When junior defensive tackle Greg Webb and teammate Dajaun Drennon weren't allowed into the recruiting lounge at Beaver Stadium in a snafu after the Iowa game last fall, many Penn State fans wrote off the Nittany Lions' chances at landing the high school All-American from New Jersey.
Luckily for them, Webb didn't write off the Lions.
Webb, the 6-foot-2, 295-pounder from undefeated South Jersey Group 3 champion Erial Timber Creek High School who is rated the sixth-best defensive tackle and 78th-best prospect in the country by Rivals.com, became the seventh member of Penn State's 2013 recruiting class by making a verbal commitment on Thursday afternoon.
Webb, who already has been picked for January's U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, becomes the third defensive lineman in the class, joining fellow New Jersey All-American Garrett Sickels and Council Rock South's Curtis Cothran, both ends.
"I felt comfortable with area, I love the coaching staff and feel it's a great place to be," Webb said to the Cherry Hill Courier-Post on Thursday night of his reasons for choosing Penn State. "I've made a couple of visits and had great experiences. It's a great feeling.''
Webb had his pick of 32 colleges that offered scholarships, a list that included Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Iowa, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Southern Cal, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Washington and Wisconsin. In the end, he chose Penn State over Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama and Texas A&M.
"In my mind, he's probably the top defensive tackle in the country,'' Timber Creek coach Rob Hinson said. "Greg is probably the strongest player I've ever coached. He's so explosive. He has a low center of gravity. He's hard-working; he's only been in our program one year and was name captain, so Greg is not a guy you have to motivate. He's technically sound for a high school lineman. He uses his hands well and runs down plays.''
Webb reportedly cancelled a planned last-minute visit to Virginia after making his decision. He also had taken trips to Rutgers, South Carolina and Maryland but was leaning heavily to Penn State after heading up to Happy Valley on March 24.
"There was some pressure, but I spent a lot of time thinking everything through. I didn't see a lot of places. I didn't see the Ohio States, the Alabamas. But I don't see any negatives at all. I'm relieved," Webb said.
Hinson said defensive line coach Larry Johnson's presence on the Lion staff also factored heavily in the Lions' favor in landing Webb.
As a junior with the Chargers after coming over from Paul VI High School in Haddon Township, Webb had 94 tackles - 87 solos - to go along with nine sacks, 18 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and an interception for the 12-0 Chargers playing the one, three and five technique positions in Hinson's 4-2-5 defense, which also included Drennon at end and Rutgers recruit Quanzell Lambert at linebacker. They led Timber Creek to its first group title.
Webb was named first team all-area by the Courier-Post and first team all-South Jersey by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"In high school, he could play defensive end. We used him there when Quanzell was out for a couple of games,'' Hinson said. "In our first three games he showed what he could do. The first game we played an I[-Formation] team, and he blew up their line. The next week against a Wing-T team with all the trap blocking, he was dominant. Then we played a Spread team and he had I think three sacks.''
Hinson said he knew he had something special the first time he saw Webb.
"He had the look of an SEC lineman. He has those broad shoulders and a big base, but he walked on his toes like a skill player,'' Hinson said. "At our first practice, he said he wanted to take on Quanzell Lambert because he knew that was our top guy. They went one-on-one. It was epic.''
Webb vowed to bring that kind of attitude to Penn State.
"A tenacious player who works hard," Webb said when asked what the Lions are getting in him. "They felt the same way.''
Although he had the opportunity to play his college ball in the south, Webb was excited to go to a Big Ten school.
"Big Ten football is one of the top football organizations in the country. It's going to be a great experience," Webb said.
Webb also is a standout heavyweight wrestler. He was 34-2 as a sophomore and opened his junior year 3-0 before being sidelined with an ACL tear. He used to box, as well.
Webb's commitment eased the pain of a few recent reversals for Penn State in the recruiting arena. The most recent came on Tuesday when Washington, D.C. cornerback Devin Butler, once considered a Lion lean, verbally committed to Notre Dame.