Penn State's 2012 recruiting class is off and running with a player that the coaching staff is hoping will open holes for future Nittany Lion running backs to go off and run through.
Anthony Stanko, a powerful 6-foot-4, 297-pound offensive lineman from the northeastern Ohio high school of Howland - which also produced standout Lion defensive back Tony Davis - committed to Penn State during an unofficial visit on Saturday night.
Stanko is the first member of a class expected eventually to reach in the low 20s.
"I had been thinking about Penn State for a while now. I just had to see a couple of things. I had to meet with the coaches and the academic advisors. I had already gotten a chance to go to an actual game. I was at the Michigan game last year,'' Stanko said Monday. "I just saw everything I needed to see and thought I would fit in well there.''
Stanko also had scholarship offers from Stanford, Northwestern, West Virginia, Akron and Kent State. He'll join three straight very strong offensive line recruiting classes at University Park and met one of the key members from this year's class, New Jersey's Angelo Mangiro, during his visit.
"One of the things they really like about me is I have experience at both positions. I've played left guard as a freshman, and all my other years I played right tackle,'' Stanko said. "One of the things I really liked about Penn State is they said they'll play the five best lineman. They'll figure out who are the best five, and they'll pick positions from there.
"Different people will say I have the size for a guard, I have the pulling capability for a guard. I played tackle seventh and eighth grade year, my sophomore and junior year, and I'll play it this year. I feel really comfortable there. I like playing it, but I'd have no problem switching to guard.
Stanko was a second-team all-Ohio Division II pick in 2010 after helping the Tigers to an 11-1 finish and a berth in the second round of the playoffs. He's started since he was a freshman, and Howland is 28-7 with him in the lineup.
Because of his commitment to improving, Stanko reminds coach Richard Angle of Howland product Doug Datish. Datish went from the Tigers to become a captain and first-team all-Big Ten lineman at Ohio State before being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2006.
"Last year, he was a dominant player, and we expect him to be a dominant player again this year,'' Angle said of Stanko. "He's a great kind academically. He uses that brain. He rolls those hips and is a great technician, but, if he has a chance to knock you down, he's not going to do it and not think twice.
"He has massive shoulders. He looks like he's constantly wearing shoulder pads.''
Howland is predominantly a running team, which plays to Stanko's strength - he bench presses 380 pounds and is expecting to throw the shot put this spring 49-50 feet. As is apparent from his list of suitors, he'll be academically qualified, carrying a 3.4 GPA and getting a 21 on his first try at the ACT.
Like many young football players from his home, Stanko grew up an Ohio State fan. He said he hasn't heard many complaints about picking to play for one of the Buckeyes' top rivals.
"Everybody's been pretty happy for me,'' Stanko said.
Stanko wouldn't mind bringing a few other Ohio players with him as members of this Penn State recruiting class. He's already been talking with teammate De'Veon Smith and Austintown-Fitch's Will Mahone about joining him. Mahonea running back/defensive back, already has a Penn State offer.