Penn State off to strong start with two Class of 2026 defensive backs

All eyes are on what James Franklin and Penn State will be able to do in the 2025 recruiting class coming into the official visit portion of the recruiting calendar as they look to shore up this group.

There is plenty of work to be done for the staff as many of their top targets remain uncommitted before coming to Happy Valley.

But while the immediate class will dominate headlines and the majority of attention, it’s also important to keep an eye on what is happening in the cycles following 2025 as this is an important time to start building relationships.

That’s what they’re doing right now with two four-star secondary players in the class of 2026.

The first is instate target Joey O'Brien who is from Glenside, Pennsylvania.

Rated as the 21st-best safety in the class by On3’s Industry Rankings, he could become a priority for Penn State as 247Sports is much higher on his upside, sitting at No. 65 overall by their ratings.

O’Brien spoke with Chad Simmons of On3 about how his recruitment process has been going so far, sharing what he’s looking for in a program. He said he wants the staff to build a relationship with him and his family since he’s going to be there for multiple years. Schools already standing out to him are the Nittany Lions, Florida State, and Notre Dame (subscription required).

Penn State is also starting to go after one of the best cornerbacks in the state of North Carolina, offering a scholarship to consensus four-star Samari Matthews.

The 6-foot-0, 180-pounder has been ranked as the No. 55 overall player in the class of 2026 and fifth-best player at his position.

He also spoke with Simmons about how his recruitment has started to progress, telling him that he’s looking for a family connection and if the scheme fits his strengths. Matthews visited the Nittany Lions this spring and said that they “grabbed” his attention (subscription required).

There’s still a lot of time in both of these processes, but it’s a great sign that Penn State is getting on the radar of some top targets early to start building the groundwork.

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Story originally appeared on Nittany Lions Wire