Commitment Impact: What Rivals100 OL Alex Birchmeier means for Penn State
Penn State picked up its first commitment in the Class of 2023 Thursday in Virginia native Alex Birchmeier. A Rivals100 prospect, Birchmeier has long been considered a lean towards the Nittany Lions, but actually locking up a commitment from the nation's 61st-ranked prospect is a huge step in the right direction, for multiple reasons.
Blue White Illustrated's Ryan Snyder breaks down some of the key themes.
1) Penn State's momentum continues
It’s always good to get that first commitment on board. Sure, Mathias Barnwell was technically the first one to commit, but since he opened things up, Birchmeier will go down as No. 1. For the Nittany Lions, they couldn’t have scripted it any better. Momentum for 2022 is at an all-time high, and recruits across the country have taken notice. Just this week, another 2023 Rivals100 offensive lineman, IMG Academy’s Knijeah Harris, said he’s aware of what Penn State is doing on the recruiting trail, saying, 'I really like what they’re doing right now in recruiting. They’re doing really well right now and putting together a great class.’
That’s coming from a player who is friendly with Drew Shelton, but aside from that, really doesn’t have any other previous ties to the Nittany Lions. It’s a great sign when top players nationally, especially in next year’s class, which is wide open at every position, are noticing the kind of success that Penn State is having. That's especially true after a season that didn't go according to plan.
Now, with Birchmeier on board, a player who doesn’t come off as very outspoken, but does seem very much into Penn State and the culture surrounding James Franklin’s program, it should only help when he starts speaking with other top prospects, especially in and around the Mid-Atlantic region. Landing a big-time prospect in the 2023 class this month is a sign to others that something special is brewing right now.
2) Who's next for the Nittany Lions?
Of course, that segways us into the obvious next topic: who could potentially join Birchmeier in the 2023 class in the weeks ahead?
For months now, it’s been clear that this upcoming class could be Phil Trautwein’s opportunity to put together an elite group of offensive linemen, and with one on board already, that allows him and the rest of the staff to crank up the heat.
There are national prospects like Chase Bisontis and Luke Montgomery who likely won’t make a decision any time soon. They have a deep stack of offers with more than 60 between them, many of which are from the nation’s top programs. They can take their time and likely will.
Instead, I look at a guy like Antonio Tripp from McDonogh. Tripp has a very respectable offer list himself, but aside from maybe Michigan and Texas A&M, there aren’t many schools on Penn State’s level. Add in the fact that he’s likely an interior prospect at the next level, which is where I lean with Birchmeier, and that makes it easier for Trautwein and others to nudge him towards committing sooner than later.
We know Tripp is very high on Penn State. He visited State College on his own in Sept. 2020, then came again that first weekend in June to hang out with the staff. He’s always been a candidate for an early commitment, and with Birchmeier now on board, he makes a lot of sense when it comes to finding that next guy to maybe make a move.
3) Birchmeier could be an excellent center
I think Birchmeier would be a great fit at center in the years to come, but with two seasons left in high school, his growth potential and athleticism makes him a versatile prospect who could truly play all five positions. But if he doesn't grow too much more, and when I look at Penn State’s current group of interior linemen, and then I look at Birchmeier, he’s an ideal fit at that center position. I think Trautwein would love to use him there.
Center is often referred to as the quarterback of the offensive line, and through my conversations with Birchmeier over the past year, it’s clear that he already has a high football IQ and just flat out loves the game. It takes more than that to be a great center, however, so go look at his film and watch him pull. This young man is just ahead of most of his peers when it comes to the little things. With time and the right guidance, he makes a lot sense when it comes to being that leader upfront.
• Talk about this article inside The Lions Den
• Watch our videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel
• Learn more about our print and digital publication, Blue-White Illustrated
• Follow us on Instagram
• Like us on Facebook