An elite California cornerback is Penn State football's most important 2025 commitment so far

The Nittany Lions needed to add to the cornerback position in this recruiting cycle and just a week after missing out on Graceson Littleton, James Franklin and Tom Allen landed a commitment from Daryus Dixson, a top 100 player out of Mater Dei high school.
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin / Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

James Franklin does not want to venture into the transfer portal and stumble into an NIL bidding war with some of his deep-pocket Big Ten rivals. Yet, this offseason, Franklin ventured in and pulled out not one but two cornerbacks transferring away from SEC schools. The additions of Jalen Kimber from Florida and AJ Harris from Georgia say everything you need to know about the state of the cornerback position in Happy Valley. 

After Kalen King, Johnny Dixon, and Daequan Hardy declared for the 2024 NFL Draft, both King and Dixon sat out of the Peach Bowl against Ole Miss. That gave Penn State’s coaching staff and incoming defensive coordinator Tom Allen a chance to evaluate the program’s depth in the secondary and they couldn’t have liked what they saw. 

Cam Miller started at outside corner and was regularly picked on by Lane Kiffin and his veteran quarterback Jaxson Dart. Miller was targeted 12 times and allowed seven catches for 120 yards. Zion Tracy, who played a season-high 43 snaps against Ole Miss gave up three grabs on four targets for 59 yards. 

Suddenly, along with wide receiver, cornerback was the team’s top priority in both the short and long term. Kimber, a graduate student, plugs a hole right away, and Harris who has three years of eligibility left helps in the intermediate, but on Monday, Franklin finally got his long-term solution at CB1, landing a commitment from Daryus Dixson a top 100 defensive back from Mater Dei High School in Southern California. 

Dixson, the 6-foot, 180-pound cornerback plays bigger than his size and was heavily recruited by schools like Alabama, Ohio State, and Notre Dame. Dixon’s physicality had to be appealing to Penn State’s staff, as was his ongoing battle with teammate and 2026 Ohio State commit Chris Henry Jr. 

As detailed by Audrey Snyder in The Athletic, Dixson is often tasked with covering the 6-foot-5 205-pound 2026 five-star who is the No. 2 player in his class and transferred to play at Mater Dei. 

Dixson has a good sense for the ball, routinely jumping routes to break up passes or take them the other way, but because of his impressive closing speed and fast first step, he rarely has to overcommit and almost never gets beat because of his nose for the football. If the receiver does manage to hang onto the ball, Dixson is an excellent open-space tackler.

The Nittany Lions added Jon Mitchell in the 2024 class, a four-star corner from Florida, along with two other three-stars at the position, but if Franklin and his staff believe that Miller a junior, and Tracy a sophomore, have stagnated or don’t project as future starters, then it was pivotal to land a blue-chip player like Dixson. 

Beyond just filling a massive need, Dixson is currently the top-ranked player in Penn State’s 2025 class by 247Sports and may take a bit of pressure off Franklin to land an elite high school recruit and keep pace with Ohio State who has the top 2025 class in the country so far. Just last week, Franklin welcomed Graceson Littleton to campus for an official visit, but the elite corner chose Dabo Swinney's Clemson Tigers instead of the Nittany Lions.

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