'Tis the season for college football coaching changes, and the swings in verbal recruiting commitments that go along with that.
Penn State, already hotly in pursuit of two players - Massachusetts cornerback Albert Louis-Jean and Indiana safety Nick Stoner - who have been wavering on commitments to colleges that recently fired their coaches, received an early Christmas present Wednesday when Dallastown linebacker Ben Kline switched his commitment from Pitt to Penn State following the ouster of Dave Wannstedt as coach of the Panthers a day earlier.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Kline originally pledged to Pitt over Michigan, Rutgers, UConn and West Virginia on June 7, following a junior season in which he totaled 118 tackles. Kline said he had "around 16'' scholarship offers.
As a senior, Kline made 152 tackles and picked off three passes, knocked down seven others and recovered a fumble for the Wildcats, who went 11-1 and made it to the District 3 Class AAAA quarterfinals. He also scored 13 touchdowns - eight rushing and five receiving.
He's been picked to play in the Chesapeake Bowl all-star game later this month. One of the most intriguing pure athletes in this year's crop of prospects, Kline bench presses 365 pounds, squats 550 and has been timed in the 40-yard dash in around 4.5 seconds.
The Nittany Lions came through with their offer a couple of weeks ago, and Kline took an official visit to University Park last weekend. While he said he liked the atmosphere at Penn State, he didn't want to decommit from Pitt. Then came Wannstedt's resignation Tuesday.
"I was hesistant [to change], because I had made a commitment to these coaches. That was the biggest reason [for committing there],'' Kline said. "When you took that away, though.... As soon as I heard Coach Wannstedt was stepping down, I pretty much knew what I was going to do.''
Kline contacted Penn State Wednesday morning to tell them of his decision. He is the eighth player to verbally commit to the Lions for their 2011 recruiting class. A full story on Kline will appear in Friday's Mirror.
It remains to be seen if Penn State will be the beneficiary of any other players who change their minds. Louis-Jean plans to enroll in January and appears to be looking most closely at the Lions and Boston College, while Stoner is taking an official visit to Indiana before making a final decision - Stoner was one of eight prospects in addition to Kline who were at Penn State on official visits this weekend, joining uncommitted Deion Barnes (defensive end, Philadelphia) and Ryan Nowicki (offensive lineman, Arizona) and Lion recruits Anthony Alosi, Kyle Carter, Jordan Kerner, Angelo Mangiro and Allen Robinson.
BlueWhite Illustrated also reported Wednesday that Pitt defensive back commit Kyshoen Jarrett of East Stroudsburg South might be back in play after Wannstedt's announcement; Jarrett grew up a Penn State fan and had a scholarship offer from the Lions before he chose the Panthers.
Meanwhile, the Glenville, Ohio duo of Andre Sturdivant and Cardale Jones are expected to make official visits this weekend. Sturdivant is a defensive lineman/linebacker, Jones a quarterback.