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PSU making one last push

With less than two weeks to go before signing day, Penn State is trying to put the finishing touches on its 2015 recruiting class by holding its biggest official visit event of the year this weekend.

All 20 current members of the class were expected to be in University Park, including 16 on officials – Virginia cornerback Garrett Taylor, who already took his official visit, was coming on an unofficial visit, and the remaining three recruits, tackles Paris Palmer and Sterling Jenkins and quarterback Tommy Stevens, enrolled earlier this month.

They were joined by three prospects who have yet to pick a school – Philadelphia defensive end Shareef Miller, Wisconsin defensive tackle Robert Windsor and Pittsburgh Central Catholic safety John Petrishen – along with Kittanning tight end Nick Bowers, who currently is verbally committed to Pitt.

“It’s a great opportunity, this late in the game, to fill out the class,” said Sean Fitz of the Lions247 website. “It’s great to have the committed guys back on campus. They did it so late so in case anyone was wavering it would shore them up a little bit. It was a great chance to get everyone together. And, when you get that many guys together, you want to bring in uncommitted guys to sort of see what the family’s all about.”

Miller probably is the most highly-touted of the players not currently headed to Penn State. A 6-foot-5, 220-pound defensive end from George Washington High School, Miller also is looking at Pitt, Rutgers, Arizona State, Florida and Miami; he will be visiting one of the last two officially next week. Most of the recruits arrived on campus Friday, but Miller didn’t get there until Saturday because he was taking his SAT.

Miller also reportedly has offers from Oregon, Nebraska, Michigan State, Arizona, Virginia, Virginia Tech and West Virginia, among others.

“Shareef has a big frame, and he’s a guy Penn State maybe looking at a lot more closely now that Deion Barnes decided to forego his last season,” Greg Pickel, who handles recruiting for FightOnState.com, said.

However, it’s hard to say Windsor might be the biggest “need” recruit remaining on Penn State’s board. A few months ago, the Nittany Lions seemed in great shape at defensive tackle, with four-star Adam McLean of Maryland on board and four-star Christian Wilkins of Connecticut seemingly leaning their way.

McLean surprisingly decommitted, though, and wound up choosing Maryland. Then Wilkins surprised most experts, and apparently his soon-to-be college’s coaching staff, too, when he announced for Clemson earlier this month.

With Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson possibly both gone after next year, Penn State will be really thin on the interior of the defensive line. Windsor, who is 6-5, 270, would be a nice player to have in the pipeline to get ready to fill into the rotation by 2016.

Penn State seemed to be in good shape with Windsor until Wisconsin came through with an offer not long after the Lions did. Maryland, Vanderbilt, Illinois, Purdue and Iowa State also have offered, but Windsor seems set on either becoming a Lion or a Badger.

“It was a lot more clear before Wisconsin offered. It seems like anything Penn State has done this cycle as far as recruiting a defensive tackle has really ended up with bad luck,” Fitz said. “They’re definitely going to make their pitch for Windsor. They had a very good shot before Wisconsin offered, but the whole ‘in-state school’ thing is going to make it tough on anybody.

“It’s interesting to see how it’s going to play out because, after Windsor, the board at defensive tackle, you have to wonder if the next guy up is going to be a contributor in the long term at Penn State.”

Petrishen is down to Penn State, Pitt and Virginia, while Bowers has stayed committed to Pitt for months while remaining in contact with and actually taking a couple of trips to Penn State.

“I like Penn State’s chances (with Petrishen), but Pitt is definitely big in the picture there, especially with (Pat) Narduzzi (being hired as head coach),” Pickel said. “Bowers is a kid Penn State would love to flip if they can, and his coming while still being committed to Pitt speaks to his interest. I’d say it’s probably around 50-50 for him.”

It appeared for a time that Penn State coach James Franklin would like to fill all 25 scholarship openings in this class, but with losing out on McLean, Wilkins and Virginia guard Matthew Burrell, that seems to have changed. The Lions now almost have more scholarships available than prospects in the picture for them, and neither Fitz nor Pickel would be surprised to see the Lions finish the class with just a couple of more recruits.

“You’ve got to see if the guy you take is worth the slot, because, if you take a guy in 2015, you’re taking a slot away from 2016 and further on down the line,” Fitz said.

That could weigh heavily on Franklin’s mind in the next 11 days, because Penn State doesn’t look like it will have a large class in 2016, but the Lions already have three commitments for that class and are in the running for some other big-time talents.

“There’s a lot of (very good) 2016 guys in the region, and Penn State leads or is very close for a lot of them,” Pickel said. “When you are in that position, and you can bank a few (scholarships), it usually works out in the end. I think they feel pretty good about a lot of those guys.”