Penn State addresses needs on defensive line
Penn State came into this key recruiting weekend hoping to increase the overall upside of its 2015 class and to fill a gaping void with the days winding down until signing day.
James Franklin and his staff batted 2-for-2.
Wisconsin first-team all-stater Robert Windsor announced around midday via social media that he had committed to the Nittany Lions, addressing a pressing need at defensive tackle. Within a couple of hours, Philadelphia defensive end Shareef Miller followed suit, further bolstering Penn State’s defensive front for the future.
Their decisions left Penn State with 22 verbal commitments a little more than a week before seniors can sign binding letters-of-intent. All of the other 20 Lion recruits were on campus this weekend, as were Pittsburgh Central Catholic safety John Petrishen and Kittanning tight end Nick Bowers.
Bowers is verbally committed to Pitt.
Penn State wasn’t considered a lock to land any of the four recruits heading into the weekend, let along immediately, so reeling in perhaps their two biggest need recruits as the visits ended was something of a coup for the Lions.
“I was a little bit surprised that those two guys committed,” said Tom VanHaaren, who covers Big Ten football recruiting for ESPN. “It says a lot about the staff, but it also says a lot about the kids they already had committed. This late in the process, comfort level is very important. It was a big advantage that Penn State had these guys on campus to help sell the program.”
Miller also had Pitt as a finalist. Although listed as a three-star prospect, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Miller had no shortage of good offers, including Arizona State, Rutgers, Oregon, Michigan State, Nebraska, Virginia Tech, Virginia, West Virginia and Arizona. He was going back and forth between Florida and Miami for his last official visit in the days leading up to his trip to Penn State, which looked like his favorite when it first became involved with him.
Miller, who arrived later than the rest of the visitors because he was taking the SAT on Saturday morning, posted photos of himself with Franklin and fellow Philadelphia-area Lion recruit John Reid before making the call.
“Ready for the next Chapter in Life!,” Miller tweeted. “I did what’s Best for Shareef Future!!”
Miller has unusual speed for his size, running the 40-yard dash in a reported 4.68 seconds while camping at Rutgers.
“He’s a prototype 4-3 defensive end,” Ron Cohen, George Washington’s recently retired coach, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “He can also play standing up as an outside linebacker. His best football is ahead of him.
“He wanted to stay pretty close to home. He likes it at Penn State. He’s been up there a couple of times.”
Windsor did just the opposite. He passed up a scholarship with the home-state University of Wisconsin when he picked Penn State; he was scheduled to visit the Badgers next week. The 6- 5, 260-pounder from Fond du Lac already had visited Maryland and Illinois.
“I didn’t just commit to Penn State, I committed to being a wild dog,” Windsor posted on Twitter, making reference to the nickname Lion assistant coach Sean Spencer gives to his defensive linemen.
Windsor was offered when Maryland tackle Adam McLean suddenly decommitted last month and the Lions lost out on Connecticut blue-chipper Christian Wilkins, who surprised many by choosing Clemson a few weeks ago.
In addition to being first team all-Wisconsin, Windsor was his area’s defensive player of the year and his conference’s co-defensive player of the year and defensive lineman of the year. He made 38 tackles and five sacks while playing on a fractured foot as a senior.
“He’s such a dynamic player and you don’t get the opportunity to coach kids with the physical capabilities of Robert very often in your career,” Fond du Lac coach Mike Gnewuch told the Fond du Lac Reporter newspaper. “When they come by, you’ve just got to kind of unleash them and let them go play. That’s what we did with Robert.”
The Lions might not be completely done with shoring up the interior of the defensive line. However, Kamaal Seymour, who’d been expected to take a visit to University Park next week, seems to be out of the picture after reaffirming with NJ.com on Sunday that he intends to sign with Rutgers and won’t see any other colleges.
That wasn’t the only disappointing news the Lions received Sunday. Cory Helms, the former freshman All-American who is transferring from Wake Forest, decided to attend South Carolina. He’d been scheduled to visit Penn State next week.