James Franklin's first junior day as Penn State football coach has paid huge dividends.
The Nittany Lions got the ball rolling in a big way to start their 2015 recruiting class with three verbal commitments on Saturday as, despite the recent snowstorm, Penn State hosted a number of underclassman prospects.
The newest Lions are Archbishop Wood offensive lineman Ryan Bates, Connecticut defensive back Jarvis Miller and Maryland defensive end Kamonte Carter.
Miller, a 6-foot-2, 188-pounder from Windsor Locks High School who could play either safety or cornerback, was the first to commit, according to the Lions247 website. He rushed for 1,611 yards and made 81 tackles this season.
"It was the perfect place for me. It was a family atmosphere, and I really love the coaching staff," Miller said while on his way home about his reason for committing. "I love what Penn state and coaching staff stand for and that is family and total commitment to win championships."
Bates and Carter both are consensus four-star prospects who were considered among the most likely players to become members of this recruiting class early in the process.
Carter is a 6-4, 235-pound defensive end from Gaithersburg, Md. A good enough athlete to play some quarterback and punt for his high school team, too, while sometimes sprinting and running hurdles in track in addition to throwing the discus and shot, Carter already had offers from Michigan State, Nebraska, Maryland, Pitt, Kentucky and North Carolina State.
Bates, meanwhile, is rated as the consensus No. 3 prospect in the state. He had South Carolina along with Penn State at the top of his list entering the weekend but also had a slew of scholarship offers from colleges like Ohio State, Auburn, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Pitt and Virginia. The 6-5, 285-pounder is considered a tackle prospect who could eventually move to guard.
"The reason I chose Penn State is that there isn't a better university in the country that has top of the notch academics while having an excellent football program," Bates said. "As soon as I walked in the campus in the beginning of last summer for a camp I knew this is the place for me. There isn't a better fan base or alumni group in the country like PSU's. For awhile now, I knew this is the place for me and this is the place I want to play my college football."
Bates also is the high school teammate of Jake Cooper, who recently received an offer and was thought by many to be the best bet to become Penn State's first 2015 recruit. Cooper might not be far behind - he's expected to be in University Park early this week.
"It's a possibility," Cooper, who also has Northwestern, Duke, Syracuse, Rutgers, Georgia Tech and Boston College on his list, said when asked if he might commit. "I'm very high on Penn State."
Cooper said he wasn't surprised Bates committed; they've been talking about who would pledge to the Lions first.
"I was thrilled for him," Cooper said. "He was so pumped when he told me."
According to published reports, the Lions hosted a strong group of underclassmen, which also included Baldwin offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins, Maryland defensive tackle Adam McLean, New Jersey quarterback Brandon Wimbush, Central Valley cornerback Jordan Whitehead, St. Joseph's Prep corner John Reid, Ohio linebacker Jerome Baker, Great Valley defensive end Ryan Buchholz, Council Rock North quarterback Brandon McIlwain, Frankford defensive end Shareef Miller, New Jersey athlete Myles Hartsfield, New Jersey linebacker Jordan Fox and Woodland Hills running back Miles Sanders.
Buchholz and Miller are considered possible early commitments, while players like Jenkins, McLean, Wimbush, Baker, Whitehead and Reid could be marquee recruits for this class.
"Penn State always shows so much love on campus and social media," Jenkins said via Twitter.