Blue White Illustrated

May 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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6 0 M A Y 2 0 2 3 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M P enn State made a great first im- pression on New Jersey cornerback Omari Gaines, and its head start translated into a verbal commitment in late March. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound prospect from Newark announced for the Nit- tany Lions almost a year after receiving a scholarship offer from coach James Franklin and his staff. In doing so, Gaines became the second member of PSU's 2025 recruiting class, joining offensive lineman Jaelyne Matthews, a fellow Garden State native. Penn State had long been considered the team to beat for Gaines' services. He took five visits to State College, including two earlier this year. Following a visit in January, Gaines told the staff he was interested in committing. However, because he came with one of his coaches and not his parents, Franklin suggested that it would be better for him to think about it a bit more, knowing that Gaines planned to return with his parents in March. Just three days after that March 25 visit, Gaines made his announcement. For him, it was the culmination of a process that began even before he got to Malcolm X Shabazz High School. "I camped at Penn State when I was in eighth grade, and while I didn't get a true visit that day, I'll never forget how the coaches were," Gaines said. "They left a great impression on me and my family. "Then, last year as a freshman, my family and I went up there multiple times, and that's when I built a relationship with the staff. I really liked the relationship I had with James Franklin. I'm close with Coach Terry [Smith] and the recruiting coordinators, but the relationship with Coach Franklin was important to me." Gaines, who has not yet been rated by On3, said that even after Franklin advised him to spend more time mulling his deci- sion, he knew Penn State was going to be his choice. "I did go home to think about it, but my decision wasn't really going to change," he said. "At the end of the March visit, I just explained to him how much I love the school. I also see the people he devel- ops every year. There's nowhere else I'd rather be. It was great having him honor my commitment." Gaines said that in addition to the coaching staff, he liked the campus envi- ronment at Penn State, as well as the State College area. "It's a college town," he said. "I really like the vibe there." Since his freshman season, Gaines has earned more than a dozen scholarship of- fers. Both Duke and Rutgers hosted him for prior visits, but neither school got him on campus as regularly as Penn State. In addition to the Blue Devils and Scarlet Knights, he earned Power Five offers from Boston College, Georgia Tech, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Syracuse and West Vir- ginia. While Gaines elicited widespread inter- est, the Nittany Lions' head start proved insurmountable. "I like everything about the school, so I couldn't think of any reason to wait," he said. "This is where I want to be." ■ Penn State received its second 2025 com- mitment when New Jersey cornerback Omari Gaines announced for the Nittany Lions in March. Here's a look at what he'll be bring- ing to the PSU defense in the years to come: STRENGTHS Versatility: There are can't-miss prospects and won't-miss prospects. Omari Gaines falls into the latter category. He's one of those guys who will find a role somewhere because of his positional flexibility and skill set. Movement skills: Whether he's at cor- nerback, safety or even linebacker, Gaines features a 6-foot-2 frame and solid move- ment skills that will give him more avenues to success. AREAS OF DEVELOPMENT Speed: Two factors will dictate Gaines' position: speed and size. Right now, he has impressive length for the cornerback posi- tion, but he doesn't have the speed needed to play outside. Change of direction: Gaines will also have to improve his change-of-direction skills. If he can't improve a below-average athletic profile for a cornerback, he'll have to get big- ger to fit the position he ends up at. PROJECTION Cornerback or safety: Gaines still has two more seasons of high school football ahead of him, so it's difficult to project his position at Penn State. His physical growth will play a big part in determining where he ends up at the college level. The bigger he gets, the more likely it becomes that he'll be a safety. It's even possible he will outgrow the second- ary altogether and end up as a linebacker. — Thomas Frank Carr P L A Y E R E V A L U A T I O N 2025 Standout Had PSU Atop His List From The Start RYA N S N Y D E R | R YA N. S N Y D E R @ O N 3 . C O M COMMITMENT PROFILE OMARI GAINES Gaines had wanted to commit during a campus visit in January but ended up holding off until he had a chance to talk over his decision with his family. PHOTO BY RYAN SNYDER

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