an athlete who doesn’t just fly into the backfield; he’s patient at the line of scrimmage and waits for the right moment to plug a hole and swallow up running backs. No wonder he had more than 120 tackles last year and is catching on with college scouts. 

Derek Gibney, QB/P, Susquenita

Year: Senior

Recruiting status: Unranked recruit has received interest from Juniata, Colgate and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy

Scouting report: Gibney has a chance to lead the Blackhawks, predicted by 4th Down Magazine to finish third in the Liberty Division this year, to a run at the division crown if he can follow up on an impressive junior season that saw him throw for 1,655 yards and 14 touchdowns against 11 interceptions (he added 315 yards and six TDs rushing). Such a performance should surely solidify college interest in the veteran and land him a home playing on Saturdays.

Zachary Mell, DL, Big Spring

Year: Senior

Recruiting status: Unranked recruit holds offers from Misericordia and Juniata

Scouting report: The Bulldogs sure do like to produce top-notch defenders, and Mell looks like the next one likely to find himself on a football field on Saturdays. He picked up his first two offers in recent months, and if he can follow up a junior season that saw him register 2 ½ sacks and 56 tackles (9 ½ for loss), more should be on the way.

Tyler Merrill, OT, Cumberland Valley

Year: Sophomore

Recruiting status: 4-star recruit holds Power Five offers from Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and several others

Scouting report: The Commonwealth has quite a few linemen set to play at the next level, including a couple Power Five recruits. Merrill can make the case as the best of them all, or soon could. The 2026 recruit has multiple Big Ten (Big Eighteen?) offers already and is poised to be the anchor of an Eagles team that looks like it might rely on the run a bit more this season. He played on both sides of CV’s line as a freshman and projects at tackle at the next level, with an impressive burst into the second level and immense power at such a young age.

Messiah Mickens, RB, Trinity

Year: Sophomore

Recruiting status: 4-star recruit verbally committed Sunday to Penn State over offers from Texas A&M, Ohio State, Alabama and other Power Five programs

Scouting report: When 247Sports released its initial Class of 2026 rankings, Mickens debuted as the 30th overall prospect in the nation and the best in PA. The offers (see above) tells half the story, while the tape tells the rest. After landing an offer from the Aggies before his first varsity play from scrimmage, Mickens put together an impressive rookie season of 961 rushing yards, 200 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. He’s nearly impossible for defenses to contain, is slippery even at full speed and displays tackle-breaking power even when swarmed in the backfield.

Marcus Quaker, QB, West Perry

Year: Senior

Recruiting status: Unranked recruit holds an offer from Penn

Scouting report: It seems like the Mid-Penn has been talking about Quaker for a decade, that’s how long he’s been dominating up in Perry County. With an Ivy League offer in his back pocket, Quaker can cap off one of the best four-year stretches in Mustangs history. Last season he led West Perry to arguably its best season ever, going 11-2 and making the District 3 Class 3A final. He threw for 2,021 yards, ran for another 1,240 and accounted for an overwhelming 45 touchdowns.

Jaire Rawlison, DB, Bishop McDevitt

Year: Senior

Recruiting status: Unranked recruit has verbally committed to Kent State

Scouting report: There are going to be a lot of Crusaders on this list, but it’s hard to discount the overwhelming talent they have on both sides of the ball. Rawlison and a teammate coming up very soon make up half of a defensive backfield with multiple Division I offers that terrorized offenses last year. He returned two interceptions for scores last season and recorded two tackles. Rawlison holds nearly a dozen offers beyond his verbal to Kent State.

Chase Regan, DB, Bishop McDevitt

Year: Senior

Recruiting status: Unranked recruit has verbally committed to James Madison

Scouting report: Meet the other half of McDevitt’s dynamic defensive backfield. Regan, a JMU commit with more than a dozen other FCS offers, recorded 55 tackles (10 for loss) from his safety spot and also caught a pair of interceptions for the defending state champs last season. He’s able to plant his foot decisively and close in on short passes and running backs and wraps up well in the open field. He also can score as a punt returner and break containment on the edge with his speed.

Anthony Robsock, OT, Central Dauphin

Year: Senior

Recruiting status: 3-star recruit verbally committed to Maryland

Scouting report: Let’s add some Commonwealth veteran savvy to this list with Robsock, who holds several FCS and FBS offers and has chosen to head south of the state border to join the Terrapins. The Rams look like a team primed for a big bounceback in 2023, and Robsock can anchor a lot of that effort on the offensive end especially, along with another D-I teammate in James Madison pledge Evan Bushong.

Stone Saunders, QB, Bishop McDevitt

Year: Junior

Recruiting status: 3-star recruit has verbally committed to Kentucky

Scouting report: Saunders will join Kentucky in two years and play for a Liam Coen-led offense that has a penchant for bringing the best out of QBs. In the meantime, he’s got a chance to put up some truly crooked career numbers. He already has 6,620 yards and 100 TDs and was named the PA Gatorade Player of the Year in 2022. He’s got seemingly unlimited weapons around him, sure, to make life easy for him, but it takes a special talent to make McDevitt’s offense hum the way he does.

Rico Scott, WR, Bishop McDevitt

Year: Senior

Recruiting status: 4-star recruit has verbally committed to Alabama

Scouting report: The third-ranked prospect in the state heading to Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide over more than a dozen Power Five offers, Scott is one of the most exciting players to watch on Friday night’s right now. He caught 66 passes for 1,184 yards and 18 touchdowns last season and led the Crusaders to the PIAA Class 4A championship. Scott has breakaway speed before and after catching the ball and displays soft hands, and he’s really good at getting open off-script when the play breaks down.

D’Antae Sheffey, RB, State College

Year: Sophomore

Recruiting status: Unranked recruit holds Power Five offers from Pitt, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech and other Division I programs

Scouting report: The Commonwealth has a few future Division I players (what else is new?), but none bring more juice on Friday nights than Sheffey, who exploded onto the scene last year as a freshman. He’s an easy all-state candidate again this year after putting together the Little Lions’ fourth-best rushing total in a season ever (1,725 yards), while adding 24 total touchdowns. Those are some incredible numbers for a division that makes it very hard for running backs.

Nick Slogik, Edge, Bishop McDevitt

Year: Senior

Recruiting status: 3-star recruit has verbally committed to Eastern Carolina

Scouting report: Mid-Penn baseball fans will recognize this name. Slogik originally committed to the Pittsburgh Panthers’ baseball team but has since flipped to ECU football, over several other D-I offers, including Maryland and Syracuse. Playing mostly as a three-down defensive end for the Crusaders, he sheds blocks easily and is disruptive in run defense or pass rushing.

Amil Way, DB, Trinity

Year: Junior

Recruiting status: Unranked recruit holds offers from Central Michigan and West Virginia

Scouting report: Way’s best trait on film appears to be his ability to fight off receivers with his size to get to the ball or to shed a block to make a tackle on a ball carrier flying around the edge. He can play in single coverage and win more often than not, finishing last season with 52 tackles and eight interceptions. Trinity stunned almost everyone to finish with a 10-5 season and make the PIAA Class 2A semifinals, thanks in part to Way’s shutdown defense, and could be in line for another big season in the Capital Division.

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