Early recruiting’s timeline gets more and more crazy as each new class comes through the ranks. Back in the summer of 2014, Landon (Md.) attackman Joey Epstein decided on Hopkins in the days before he began high school. Last year, Ontario native Payton Cormier committed to UVA in early July, becoming the first verbal in the Class of 2019.
This time around, a new benchmark has been set, as Bay Shore (N.Y.) attackman Brennan O’Neill committed to Penn State on the evening of Thursday, March 17th.
The lefty plays club with Joe Spallina’s Team 91 Crush team, who won the inaugural World Series of Lacrosse on national television. He’ll be matriculating to Long Island Catholic powerhouse St. Anthony’s in the fall.
Right now, O’Neill is playing up on the varsity squad as many Long Island 8th graders have done in the past. For what it’s worth, he tallied six goals in his first varsity scrimmage with Bay Shore. Already close to six feet tall (and age-appropriate for his class), O’Neill has impeccable stick skills and a nose for the goal. He is also a tight end in football and power forward in basketball.
Though many outsiders will question the level of play that 2020’s face at this early point of the club circuit, the Crush team tends to play against the freshman Class of 2019, making the championship at the last session of July’s Inside Lacrosse Invitational in Maryland. At that event, O’Neill pumped in 10 goals and was named to the All-Tournament team. In addition, he was arguably the most impressive member of the Class of 2020 at the NLF Futures event down at IMG Academy (Fla.) in January – coverage of that event mentioning him can be seen here.
“I think in terms of his size and speed, he does things beyond his years that makes you think Brennan could end up being a generational talent,” Spallina said on Friday morning. “The IQ aspect is a part of his game that is very underrated. I couldn’t be more proud of this kid with how much he has dedicated himself to his trade.”
After word swirled around the lacrosse world this morning, a Division I assistant who had hoped to reel him in sent me a text message with the opinion that O’Neill would be the best player in the grade ahead of him.
Though extremely early, the commitment is massive for Jeff Tambroni’s Penn State program, showing the Long Island native an incredible time on his recent trip to campus.
O’Neill also visited both UNC and Maryland, strongly considering Ohio State as well. Schools like Virginia and Hopkins (among others) were sure to get more involved with him once the summer circuit began. In this climate of poaching, there’s no doubt that plenty of other institutions will go after him.
Now that the first domino fell, it will be interesting to see if any other Division I head coaches will now feel comfortable enough to commit an 8th grader, whether public or not.