'I want people to know who I am.' How a running back leads Penn State's Top 5 recruiting surge
Pennsylvania's top-rated running back feels that he still has a lot to prove in his final season of high school.
No matter that London Montgomery already is regarded as an elite 4-star prospect by some national recruiting sites. And that he's dominated in every capacity for his Scranton Prep football program the past three years. Or even that he just verbally committed to play for Penn State − and hopes to carry on an in-state running back tradition.
There's still more there to be gained, according to those who know him well. For starters, Montgomery has not received the kind of national recruiting attention awarded recent Nittany Lion runners Saquon Barkley, Miles Sanders, Journey Brown and true freshman Nick Singleton.
Montgomery wasn't even the most highly-rated running back the Lions were targeting for their impressive 2023 recruiting class, which currently rates in the Top 10 nationally. Florida's Treyaun Webb was a more coveted prospect, before he pledged to his home state Gators.
The first thing to know about Montgomery: He's actually bigger than listed on many recruiting sites and owns the kind of frame to add more size and weight without sacrificing speed. He's now 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, according to his coach, Terry Gallagher.
"I'm a very balanced (running) back for my size. I'm not small, though people may say that. I'm not sure why (the national attention hasn't come), but that's OK. I like to be the underdog, I like to work harder.
"I’m not going to take my foot off the gas pedal because it's my senior year. I want people to know who I am. I'm the baddest running back in the state."
While he piled up 2,356 yards and 36 touchdowns as a junior, this might be the more important number: He averaged a first down every time he ran the ball (12 yards per carry).
"His speed, his change of direction and acceleration is exceptional. He's gotten better and better in terms of vision. He's gotten bigger, faster stronger each year," Gallagher said. "He's worked tirelessly" on improving his pass-catching.
"He really could do anything you want him to do."
PSU in the "new" Big Ten:Penn State gets a new rival? 3 things you need to know about USC, UCLA joining the Big Ten
Why new tailbacks may take over:Fixing Penn State football with two rookies? 'Those kids have ... made us tougher'
Montgomery's commitment to the Lions (over finalists Boston College and Virginia Tech) boosts a recruiting class surging through the nation's Top 10, one dominated by prospects near and far, and little in between. Most of its members are either from Pennsylvania or the Deep South − five from Alabama and Florida.
Their other commits are from traditional recruiting grounds in New York, New Jersey and Virginia.
Montgomery may end up being the only running back in this class that ranks as high as No. 3 nationally.
"He doesn’t look at himself as being this superstar talent, he's got a chip on his shoulder trying to prove to people why he’s successful," Gallagher said. "It goes back to making sure you work hard and be accountable. He's not going to settle for being average, being OK, being good. "
Penn State on 4-star recruiting run
On3.com consensus rankings list Montgomery as the nation’s No. 365 player, its No. 25 running back and Pennsylvania No. 7 overall prospect.
A 247Sports analysis describes him as strong in every significant running back category − just not flashy in any.
"Although he is not a power runner, he is difficult to arm tackle at the high school level. He often runs through first contact and showcases his balance. His body control allows him to squeeze through tight spaces," writes recruiting 247 analyst Brian Dohn. "He is a north-south runner, but he does show the speed to get to the outside and get past the linebacker."
Montgomery started a big mid-July week for Penn State recruiting. The Lions also earned commitments from 4-star linebackers Tony Rojas of Virginia and Ta'Mere Robinson from Brashear High in Pittsburgh.
The most intriguing thing about this class, however, has been unexpected success in the Deep South. Those top-shelf commitments include defensive end Tomarrion Parker and safety DaKaari Nelson (both from Alabama) and Florida defensive backs Elliot Washington (former Alabama commitment), King Mack and Conrad Hussey.
Frank Bodani covers Penn State football for the York Daily Record and USA Today Network. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @YDRPennState.