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Noah Cain, one of college football’s most heavily recruited running backs, traveled to Penn State for the first time last weekend. He and his father arrived in town late Friday night, packed in a busy Saturday, then departed Sunday morning.
The Nittany Lions made it count.
“They made a big jump on my list,” Cain, a 5-foot-11, 210-pound talent, told Land of 10.
Despite the absence of Penn State coach James Franklin, who repeatedly checked in via FaceTime, Cain left campus encouraged about an opportunity in Happy Valley.
“It was from morning to night; a full day of action,” he said. “I got there and the whole offensive coaching staff was waiting for me. That’s never happened before so that left a good taste in my mouth right from the beginning. They showed me around the football facilities, where I fit in with the offense, and the different things I can do outside of football.”
Cain, who spoke with Franklin from the NFL draft in Dallas, learned details about the rise of former Nittany Lions star Saquon Barkley, who was selected second overall by the New York Giants.
“Coach Franklin was telling me about how they built Saquon’s brand at Penn State,” he said. “Saquon was the perfect guy for their program and he can be the face of football. He was really selling me on all the off-field things that make Saquon so special, not just what he can do as a player. That’s big for my family and I.”
Considered the No. 2 running back recruit in 247Sports 2019 composite rankings, Cain began gathering Power 5 scholarship offers as a freshman at Guyer (Denton, Texas) High School. He transferred to IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) midway through his sophomore year and has continued to see his recruitment expand.
Cain spent much of Saturday alongside new Nittany Lions running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider, who previously pursued him on behalf of the Florida Gators. Seider personally presented Cain with a Penn State offer on Jan. 30 and will play a central role in this process.
Ja’Juan Seider helped host Noah Cain during his first Penn State visit. (Noah Cain/Twitter)
“He gives you that at-home feeling,” Cain said. “It’s not even like a player-coach relationship; he’s a mentor and a person you can talk to about anything. He’s going to coach his tail off for you, but at the same time he’s going to be there for you whenever times get rough.”
That kind of relationship is particularly important considering Cain’s family roots are in Baton Rouge, La.
“Being from the South, you’re really far from your family [if you attend Penn State],” he said. “They aren’t going to be anywhere near you. They’re not in Virginia or Washington [D.C.] or New York — they’re a long way away. So having him up there, he makes it a home away from home.”
Cain described various discussions as highlights of the visit. Those conversations occurred with Nittany Lions offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne, linebackers Jesse Luketa and Micah Parsons, and running back Miles Sanders.
Sanders, a former 5-star recruit who served as backup to Barkley during his first two college seasons, seems primed to step into a lead role this fall. His insight on the Nittany Lions backfield, and academic structure, resonated with Cain.
“Miles told me straight up: Penn State is a great spot for running backs,” Cain said. “He talked about how important it is to prepare for when your opportunity comes, and he said the education and degree from Penn State means more than anything. He said they’ll take care of you regardless of football, so it’s worth staying there, sticking it out and fighting for your opportunity on the field.”
While walking around town, Cain was spotted by students who shared well wishes. That moment typified his time in State College.
“It was all love from everybody,” he said. “I love the vibe I got from people. It was a real, genuine feeling up there.”
And then there was his introduction to The Creamery, always a main attraction on campus.
“It was the best ice cream I’ve ever had in my life,” Cain said, reflecting on his vanilla bean scoops.
So was the ice cream — and overall experience — impressive enough to encourage a return trip?
“For sure. I plan to be back up there sometime this summer,” he said. “My dad has been bragging about it, so my mom wants to come with me.”
That’s a major development for the Nittany Lions, who are awaiting a commitment announcement May 18 from running back recruit Devyn Ford. Cain will come out with a top-5 list in “late July or early August” and use his official visits at those schools leading up to a December decision and early enrollment.
Penn State clearly strengthened its case for consideration last weekend.
“I’m not going to lie to you — I was surprised,” he said. “When Coach Seider first got up there, I talked to my dad about checking it out. I thought, ‘Well, they had Saquon Barkley up there. It can’t be that bad.’ I was expecting a decent visit but it definitely surpassed my expectations. I was blown away by everything.”
Cain, who has spent significant time living in Florida, Louisiana and Texas, is comfortable with the possibility of relocating to yet another region for the next phase of his football career.
“[Moving around] has definitely helped a lot,” he said. “My parents don’t worry at all about me going far away from home. They just want the best fit for me. If that’s on the other side of the world, it’s on the other side of the world. If that’s close to home, it’s close to home. It’s about finding that fit and who is going to help me build my brand.”
Cain has rushed for 3,290 yards (8.1 per carry) and 38 touchdowns through three high school seasons, according to MaxPreps. His long list of options also includes LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas.
Despite a recent official visit to Penn State, Owen Pappoe — the nation’s No. 1 overall 2019 linebacker recruit — always seemed destined to stay in the Southeast. That sentiment was solidified Tuesday when he announced a verbal commitment to the Auburn Tigers.
The Grayson (Loganville, Ga.) High School junior collected more than 40 offers during a recruitment that dates back to his eighth-grade year. Georgia was under serious consideration during the final stretch but failed to beat out its SEC foe.
Developments during recent weeks have altered the Penn State recruiting board at linebacker. Pappoe joins Marcel Brooks (LSU), Shane Lee (Alabama), Cade Stover (Ohio State) and Andre White (Texas A&M) as Nittany Lions linebacker targets who’ve committed elsewhere since April 17.
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